The Chinese Woman Doubled: An Essay in Memory of Paul Willemen (1944-2012)
ABSTRACTThis tribute to Paul Willemen’s scholarship is inspired by his debate with Kim Soyoung about the use of the freeze-frame in South Korean film as “blockage.” It examines the phenomenon of splitting and doubling in contemporary independent Chinese films about young women alone in the public sphere, and in particular Liu Shu’s Lotus (Xiao He, 2012). As well as the comparison with the South Korean situation, the essay locates these films in the long lineage of Chinese films which use the figure of the woman alone in the public sphere as a symbol of China alive in the bitter seas of modernity. The essay argues that instead of blockage, perhaps what we find with splitting and doubling is a symptom of compulsory progress under conditions of Chines neo-liberalism, which combines a one-party authoritarian political system with a market economy structured around growth.
Keywords: Chinese film, doubling, splitting, woman, Paul Willemen, Kim Soyoung
Chris Berry is Professor of Film Studies at King’s College London. His academic research is grounded in work on Chinese cinema and other screen-based media, as well as neighbouring countries. He is especially interested in queer screen cultures in East Asia; mediatized public space in East Asian cities; and national and transnational screen cultures in East Asia. Primary publications include: (with Mary Farquhar) Cinema and the National: China on Screen (Columbia University Press and Hong Kong University Press, 2006); Postsocialist Cinema in Post-Mao China: the Cultural Revolution after the Cultural Revolution (Routledge, 2004); and (editor) Chinese Films in Focus II (British Film Institute, 2008).