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Time, Space, Identity, and The City: Contemporary Urban China and Japan Projected in Film

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Richard Kraus has said, in reference to contemporary Chinese urban identity, that the arts "provide cues to social identity, offering citizens a focus for questioning and understanding the meaning of their lives."1 Film is reflective of this social identity because living in the city is an art, and, in turn, there is art in the city that represents living. The fact that cynicism and despair are recurrent themes in contemporary Chinese and Japanese, among other, film reveals a lot about overall national sentiment towards rapid industrialization and the socio-political situation. In China there are issues of human rights, tight governmental control, and corruption (guanxi); and in Japan, there is urban strife due to the high cost of living, overcrowding, and low job satisfaction in addition to the political-business relationship of favours (yuchaku). David Harvey chose to look at film as an artform which "arose in the context of the first great burst of cultural modernism"2 and also as the medium that has "the most robust capacity to handle intertwining themes of space and time in instructive ways." Accordingly, I will look at some contemporary Chinese and Japanese films to illustrate the "great burst of cultural modernism" and the how the "themes of time and space" intertwine.
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Keywords: China; Japan; art-form; cynicism; despair; films; identity

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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