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Cheap laughs: The mass-production of low-budget Chinese comedies from Feng kuang de shi tou/Crazy Stone (Ning Hao, 2006) to Gao Xing (Agan, 2009)

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This article will focus on the burgeoning production of low-budget feature film comedies in Mainland China. A number of these productions have achieved considerable success at the local box office since 2006. The popularity of these swiftly-produced features is the result of rapid industrialization and the increasing emphasis on genre in the Mainland China market. It also suggests a worrying trend in terms of the mass-production of films for local audiences; these films are manufactured in a rough manner with little regard for aesthetic quality or tonal consistency, leading to concerns about malformed genre product. This article outlines the definition, origins and variations of the low-budget comedies produced in China. Based on data gathered through several large-scale industry studies of the local audience, it will show that a relationship exists between the cultural mind-set of young cinemagoers and the styles of low-budget comedy films. To chart the success of this genre, and its evolution from low-budget production to mid-budget production due to consistent box office returns, the article will examine two industrially significant examples: Crazy Stone and Gao Xing. The former arguably started the genre, leading to a host of imitators, of which the latter has been particularly well-attended, despite evidencing a decline in quality as satirical humour is replaced by vulgarity. In this respect, it will be argued that the Mainland China production cycle of the low-budget comedy is an example of 'ShanZhai' culture as this is a form of commercial film-making that is largely based on imitation.
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Keywords: China; Crazy Stone; Gao Xing; Mainland production; low-budget comedy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Nanjing University

Publication date: 2012-08-09

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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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