A National Crisis

Please respond to ONE of the following research questions. Note that these questions are larger topics or contexts on which you must develop your own specific argument about the film(s) that you wish to discuss. The nature of this assignment is a close, detailed analysis of one aspect of one or more (but no more than 3) films. Secondary sources are not required, but if you choose to use secondary sources, be sure to carefully document them in MLA style. Your paper should be around 6 pages long, double spaced.

1. How is heroism defined in films like Once Upon A Time in China, Ip Man, and the Grandmaster? How would you describe a hero’s relationship to his nation and his people? What roles do martial arts play in the time of a national crisis? How are these martial arts scenes constructed, and how have these scenes contributed to the construction of heroism?

2. How is the history of Anti-Japanese War (1937-45) portrayed in films like Ip Man, The Grandmaster, Lust, Caution, Love in a Fallen City and Farewell My Concubine? How does each film construct a narrative of history through the experience of individuals such as Ip Man, Wong Chia Chi, Liu-su and Cheng Dieyi? How and why are these narratives different from each other?

3. Several of the films that we have watched so far feature performance/role-playing and spectatorship in prominent ways, such as Lust, Caution, In the Mood for Love, and Farewell My Concubine. Discuss the use of performance/role-playing in one or more of these films. How are these scenes set up in terms of cinematic technique? How are they integrated in the reality of the film? How are performance and reality distinguished (or merged into each other)? In what ways is this portrayal of performance/role-playing significant to the film’s meaning?

4. Discuss the identity of Hong Kong as being constructed in films like The Grandmaster, Comrades: Almost a Love Story, Infernal Affairs, and In the Mood for Love. How is Hong Kong portrayed? In what ways is Hong Kong connected with (or disconnected from) the mainland and the rest of the world? What is Hong Kong’s past, and what kind of future is Hong Kong heading to, at the historical moments captured in the films?
5. How is the identity (historical, cultural, political, etc.) of Taiwan  constructed in films such as A City of Sadness and  A One and a Two?

6. Music is an important element of films in a lot of films that we have watched in class. Comment on the effect of sound/music in one or two films that we have watched. How does the sound/music underline or disrupt the meaning presented by cinematic images? How does its recurrence, repetition, or absence shape the film(s) that you choose to discuss?

7. Color can also play a major role in the films that we have discussed in this class. Choose one or two films and comment on the importance of color for their aesthetics and meaning. What does the color theme suggest? How does the choice of color affect the way in which we react to the film in question?

8. Discuss the role of violence in one or two films that we have watched in this class. What are the contexts of these violent scenes within the film? How are the violent scenes constructed, and what is the effect of these scenes on the audience? How can we understand it in a broader cultural historical background?

9. How do films such as Blind Shaft and A Touch of Sin comment on the human condition/existence in the rapidly urbanizing, commercializing, and globalizing society of contemporary China? What social problems do they tackle?


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