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GIF #9

The scene from the 1997 film, The Opium War (鸦片战争), opens in the dark bedroom of a brothel. For a movie with such color rich sets and gratuitous outdoor shots, this scene stands out. The only two lights visible in the shot are a paper lantern outside of the window and a dim candle on the night stand. It is clearly a dark place in the young woman’s life as well as dark days in the history of modern China.

The camera focuses on the hands and face of the young singer as they floccillate and twist in anguish at her need for opium. The perspective rests on her hands as they discordantly strum a stringed instrument beside the bed. Perhaps a metaphor for her addiction to opium preventing her from performing her job (as a musician). The only brightness in any shots of this scene come from the salmon colored shawl of the singer and from her white slip underneath, perhaps an allusion to her innocence or more likely to “china-white” opium (although the film only shows tar-black opium in most shots).

I see this scene as a metaphor for the trade relationship between China and Britain in the 1830s-40s. The young woman (China) has become addicted to opium peddled by the older woman (Britain) as a cure for her ailments. Britain began selling more opium to China to recover silver that had been flowing in (but not out of China) due to the Canton system. However now the madam (Britain) has gotten the young woman (China) addicted and must keep supplying her. The singer realizes that the opium has corrupted her and tries to stop using as it will bankrupt her and destroy her (a very common theme in both films), but she is too dependent on it and quickly fails. This is a metaphor for the attempts at limiting the opium trade being stymied by too many leaders and citizens being on the payroll of the opium dealers or being addicted themselves. Considering this film was heavily financed by the Chinese government for a planned release with the Hong Kong handover in 1997, I have no trouble believing that the metaphor was purposeful.

GIF #8

Sports, across all cultures, carry various implications of teamwork, rivalry, nationalism, and personal growth. Baseball, since its induction is a game that has encapsulated all of those elements. The presence of baseball in China has been varied, but has been on an uphill trend of popularity in the last decade. With its reintroduction, baseball’s teaching value (with elements as mentioned previously) has been added to the Chinese sports collection. Stevefat’s 2016 Hong Kong sensation Weeds on Fire is based on the true story about baseball players who came together to learn the sport and made history as the first Hong Kong team to win their league. Debuting along with several other baseball themed movies, Weeds on Fire focuses on teamwork that is translated into brotherhood, rivalry with important community implications coupled with nationalism, and growth of the players as a result of hard work.

Most of Weeds on Fire revolve around two main tangled plotlines. The first is how baseball is incorporated into the lives of the players and how they come to know the sport. The second is the teamwork and brotherhood is that is developed over the course of the film. The plotlines are differentiated by the lighting used in the scene. The scenes in which the audience sees brotherhood being developed often take place in dark rooms or at night. The compound that the baseball players live in only has one source of light in the center interior portion of the building, similar to a prison yard hollowing building style. When the baseball players train or play baseball, they do on an open field that is surrounded by forestry. The players are constantly in the presence of a mountain, ultimately representing the uphill climb that each player faces.

Figure 1 represents a scene near the conclusion of the film in which the Shatin Martin is opposed by the Buffaloes from Japan. Ultimately, after being behind for the first four innings of the game, the team comes back to win the championship and make history. In the scene, we see the main character Tse Chi-lung hit the tying run, and score his teammate. We see excitement and joy from the dugout, representing the team element of baseball and the brotherhood that has been created between the students. Lighting is important in this scene. Moments before, the film has a darkened shadow but with one swing of the bat, the sky is almost cleared of dark clouds and replaced with light ones. The mountain is present in the final second of the figure, showing the climb that each player has overcome as a result of joining the baseball team.

The direct translation of 點五步 is “half a step.” This half a step is in referencing the step that a pitcher takes when he sets to throw his pitch. With the mountain present in the background of each major scene (or scoring run of the final game), it represents a collection of small steps can indeed scale a mountain. Further analysis of this movie could explore nationalism tendencies and if there is any relationship to the lighting that is incorporated or if the lightening of the film over the duration of the film symbolizes the connections the team makes.

GIF #7

“Lust, Caution” directed by Ang Lee is a film about a college student, name Wong Chai Chi, and her fellow classmates whom want to aid in the Chinese revolution. Chai Chi and her classmates come up with a plan to disguise Chai Chi as a women named “Mai Tai Tai”, the wife of a rich business man, in order to get close to Mr. Yee, who is involved with the communist government. However, in order to get close to Mr. Yee Chai Chi is required to sleep with him, something she has not yet done before.

The scene that I chose to turn into a GIF was the scene when Chai Chi has sex for one of the first few times with her classmate, Liang. Though Liang has only had sex with prostitutes in the past, he is the most experience in the group, yet his lack of experience in making love to someone meaningful to him is strongly shown. During sex, Liang is seen treating Chai Chi as more of an object to have sex with rather than someone he has a friendship. This is show as some of the only few words say to her that are said during sex are, “I think you’re getting the hang of it.” to which she responds “Shut up.” This interaction displays how impersonal Liang views her during sex. Furthermore, not once in this film is Liang seen trying to comfort Chair Chi or help her with her needs as she is devoid of emotions. Nonetheless, Chai Chi seems to have accepted her role as being itemized as she asked Liang to turn off the light during this first time together.

