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Feng Xiaogang and Chinese cinema after 1989
Zhang, Rui

2005, Doctor of Philosophy, Ohio State University, History of Art.
This dissertation first began as a case study of one of the most popular, prolific, versatile and successful film directors of contemporary China, Feng Xiaogang; it explores Chinese film history since the early 1990s in terms of changes of party film policy, industry reforms, party’s promotion of Main Melody films and emergence and growth of popular cinema. The image of Feng that will emerge in this dissertation is that of a filmmaker working under political and economic pressures in a post-socialist state while still striving to create works with a personal socio-political agenda. In keeping with this reality, this dissertation approaches Feng as a special kind of film auteur whose works must be interpreted with attention to the specific social and political context of contemporary China. Chapter 1 provides a review of scholarship of contemporary Chinese cinema, a brief biographical sketch of Feng, and an introduction to the situation of Chinese cinema on the eve of the Tian’anmen Incident in 1989. Chapter 2 begins with a review of Chinese cinema after 1989 through 1996, shortly before Feng began to make New Year films. This chapter then deals with the formative stage of Feng’s career from 1991, when Feng began to be noticed by the film world as a scriptwriter and a director. Chapter 3 introduces the emergence of Feng’s New Year films against the background of increased control over film ideology in the middle of the 1990s, and a deepening industry reform oriented towards market demand. In addition, the chapter presents detailed analyses of recurring themes in Feng’s New Year films, which reveals the distinctive ambivalence in his attitude towards the predominant film ideology. Chapter 4 explores transformations that took place in Feng’s filmmaking as he gradually abandoned the mode of comedy and returned to his early socially conscious works. The concluding chapter focuses on the important cultural and historical significance of Feng’s cinema, and stresses how the dual trends of resistance and cooperation co-existing in his cinema also gradually became a significant and distinctive feature of Chinese cinema in the new millennium.
J. Ronal Green (Advisor)
244 p.

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