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'The Chinese Who Never Die': Spectral Chinese and contemporary European cinema

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As China becomes a major player in the global economy, Europeans also have begun to encounter Chinese transnationals as a new, relatively unknown urban population and to incorporate them into expressive discourses such as cinema and mass media. Representation of/response to this new social reality, in turn, has raised questions in contemporary European cinema as we see in three recent films - Gomorra(h) (Matteo Garrone, 2008, Italy), Biutiful (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2010, Spain, Mexico), and Mauvais Joueurs/Gamblers (Frédéric Balekdjian, 2006, France) that situate these Chinese within changing European discourses. These films do not focus on Chinese per se, but the Chinese in these movies constitute critical elements of a multi-ethnic transnational Europe; such off-centred presentations of Chinese thus articulate emergent European ideas about both China and Chinese within local, national, continental (European) and global frames. These Chinese do not occupy major roles; in the end, they haunt these films rather than drive them. Their spectral quality includes death, mystery, disappearance, and the ethical transformation of the protagonist although they themselves evaporate from the narrative.

Keywords: Barcelona; Chinese immigration; Paris; ethnic representation; transnationalism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: College of Staten Island, City University of New York

Publication date: August 9, 2012

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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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