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Translating ‘montage’: The discreet attractions of Soviet montage for Chinese revolutionary cinema

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What happens when a film term such as ‘montage’ undergoes translation? This article looks at the theoretical permutations of ‘montage’ as it was translated and introduced into China beginning in the early 1930s and the resulting film practices as the term continued to be reread, redefined and reinvented during the communist era. As a result of the attraction to the revolutionary allure of Soviet montage in the 1930s, a mysterious aura was attached to the Chinese transliteration mengtaiqi, which literally means ‘veil (is) too strange’. In a period of intense engagement with international film theory during the ‘seventeen years’ (1949–1966), Chinese filmmakers demystified the inscrutability of montage in an effort to broaden its scope to refer to all film editing methods, including Hollywood continuity editing and Soviet montage. Through close reading of selected films, I look at how montage was creatively reinvented to construct a collectivized subject cinematically.

Keywords: Sergei Eisenstein; Soviet montage; Vsevolod Pudovkin; left-wing cinema movement; socialist cinema; translation

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/jcc.5.3.197_1

Affiliations: University of Minnesota

Publication date: November 7, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Journal of Chinese Cinemas is a major refereed academic publication devoted to the study of Chinese film, drawing on the recent world-wide growth of interest in Chinese cinemas. An incredibly diverse range of films has emerged from all parts of the Chinese-speaking world over the last few years, with an ever increasing number of border-crossing collaborative efforts prominent among them. These exciting developments provide abundant ground for academic research.
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