Overall, this scene was the beginning of the foreshadowing to how Chai Chi will be itemized in the future. However, this does not only how her sexual interactions will be later on but how she will continued to be treated in such a manner in both sex and her work.

GIF #6

This Gif highlights the scene of Ip Man’s first fight after the Japanese’s presence and his anger at the disregard of the lives of those that come to the dojo. He picked a fight with ten of their fighters and this highlights the shock of the last of them standing as he comes to finish. The shock a tension of the scene are easy to see on the young fighters face while Ip looks tired but determined. This scene works to show case the determination of this skilled fighter and the turning point of the General Miura’s interest in Ip Man as a fighter. This gif does overlook the reason of Ip Man’s determination in this fight just that the power of this single man was enough to unbalance the focus of the Miura which is a major turning point for the film. The results of the fight have become obvious but if the young man backed off who knows what he would have had to deal with for failing, that tension can be seen as he shifts just waiting for the attack he knows is coming. The lighting is used to highlight this almost monochromatic scene where the only real color is the real from the Japanese flag. The white of the uniforms and walls of the dojo contrasting to the heavy shadows where the other Chinese stand as well as Ip Man’s cloths. The scene at a distance has a dusty almost ethereal look to it which might be part of the shock coming through, but the effect of this misty or dirty dullness might point back to the Japanese occupation of the building this intrusive unwanted element. But the monochrome seems to highlight a common element of good versus evil with the white often depicted as evil in Chinese films. These elements are the obvious dictators of the obvious tone. The characters are all plain looking working men that have trained as they are there to fight, this could have been to compare the strength of Chinese versus Japanese strength. These fights could also have been the result of a entertainment as competitions of strength and even brutality have been used by militaristic societies whether in their territory or during occupation as the Japanese were in during this period. Until this fight Miura only fought after a few fights but Ip Man successfully grabbed his attention quickly whether that was the goal or not and this interest is dangerous.

GIF #5

The 2016 film My War is a shamelessly obvious nationalist movie that glorifies war. It was released to make the Chinese public feel fearless and proud. Most countries have films like this, with handsome young actors wearing dapper uniforms and facing a hailstorm of bullets with fiery explosions here and there. Usually those movies are very successful at the box office but My War was a commercial failure in China. The biggest problem with this film is that it was too “fake.” All movies are fake to some degree but when tackling a deep subject such as war, a film cannot just be guns and explosions. There’s usually a deeper story about the morality of killing your enemies or the sacrifice of leaving loved ones behind. My War has no such deeper meaning, that is why the Chinese public rejected it. This GIF, depicting a soldier getting blasted away in an explosion while performing a twist that would impress an Olympic judge and somehow landing with his hat still on and his heart still beating, is a little slice of what the entire movie is like. The film is overly flashy to a point that it becomes a bit of a joke. Not only is the tragedy that was the Korean War glossed over, but the action scenes are so unrealistic that only small children could fall for this parody of a war film. Even the title, My War, is so generic and out of touch from the feelings of the audience. The Chinese public did not see the Korean War as “their war,” they saw it as reckless geopolitical posturing. It overlooked how painful the war was for millions of Chinese people and tried to make it out as a heroic and prideful national event. War is a topic with a wealth of material and themes, the shallowest of which is bullets and explosions. However, that is the only theme this film truly has. This GIF is the perfect representation of this film because it is flashy and action packed but ultimately landed in the dirt.

GIF #4

This GIF comes from the film “Legend of Tianyun Mountain.” Within the scene, the character Song Wei is slapped by her husband when she tries to return to Tianyun Mountain to visit her best friend, Feng Qinglan, who is quickly approaching death’s door. Her husband, Wu Yao, believes that Song Wei is going to Tianyun Mountain to reunite with her ex-lover, who is married to Feng Qinglan. This scene shows the turning point in Song Wei’s character. Instead of allowing Wu Yao to verbally berate her in front of their colleges, she takes a stand and makes major decisions by herself. Through the movements and the tone of the scene, this GIF demonstrates the pinnacle point in Song Wei’s transformation.

The sheer force of Wu Yao’s slap wakes Song Wei up so that she can realize what type of man he is. He is the man that manipulated her to leave her lover, Luo Qun, and looked over her every action before and during their marriage. This slap reveals Wu Yao’s verbal abuse in a physical way. The objects crashing to the floor create a visual representation the breaking of Song Wei and Wu Yao’s marital bond.

