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Filming the anti-Japanese war: the devils and buffoons of Jiang Wen’s Guizi Laile

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This article outlines the chequered history of Jiang Wen’s Guizi laile/Devils on the Doorstep (2000), including discussion of his adaptation of You Fengwei’s story ‘Shengcun’ (‘Getting By’), and the adverse reaction in China following the film’s winning of the Cannes Grand Jury Prize in 2000. The article argues that Jiang, far from intending to portray the Chinese people as foolish collaborators, as charged by the Chinese Film Bureau, instead made a film that set out to show the absurdity and arbitrary cruelty of war. Discussion on films made in China about the anti-Japanese war in the 1980s, as well as Yangguang canlan de rizi/In the Heat of the Sun (1994), Jiang’s only other film as director, reveals how Jiang sought to move away from the simplistic conventions of Socialist Realist film-making, adopting a more challenging approach to a subject that remains all too sensitive in China.
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Keywords: arbitrary cruelty; cinematic adaptation; collaboration; war

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Edinburgh

Publication date: 2004-09-01

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  • The journal aims to provide a platform for the study of new forms of cinematic practice and fresh approaches to cinemas hitherto neglected in western scholarship. It particularly welcomes scholarship that does not take existing paradigms and theoretical conceptualisations as given; rather, it anticipates submissions that are refreshing in approach and exhibit a willingness to tackle cinematic practices that are still in the process of development into something new.
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