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TitleChina on Screen: Cinema and Nation (Film and Culture Series)
PublisherColumbia University Press
ISBN 139780231137072
CategoryArts - Film
File Size4.0 MB
Total Pages331
Document Text Contents
Page 2

China on Screen
cinema and nation

film and culture series: john belton, general editor

Page 165


however, it does not have the cross-cultural currency of his other fi lms.
This may be due to the play around the cultural concepts of fi liality and,
to a lesser extent, loyalty in the fi lm. These codes resonate with local and
diasporic audiences but not necessarily with Westerners. 29

The plot is adolescent fantasy. It begins with breaking the law and get-
ting away with it. The story ends with public recognition of the young hero,
Wong Fei-hung. In the meantime, he suffers serious humiliations, such as
being displayed bound and naked high up in the town square. So the plot,
like many martial arts plots, centers on personal, family, and cultural ven-
geance. Ng Ho describes the hero in kung fu comedies as follows:

[He] is conventionally a bright but hopelessly lazy kid who lacks both the staying

power needed for martial arts training and respect for his sifu (master). (He may

indeed try to cheat his sifu .) Often, after suffering a defeat, he will muster the

perseverance to train in martial arts more seriously, and will eventually reach the

point where he surpasses the skills of his sifu . 30

In Drunken Master II, the father is the master. The format is a rites-of-
passage plot. It fulfi lls the criteria of the kung fu comedy genre, as outlined
above by Ng Ho. Characterization comes early in the plot and is usually the
love-hate model between father and son or master and disciple. In Drunken
Master II, this love-hate relationship and mixture of defi ance and submis-
sion comes across in the father’s constant reprimands on the train early on,
repeated to his wife when he suspects her of playing mahjong despite his
prohibition. Thus mother and son covertly conspire against the father and



Golden Harvest, 1994


The story begins with a young Wong Fei-hung breaking customs law at a train station.
He hides his father’s ginseng root in a foreigner’s luggage and, upon retrieval, mis-
takenly picks up a priceless imperial seal in an identical box. The seal is the emblem
of Chinese power, stolen by foreigners from the British consulate. This leads to a
series of adventures and fights, all involving disobedience to his father, who eventually
throws him out of the house. In the end, he defeats the smugglers’ top fighter through
drunken boxing—strictly forbidden by his father—in a showdown in a metal foundry
run by British consulate officials who exploit and then murder the workers. This is a
melodrama, ending with public recognition of the young Wong’s bravery in saving
national treasures, in a family reunion, but with a farcical closure, suggesting father
and son will have ongoing conflict.

Page 166


cheat him in many comic episodes. Another criterion is that the arch-villain
is the second most important character. In this movie, it is the father in the
fi rst half and other villains in the second. Finally, there is a mandatory suite
of action sequences, which display the skill, bravery, and righteousness of
the kung fu kid to the adult world.

Gallagher analyzes Chan’s bodily distortions as carnivalesque in this
movie. We suggest that the entire movie is carnivalesque in the Bakhtin-
ian sense as its comedy relies on “two worlds”: the offi cial world of seri-
ous masculinity and the transgressive world of adolescence. 31 The carni-
valesque in this movie gives license to mock the world of adolesecence as
well as the offi cial world of Confucian propriety, whether it is the mother’s
gambling, the father’s pomposity, the arrogance of the British, or the pow-
erlessness of the Chinese state to guard its own workers and heritage from
thugs and smugglers. The young Wong restores order at the local level
and retrieves national treasures. He operates at the level of the cultural,
not political, nation.