The tone of the scene is quite chaotic and full of anger. The chaos is created by the objects hitting the floor and Song Wei falling to the ground. It pulls in the key theme of distrust that the film by revealing the truth all at once, overwhelming the characters and the audience at the same time. The entire relationship that Song Wei and Wu Yao’s relationship was built on the lie that Wu Yao and many Communist Party members told her about Luo Qun being a rightist. Wu Yao create this space within the scene of pure anger that radiates from him and hitting Song Wei in full force, both figuratively and literally.

Song Wei’s fall reveals the central conflict of “Legend of Tianyun Mountain” and shows the climactic point in which the problem reaches boiling point. This results in the transformation of Song Wei from heavily reliant on the Party to making decisions for herself without the influence of her husband.

GIF #3

The movie scene I chose to analyze is from Jingle Ma’s 2009 film Mulan: Rise of a Warrior starring Zhao Wei. The scene stars Jacee Chan as Fei Xiaohu who plays a character that serves as the main protagonist’s (Mulan’s) childhood friend, brother in arms, and voice of reason. In the scene you see Fei Xiaohu lifting his sword and screaming along with his fellow soldiers at the approaching enemy threat. The significance behind this scene is that Fei Xiaohu and the other soldiers are badly injured but decide to stay behind and fight in order to allow Mulan and the rest of their army to retreat. It takes place right after Mulan’s soldiers were hit with a sudden sand storm that severely weakened her forces midst battle against the Rouran army. The tone of this scene is very dark as the viewer can assume that all of Mulan’s soldiers perish because they are injured and outnumbered. The director uses the camera angle to his advantage as he focuses in on Fei Xiaohu’s serious and determined face as he stares directly onward to the enemy forces (as if staring death in the face). The camera then proceeds to cut out to show the entirety of the remaining soldiers, who can barely stand and lift up their weapons. They all chose to make this “noble” sacrifice for Mulan and their country which plays into a cliché of heroism that is shown in countless war movies. The last camera shot shows the relentless Rouran army approaching by horseback, with weapons in hand, and vast numbers. This last camera shot of the GIF really helps to display the gravity of the situation that Mulan’s soldiers are experiencing and only adds to the heroism of these brave men that chose to stay behind. The lighting and color scheme of the scene is very dull with little saturation almost to demonstrate the somberness of the moment along with exemplifying a war-torn battlefield. The impact of this scene is only greatened due to the fact that this is the last battle scene in the entire movie.

GIF #2

In Still Life, Jia Zhangke attempts to paint a picture of more than mere physical destruction. Jia presents the real issues facing China’s lower-class citizens as they grasp for a past that is quickly being washed away, in much the same way as the town of Fengjie is being washed away, by powers outside of their control.

Jia’s attempt to use a real event—the demolition of Fengjie—to present a picture of the social issues plaguing twenty-first century China leads to a strange fusion of documentary and fiction. The whole one minute scene is filmed in one long take, and the camera is distant from the characters, capturing primarily the drab and crumbling scenery that surrounds the humans. While the filming technique provides a sense of realism, many of the aesthetic elements contradict this realism. The glaringly bright, washed-out, white sky lends a dreamlike quality to the scene, a quality only reinforced by the odd location. These elements combine to create a realist style that makes the events depicted feel like something that was simply captured by the camera, rather than a pre-scripted movie, while still maintaining an air of the fantastic.

The environment itself is used to convey Jia’s message. The scene is set in a crumbling building that overlooks a demolition site. The building is dirty, partially demolished, and clearly disused, and the landscape visible out of the hole in the building’s wall is more of the same. The remnants of the buildings that once made up a thriving town give a sense of the lost past that the characters of Still Life attempt to recapture. As the scene nears its end, the collapse of a towering building in the background startles both Sanming and Missy. This sudden destruction symbolizes the large and uncontrollable events that nonetheless have a profound effect on the lives of China’s common people.

The use of both shot choreography and the dilapidated buildings used as scenery give a powerful message about the precarious position occupied by China’s lower classes. Jia’s message is only made stronger by using a realist style that makes his fictional story seem like a real-life event.

GIF #1

The GIF depicts the final battle of the film between the Wing Chun master, Ip Man, facing off against General Miura of the occupying Japanese army. The scene’s significance is displayed with Ip Man closing his hand into a fist after defeating General Miura as he slumps to the ground. The fist itself is symbolized as an expression of unity of the Chinese people under Japanese subjugation, strength of their resolve in the face of adversity, resistance in the face of oppression and defiance of the a daunting task: to either fight and win to restore the faith and fighting spirit in his people, or knowing that if he were to win, Ip Man would face certain death by the surrounded armed Japanese soldiers and directly threatened by Col. Sato who said he would shoot Ip Man himself if he were to win in combat (who also had been threatening to shoot him throughout the entire second half of the film). It is interesting in this scene that the Wing Chun master, a form of martial arts itself that was born of defiance by Yim Wing-Chun, who refused an offer of marriage by a local warlord, instead choosing to fight for her freedom by defeating him in combat.