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Modern Identity and Karmic Retribution in Clara Law's Reincarnations of Golden Lotus

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There are as many filmic versions to Hong Kong identity as there are Hong Kong films, yet in the wake of the looming handover a specific theme became predominant – namely, the presentation of Hong Kong as a dislocated form of China, a China that is misrecognized as the same China. A case in point are the scripts of Li Bihua (alias Li Bik Wah). Films such as Farewell My Concubine (Bawang bieji) and Rouge (Yanzhi kou) focus on the dislocated intrusion of early texts and characters identified with historical China into the life of modern Hong Kong. The original script for Farewell My Concubine, for example, ends with the two opera singers meeting again in Hong Kong (director Chen Kaige understood the challenge to the hegemonic Chinese discourse and relocated the ending to mainland China). Many of Li Bihua's scripts start out as a rehash of a premodern plot only to force the realization that we would be mistaken to take the plot for a repetition of the familiar story. The allegorical implication is that the plot adheres to the original "traditional Chinese" scheme no more than Hong Kong possesses a direct and transparent relation to Chinese identity.
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Keywords: Hong Kong film; Reincarnations of Golden Lotus; Yomi Braester; identity; karmic retribution; traditional Chinese

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1998-09-01

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  • Asian Cinema is a seminal journal, which has been published since 1995 by the Asian Cinema Studies Society under the stewardship of Professor John Lent. From 2012 Asian Cinema will be published by Intellect as part of our Film Studies journal portfolio. The journal currently publishes a variety of scholarly material - including research articles, interviews, book and film reviews and bibliographies - on all forms and aspects of Asian cinema. The journal's broad aim is to advance understanding and knowledge of the rich traditions of the various Asian cinemas, thereby making an invaluable contribution to the field of Film Studies in general.
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