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Performance enhancement: Identity, surface aesthetics and the direction of actors in Yang Yang (Cheng Yu-Chieh, 2009)

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Relating the story of a young Eurasian woman training to be an athlete and then an actress, Yang Yang (Cheng Yu-Chieh, 2009) focuses insistently on the act of performance. This article argues that the protagonist Yang-Yang is defined by her heterogeneity in relation to conventional markers of identity, occupying a fluid zone in which performativity meets performance. These dynamics are teased out by the film’s unusual cinematography, which utilizes extremely shallow focus and fixates relentlessly on surface and foreground. This aesthetic forces the audience into proximity with the actors, and arguably alludes to the protagonist’s repression, possibly the result of trauma, which is self-reflexively dramatized when Yang-Yang is asked by a director to release her ‘true self’. However, Cheng avoids essentialist notions of identity, and if his protagonist’s behaviour might be interpreted in terms of improvisatory tactics, then his own approach similarly creates a space for the spontaneous and unplanned.
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Keywords: Cheng Yu-Chieh; Eurasian; Taiwanese cinema; cinematography; identity; performance; sexuality; shallow focus

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Greenwich

Publication date: 2017-04-01

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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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