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The Urban Generation


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An anthology that explores film works by the "urban generation," - filmmakers who operate outside of "mainstream" (officially sanctioned) Chinese cinema - whose impact has been enormous

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: Bearing Witness: Chinese Urban Cinema in the Era of "Transformation" (Zhuanxing) / Zhang Zhen 1
I. Ideology, Film Practice, and the Market
Rebel without a Cause? China's New Urban Generation and Postsocialist Filmmaking / Yingjin Zhang 49
The Independent Cinema of Jia Zhangke: From Postsocialist Realism to a Transnational Aesthetic / Jason McGrath 81
Getting Real: Chinese Documentary, Chinese Postsocialism / Chris Berry 115
II. The Politics and Poetics of Urban Space
Tear down the City: Reconstructing Urban Space in Contemporary Chinese Popular Cinema and Avant-Garde Art / Sheldon H. Lu 137
Tracing the City's Scars: Demolition and the Limits of the Documentary Impulse in the New Urban Cinema / Yomi Braester 161
Scaling the Skyscraper: Images of Cosmopolitan Consumption in Street Angel (1937) and Beautiful New World (1998) / Augusta Palmer 181
Whither the Walker Goes: Spatial Practices and Negative Poetics in 1990s Chinese Urban Cinema / Linda Chiu-Han Lai 205
III. The Production of Desire and Identities
Ning Ying's Beijing Trilogy: Cinematic Configurations of Age, Class, and Sexuality / Shuqin Cui 241
Zhang Yuan's Imaginary Cities and the Theatricalization of the Chinese "Bastards" / Berenice Reynaud 264
Mr. Zhao On and Off the Screen: Male Desire and Its Discontent / Xueping Zhong 295
Maintaining Law and Order in the City: New Tales of the People's Police / Yaohua Shi 316
Urban Dreamscape, Phantom Sisters, and the Identity of an Emergent Art Cinema / Zhang Zhen 344
Appendix: The Urban Generation Filmmakers (compiled by Charles Leary) 389
Bibliography 411
Contributors 429
Index 431

About the Author

Zhang Zhen is Associate Professor of Cinema Studies at New York University. She is the author of An Amorous History of the Silver Screen: Shanghai Cinema, 1896-1937.


"Until the early 1990s, China struggled with modernity, with one step back for every step forward. But it produced a brilliant new cinema that attracted world attention, a national cinema skeptical of China's ability to change. Since then, China has boomed, skyrocketed upward on the world scene like its new urban skyscrapers, traded in much of its 'Chineseness' for a leading role in an emerging global culture, and produced a new generation of independent, forward-looking 'urban cinema.' Including thirteen essays about film and film culture in today's China, this is the first volume to bring the newest Chinese cinema to life. It deserves to be read and then re-read."--Jerome Silbergeld, author of China into Film and Hitchcock with a Chinese Face "An essential addition to contemporary Chinese film studies, this provocative collection of essays effectively describes the significant breaks that the most recent generations of filmmakers and media artists in the PRC have made both with the tradition of Chinese filmmaking and with the acclaimed, influential 'Fifth Generation' that preceded them."--Richard Pena, Program Director, Film Society of Lincoln Center, and Professor of Film Studies, Columbia University " ... a multifaceted account of a significant, ongoing cinematic and cultural phenomenon."--IIAS Newsletter #45 Autumn 2007 "Most of the papers in THe Urban Generation were first presented at a symposium on contemporary Chinese film held at New York University in 2001... While some of the papers are studies of the work of a single director, others take a thematic approach looking at, for example, nostalgia, alienation, gender and sexuality, law and order, modernization and loss."--TImes Literary SUpplement, February 28 2008

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