Cinema of negotiation : sexuality and subjectivity in mainland Chinese women’s cinema (1981 - 1988)
This thesis examines Chinese women’s cinema from 1981 to 1988, with an emphasis on their representation of women’s sexuality and subjectivity. During the period of economic growth in the 1980s, hitherto repressed discourses of individuality separated from the state ideology of collectivism which had long dominated the Chinese screen. Focusing on the various images of women created by female directors, this thesis aims to articulate how the interplay between gender consciousness and ubiquitous censorship inform and construct female directors’ ambivalent attitude in the face of love and sexuality, and how narratives of gender and nation are filtered through the repressive selves. The thesis deploys feminist, narrative, psychoanalytic and semiotic theories together with film-studies-based theories to critically analyse the signifying subtexts of female directors’ films in relation to the repressive mechanisms acting on them. The bulk of the study discusses eight films made by six major female directors active in filmmaking in the 1980s. These directors were by no means a group that shared a uniform aesthetic pursuit. However, it is possible to see in them a shared concern with female sexuality and subjectivity, which are marked in their films despite having been neglected in studies on Chinese cinema. I compare and contrast their ways of dealing with gender consciousness, interrogating repression as a symptom haunting their female protagonists as well as the directors themselves. The films made by female directors in the 1980s, I will conclude, are the outcome of negotiation between an oppressive censorship upon cinema and the desire to bring to the screen women’s experience of sexuality and subjectivity.