P37. East Asian Cinema and Literature

Session: Session 5, 10:15 – 11:45 am, Saturday 9/30

Category: Individual Papers

Location: Quad

Chair: Yuefan Wang (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

Paper Presenters: Ruoyi Bian (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Xiaohan Hou (Washington University in St. Louis)

The Couple Behind the Glass: Wong Kar-Wai’s Camera Use in Happy Together

Speaker: Ruoyi Bian
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Abstract: Released on May 30, 1997, right before Hong Kong was returned to the P.R.C., Happy Together is commonly agreed to be a turning point in Wong Kar-Wai’s filmography. But how exactly is Happy Together different, and, more importantly, why is it different? What could possibly cause Wong’s change in Happy Together, especially at the turbulent and anxious point of 1997?  In this paper, I will look into the visual style and camera use of Happy Together in comparison to Wong’s other Hong Kong urban-themed movies, Chungking Express (1994) and Fallen Angels (1995) and dig into the connection between Wong’s new camera style and the approaching 1997. I argue that while continuing the “aesthetics of disturbance” in his visual style from his previous works, Wong Kar-Wai, adjusting the details in camera use and geographical locations, created a different atmosphere and emotion in Happy Together. With the expression of the film floating away from its original primary motivations—the 1997 handover and the upcoming changes in Hong Kong society, motivated and inspired by the huge anxiety accumulated in this city, Wong presented a story at a purposefully kept distance from the reality of Hong Kong. Behind this paradoxical style is Wong’s changed view of his obsession with the urban space and culture of Hong Kong. Furthermore, this changed comprehension of the dynamic distance between himself, his movies, and the history and cultures of Hong Kong continued to inspire Wong’s visual style of the movies produced after 1997.

Globalizing Taiwan: Geoaesthetics of Land and the Fictionality of Fiction in Wu Mingyi’s The Man with the Compounded Eyes (2011)

Speaker: Xiaohan Hou
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Washington University in St. Louis
Abstract: This paper observes two separate but related phenomena concerning and in contemporary Taiwanese writer Wu Mingyi’s novel The Man with the Compounded Eyes, published in 2011. Sociologically speaking, this novel was quickly translated into multiple languages and widely received by the global literary market after its publication, despite its complex structure and experimental style. This “born translated” quality of The Man with the Compounded Eyes parallels another phenomenon within the novel, namely, the author’s consciousness of the fictionality of fiction. In the story, the man with the compounded eyes, as the protagonist, only appears as a ghost, a spirit emerging when characters are on the edge of death, and the title, The Man with the Compounded Eyes, is also that of fiction in the making by Alice, another character in the novel. It is this survival of the fictive, this paper suggests, that makes this novel a born-translated text in this digital age of global capitalism and climate crisis. To unpack how this fictionality of fiction embodies Wu’s critical intervention in globalizing Taiwan, this paper reads it along with Wu’s geoaesthetics of land and argues that for Wu, land functions as a site of semiotics, in which the true process of communication, or reading, could take place only when the fictive is allowed to enter the reality and speak for itself. Wu’s metafictional attempt to globalize Taiwan calls for an ecological and relational mode of thinking that attends to everyday crisis and everyday care occurring within and beyond the human.