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By Way of Melancholia: Remembrance of Tiananmen Square Incident in Summer Palace

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How should a traumatic historical event be approached, remembered, and represented in retrospect? The Tiananmen Square Incident that occurred two decades ago has remained an ineffable topic in China due to both political censorship and the brutality of the event. Lou Ye's Summer Palace (2007) is significantly the first Chinese film dealing with the remembrance of the incident. This paper suggest that the representation of historical trauma in an unmediated form ultimately partakes in the violence of the dominant language that has caused the trauma in the first place. By way of melancholia impasse, Lou Ye directs the gaze from the present and firmly dwells on the historical ruins from the past for the past's sake alone. Through a close reading of Summer Palace, this paper aims to unravel the power of melancholia in defiance of the triumphant historical culture.

Keywords: Lou Ye; Summer palace; The Tiananmen square incident; aesthetic expression; historical trauma; melancholia

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2010

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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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