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Su Tong and Zhang Yimou

Su Tong and Zhang Yimou

Women’s Places in Raise the Red Lantern

(p.34) Chapter 2 Su Tong and Zhang Yimou
Adapted for the Screen
Hsiu-Chuang Deppman
University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter compares the aesthetic and ideological connections between two mid-1980s movements: Experimental Modernist Fiction writers and Fifth Generation filmmakers. Just like Ang Lee, Zhang Yimou reconstructs Su Tong’s basic plots and characters and reinterprets, for allegorical purposes, the novelist’s attitudes toward Chinese gender politics. Much more than Ang Lee and other “literary” filmmakers, however, Zhang aggressively reworks, one can even say rewrites, the narrative style, imageries, scenes, and symbolic resonances of the source text. To show the detailed philosophical and aesthetic differences between Zhang’s humanist realism and Su’s modernism, this chapter analyzes the reasons why Zhang replaces one of Su’s most developed patterns of imagery—a well in a back garden, symbolically linked to a vast feminine cosmology—with a very different pattern of his own: a dark room on the roof of a building connected to the phallocentric cultural architecture of male domination.

Keywords:   Experimental Modernist Fiction writers, Fifth Generation filmmakers, Su Tong, Zhang Yimou, Ang Lee, gender politics, modernism, humanist realism

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