Emilie Yueh-yu YEH (Hong Kong Baptist University), Cross-cultural Analysis: Wenyi ()and Melodrama, English/19 pages, January 2009

Abstract

Scholars have adapted Western theories of melodrama to Chinese melodrama (Berry; Berry and Farquhar; Browne; Ma). Their work offered fresh, provocative insights compared to conventional thematic approaches. But these Western practices may not explain wenyi pictures from Hong Kong and Taiwan, and might also bring theoretical baggage from distant quarters: The point should be to develop conceptual formulations that are generated from within the Asian context rather than to mimic work designed for the West . . .. (Louie & Edwards, 138). To lend an endogenous framework for large swathes of Chinese family films, romances and art cinema, it is advisable to locate an intrinsic and perhaps more illuminating concept than melodrama to explain Chinese-language cinemas.

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This paper is a preliminary discussion on the historical construct wenyi as a term to clarify, map and discuss key issues in Chinese film history and criticism. These are: the ethical role of cinema in modern forms of spectatorship; transmission of progressive ideals to dispersed populations; the role of literary adaptation; stylistic innovations responding to Western melodrama; and the role of filmmakers as socially responsible artists. By pursuing an extensive, in-depth review of the term wenyi and its shifting meanings, contexts, and applications, the new corpus of wenyi cinema will emerge as a distinct historiography in film scholarship.

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