Transnational Representations: The State of Taiwan Film in the 1960s and 1970s.

AuthorWen, Laura Jo-Han
PositionASIA - Book review

Wicks, James. Transnational Representations: The State of Taiwan Film in the 1960s and 1970s. Pokfulam: Hong Kong University Press, 2014.

How should the Mandarin films produced in Taiwan in the 1960s and 1970s be read? Transnational Representations challenges academic perspectives that oversimplify the influence of films from this period. James Wicks argues that although the films were made under martial law in the state-sanctioned film industry, it is imperative to examine them using a framework that goes beyond representations of Chinese cinema or the Kuomintang's national discourses. Wicks views these films as the stage for (rather than a reflection of) the state's cultural politics. Moreover, Wicks finds that the competing regional influences involving Japanese colonial legacies, the revolutions of the People's Republic of China (PRC), and the Cold War-enacted transregional market system all played a role in shaping the films.

Taiwan cinema in the 1960s and 1970s not only enjoyed a certain popularity, which is why some consider the period to be a golden age, but also established aesthetic conventions for the later New Cinema to carry forward or break from. Wicks, who studies the films through a transnational lens, develops an original theory of transnationalism based on a foundation of two concepts: first, Raymond Williams's epochal analysis that delineates the dynamics between dominant, residual, and emergent cultural modes; and second, Wimal Dissanayake's idea of how films travel at the local, national, regional, and global levels. Transnationalism, Wicks suggests, sheds new light on the investigation of Taiwan cinema and serves as both a critique of unequal power relations and a tool for analyzing multidimensional cultural flows.

Transnational Representations can serve as a textbook for interdisciplinary film studies with a focus on Taiwan cinema. The book takes readers on an engaging journey of learning about Taiwan cinema beyond the subject's temporal and geographical boundaries. In addition to a close examination of significant films from the 1960s and 1970s in Taiwan, the book provides broad context of Taiwan's colonial history before 1945, public debates about nativist literature in the 1930s and 1970s, and comparative analyses of other films made in the PRC, Germany, and Senegal. This context illuminates the historical, cultural, and sociopolitical position of Taiwanese directors and their aesthetic choices in film-making...

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