Wong’s transgressions are primarily against the father’s authority. The
carnivalesque aspects are demonstrated in one particular scene in Drunken
Master II that is one of Chan’s all-time favorites. 32 The shots alternate be-
tween Wong fi ghting the villains and the onlookers, led by his anarchic
mother (played by Anita Mui). She eggs him on to retrieve a stolen neck-
lace that she has just pawned to repay gambling debts (unknown to her
husband), and Wong moves into a three-part fi ght sequence after one of
the thieves hits her in the face. In the fi rst part he fi ghts the villains in the
marketplace, retrieving the necklace. In the second, his mother orders him
to fi ght using drunken-boxing techniques. When she throws him a bottle of
wine, he says, “Dad won’t let me drink.” She answers, “I will.” She throws
him more wine and he shifts into a surreal and drunken rhythm, part
drinking and part fi ghting. At the same time, he chants his martial moves
as a series of wondrous names, such as “Uncle Tsao Cleaning Whiskers at
the Brook” and “Drinking Removes Myriad Woes.” Villains fl y through the
air, thump to the ground, and fi nally run away. In the third part, his father
arrives and the young Wong, still drunk, turns and fi ghts him too, chanting
“Gods on Birthday Celebrations.” His father puts his son in a stranglehold.
We see the moment of recognition in a series of point-of-view close-ups
aligned to Wong. An image of Wong’s contorted face cuts to a close-up
of his father’s angry face, shot from above, ordering him to stop fi ghting.
The camera cuts to a close-up of Wong, who says, “Father,” and then to
the father’s face again, which fl oats from upside down to upright as Wong
turns to face him. Wong’s mother addresses the watching crowd, saying
ironically, “What a picture of love between father and son!” Mother and son
are taken home in disgrace.

Page 330


Xi’an Film Studio, 184, 230, 231

Xi’an Incident, 225

Xia Yan, 64

Xie Fang, 12, 108, 113–18, 120, 125, 129; as

metaphor for China, 129; patriotism, 126

Xie Jin, 19, 26, 28, 81, 210–11, 212, 232

Xie Jin Hengtong Film and Television

Company, 28

Xu Haofeng, 164, 167

Xue Pinggui and Wang Baochuan , 67, 68,


Yan Ruisheng , 224

Yan’an, 225, 226; Forum on Literature and

Art, 59, 61, 62, 114, 225; solution, 59;

story, 104, 106

Yang + Yin: Gender in the Chinese Cinema,

140, 143

Yang Xiaozhong, 24

Yao Xiaolei, 167

Yasujiro, Ozu, 36

Yau, Esther, 126, 127, 188

Ye Longyan, 67

Yeh Yueh-Yu, 14

Yellow Earth , 10, 12, 29, 32, 33–34, 75, 76, 78,

79, 98, 102–107, 230, 231; criticism of

Maoist history, 104; emptiness aesthetic,


Yeoh, Michelle, 130

Yihua Film, 84

yin and yang , 140

Yon Fan, 218

Yoshimoto, Mitsuhiro, 2, 3–4

Young, Robert, 173

Yuan Muzhi, 83, 86

Yuan Shikai, 224

Yue, Audrey, 44, 129, 134

Yuen Woping, 66, 69

Yuval-Davis, Nira, 109, 110, 140

Zeng Yongyi, 67

Zhang Baiqing, 209–10

Zhang Nuanxin, 187

Zhang Qiu, 167

Zhang Rui, 184

Zhang She, 54

Zhang Shichuan, 52, 58, 224

Zhang Wei, 185

Zhang Yimou, 10, 13, 49, 124, 125, 126, 127,

128, 135, 136, 137, 144, 159–62, 168, 192,

195, 197, 205, 211, 212, 213, 218, 231; red

trilogy, 158–60

Zhang Yingjin, 9, 13, 188

Zhang Ziyi, 212

Zhang Zuolin, 57

Zhao Dan, 86

Zhao Ziyang, 173, 230

Zheng Dongtian, 210

Zheng Junli, 19, 25

Zheng Zhenqiu, 58, 77

Zhong Dafeng, 51

Zhou Enlai, 173; death, 229

Zhou Enlai , 210

Zhou Xuan, 133

Zhu Shilin, 24, 191

Zoom Hunt, 69

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