Third Cinema in China: Yellow Earth

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Third Cinema in China: Yellow Earth What is identified as 'excess' in Western cinematic experience is, therefore, precisely where we locate Third World cinema. -Teshome Gabriel The possibility of a Third Cinema in China is encouraged with Chen Kaige's 1984 film Yellow Earth. Drawing upon Teshome Gabriel's framework, a working definition of Third Cinema is possible in the case of Chinese cinema. The "fifth generation" of China's film-makers is credited in making films such as Yellow Earth, Farewell my Concubine, and The Blue Kite, as well as Raise the Red Lantern and Red Sorghum. While not all films made by the fifth generation are necessarily of a Third Cinema, many of them offer critique, drawing upon tactics to raise social or political consciousness. Yellow Earth 's characterization as Third Cinema lies in its aesthetic qualities, incorporation of folk art characteristics, and challenge of Western film language. Chinese Painting as Third Cinema Aesthetic Use of space is distinctive in Chinese painting, for not only is what space is occupied by an object, but more importantly the surrounding space. What, to the Western eye, may appear to be 'wasted' or 'empty' space, is as much a part of the entire picture than may appear to be the object of interest. Yellow Earth invokes characteristics of Chinese painting in the cinematographic style of Zhang Yimou. The use of Chinese painting' characteristics contributes to Yellow Earth as representative of Third Cinema in China. The use of space challenges Western convention, creating a new film grammar to code political agendas. In "Yellow Earth: Western Analysis and a Non-Western Text", Ester C.M. Yau notes that: Classical Chinese painting's representation of nature i... ... middle of paper ... ...n Chinese, the folk culture seems dated and irrelevant. Third Cinema, however, realizes the need to draw upon folk tradition. Third Cinema is not limited to those cinemas of Latin America or Africa. It is located where challenges to Western cinematic domination and rules are played out. In China, the years following the downfall of the 10 year reign of the Cultural Revolution produced a climate ripe for a politicized revolutionary cinema. Yet, the cinema in China remains bound to censorship and banning of films. The overtly politically challenging film The Blue Kite, set in the decade leading up to the Cultural Revolution, was banned and denounced by Chinese authorities. What has emerged then is the need to create a new language for the cinema to speak with. The language of Yellow Earth draws upon Chinese art to create a new aesthetic, a Third Cinema aesthetic.

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