The Authorship of Place: A Cultural Geography of the New Chinese Cinemas
The Authorship of Place: A Cultural Geography of the New Chinese Cinemas is the first dedicated study of the politics, history, aesthetics, and practices of location shooting for Taiwanese, Chinese, and co-produced art cinemas shot in rural communities since the late 1970s. It addresses the important but largely ignored role that rural film location shooting ought to play in our understanding of the cultural politics and histories of contemporary Chinese and Taiwanese film authorship.
Based on extensive archival research of production artifacts, interviews with filmmakers, ethnographic fieldwork in sites of production, and deep textual analysis, Dennis Lo argues that rural location shooting goes well beyond serving aesthetic and technical needs, to constituting practices of cultural interrogation, salvage, and survival in a region beset with rapid and disorienting social changes. Complicating the binaries of the hegemonic and subversive, the major and minor, and the national and transnational, Lo demonstrates how auteurs conduct contentious experiments with imagining Taiwanese, Chinese, and cross-strait communities through location shooting. He argues that auteurs respond to social traumas rarely through outright political subversion, but by transforming rural sites of production into symbolically meaningful places of collective memories and aspirations, where lived experiences of nation-building, home-coming, and cultural salvage are re-enacted.
Guiding readers on a tour of prominent shooting locations in the Taiwan New Cinema and Fourth through Sixth Generation Chinese Cinemas, Lo explores how location shooting enables auteurs to perform a multitude of national and cultural identities while engaging in location shooting as embodied practices of touring, exilic longing, myth making, and pilgrimage. In each chapter, filmic texts are read as indexical records of these production experiences, refractingthe cultural politics of production through their representations of place and traveling.Lo also critically examines the social impacts of these cultural performances and texts on film institutions and rural communities, arguing that location shooting plays key roles in the emergence of an elitist and individualistic model of auteurism in the Chinese film industry, as well as the rise of film-induced tourism in Taiwan. Lo ultimately brings into focus the critical possibilities of location shooting, investigating how auteurs reflexively interrogate the cultural politics of their own practices to envision alternative structures of belonging in communities destabilized by unprecedented social, cultural, and geopolitical shifts.