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postgraduate thesis: Liu Na'ou and the 1930s Chinese soft film : modernism, film art and politics in Republican era Shanghai

TitleLiu Na'ou and the 1930s Chinese soft film : modernism, film art and politics in Republican era Shanghai
Authors
Advisors
Advisor(s):Yau, ECM
Issue Date2015
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Ong, D.. (2015). Liu Na'ou and the 1930s Chinese soft film : modernism, film art and politics in Republican era Shanghai. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR.
AbstractThe 1930s Soft Film and its recognised leader Liu Na'ou have been a persistent enigma in the study of Republican era Chinese film history. Remembered for its sensationalist definition as "ice cream for the eyes and a sofa for the soul,” Soft Film was villainised as reactionary in the 1963 Maoist account and authoritative text History of the Development of Chinese Cinema. The eventual collaboration of key figures like Liu Na'ou and his protégé Mu Shiying with Japanese imperialists during the war, and their ultimate assassinations as hanjian (traitors), created a stigma that has prevented close studies of their work. My dissertation clears up confusions about the 1930s Soft Film by using Foucault’s idea of the Archaeology of Knowledge to expand the grand narrative and its “archive”, using Liu Na’ou as the central focus. The new facts that emerged from excavating previously omitted primary resources, reveals that Soft Film was indeed a political film movement from 1933-1937. It upheld commercial and artistic values in opposition to the leftist-led wave of “hard” politicised films advocating proletariatism and anti-imperialism during the national crisis. Tracing the complete works of Liu and his coterie of friends also showed that Soft Film was part of a larger modernist movement they led, which straddled between literature and film. One defining characteristic of this dandyist group was its liberal cosmopolitan form of nationalism that aimed to protect freedom in the arts and entertainment, against what they believed was authoritarianism in “national defence” literature and film. They, along with a loose group of supporting critics and filmmakers, did not advocate frivolous entertainment films as previously understood, but rather a softer pragmatic approach to improve the quality of Chinese films to compete with western films dominating the market based on western standards. An important part of this “soft patriotism” in film was Liu’s modernist advocacy for formalism that directly opposed the leftist practice of Socialist Realism. Previously overlooked origins of Liu’s film art ideas from the western modernist Pure Film campaign, mediated through Japan, further elaborates the aspiration to advance Chinese culture by learning from the West, and by so doing, joining a global identity that was on par with the rest of the world. This liberal cosmopolitan stance initially aligned with the Kuomintang during its pacifist policy of annei rangwai (Domestic Pacification before External Resistance) in the run up to the war, and later lent itself well to Wang Jingwei's “Peaceful Defence of the Nation”. This link explains why many Soft Film filmmakers during the 1930s became key players in wartime Orphan Island and Sino-Japanese collaborationist films. In tracing the post-war careers of surviving Soft Film proponents such as Griffith Yue Feng and Liu’s close friend Huang Tianshi, an unexpected discovery shows that contrary to the established historical conclusion that the Soft Film died with the murders of Liu and Mu, its legacy survived and played an important part in rebuilding the Chinese film industry’s capital in Hong Kong.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectMotion pictures - China - History - 20th century
Dept/ProgramComparative Literature
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/267762

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.advisorYau, ECM-
dc.contributor.authorOng, Donna-
dc.date.accessioned2019-03-01T03:44:46Z-
dc.date.available2019-03-01T03:44:46Z-
dc.date.issued2015-
dc.identifier.citationOng, D.. (2015). Liu Na'ou and the 1930s Chinese soft film : modernism, film art and politics in Republican era Shanghai. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR.-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/267762-
dc.description.abstractThe 1930s Soft Film and its recognised leader Liu Na'ou have been a persistent enigma in the study of Republican era Chinese film history. Remembered for its sensationalist definition as "ice cream for the eyes and a sofa for the soul,” Soft Film was villainised as reactionary in the 1963 Maoist account and authoritative text History of the Development of Chinese Cinema. The eventual collaboration of key figures like Liu Na'ou and his protégé Mu Shiying with Japanese imperialists during the war, and their ultimate assassinations as hanjian (traitors), created a stigma that has prevented close studies of their work. My dissertation clears up confusions about the 1930s Soft Film by using Foucault’s idea of the Archaeology of Knowledge to expand the grand narrative and its “archive”, using Liu Na’ou as the central focus. The new facts that emerged from excavating previously omitted primary resources, reveals that Soft Film was indeed a political film movement from 1933-1937. It upheld commercial and artistic values in opposition to the leftist-led wave of “hard” politicised films advocating proletariatism and anti-imperialism during the national crisis. Tracing the complete works of Liu and his coterie of friends also showed that Soft Film was part of a larger modernist movement they led, which straddled between literature and film. One defining characteristic of this dandyist group was its liberal cosmopolitan form of nationalism that aimed to protect freedom in the arts and entertainment, against what they believed was authoritarianism in “national defence” literature and film. They, along with a loose group of supporting critics and filmmakers, did not advocate frivolous entertainment films as previously understood, but rather a softer pragmatic approach to improve the quality of Chinese films to compete with western films dominating the market based on western standards. An important part of this “soft patriotism” in film was Liu’s modernist advocacy for formalism that directly opposed the leftist practice of Socialist Realism. Previously overlooked origins of Liu’s film art ideas from the western modernist Pure Film campaign, mediated through Japan, further elaborates the aspiration to advance Chinese culture by learning from the West, and by so doing, joining a global identity that was on par with the rest of the world. This liberal cosmopolitan stance initially aligned with the Kuomintang during its pacifist policy of annei rangwai (Domestic Pacification before External Resistance) in the run up to the war, and later lent itself well to Wang Jingwei's “Peaceful Defence of the Nation”. This link explains why many Soft Film filmmakers during the 1930s became key players in wartime Orphan Island and Sino-Japanese collaborationist films. In tracing the post-war careers of surviving Soft Film proponents such as Griffith Yue Feng and Liu’s close friend Huang Tianshi, an unexpected discovery shows that contrary to the established historical conclusion that the Soft Film died with the murders of Liu and Mu, its legacy survived and played an important part in rebuilding the Chinese film industry’s capital in Hong Kong. -
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.rightsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.-
dc.subject.lcshMotion pictures - China - History - 20th century-
dc.titleLiu Na'ou and the 1930s Chinese soft film : modernism, film art and politics in Republican era Shanghai-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineComparative Literature-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.date.hkucongregation2016-
dc.identifier.mmsid991044081525003414-

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