Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Cinema of Taiwan
The history of Chinese-language cinema has three separate threads of development: Cinema of Hong Kong, Cinema of China and Cinema of Taiwan. Taiwanese cinema grew up outside of the Hong Kong mainstream and the censorship of the People's Republic of China.
Taiwanese Cinema: 1901 - 1970s
From 1901 to 1937, Taiwanese cinema was strongly influenced by the Japanese. This was during the Japanese colonial era, and many conventions in Japanese films were adopted by the Taiwanese filmmakers. For example, the use of a benshi (narrator of silent films), which was a very important component of the film-going experience in Japan, was adopted and renamed benzi by the Taiwanese. Notable films during this period include The Eyes of Buddha (1922) and Whose Fault Is It (1925). The Sino-Japanese War in 1937 interrupted the movie industry, and virtually nothing was produced until after the National government took over Taiwan in 1945.
Taiwanese cinema grew again after 1949, when the end of the Chinese civil war brought many filmmakers sympathetic to the Nationalists to Taiwan. During this era, the primary films produced were Mandarin films officially sanctioned by the government. As the government was attempting to unify the country by declaring Mandarin as the official language, the use of other dialects was controlled, and non-Mandarin films (e.g. Taiwanese language films) gradually declined.
The 1960s mark the beginning of Taiwan's rapid modernization. The government focused strongly on the economy, industrial development, and education, and in 1963 the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) introduced the "Health Realism" melodrama. This film genre was proposed to help build traditional moral values, which were deemed important during the rapid transformation of the nation's socioeconomic structure. During this time, traditional kung-fu films as well as romantic melodramas were also quite popular. The author Qiong Yao is especially famous for the movies made in this time period which were based on her widely-read romantic novels.
Taiwan's New Wave Cinema (1982- )
By the early 1980s, the popularity of home video made film-watching a popular activity for the Taiwanese. However, the Taiwanese film industry was under serious challenges, such as the entry of Hong Kong films, well-known for their entertainment quality, into the Taiwanese market. In order to compete with Hong Kong films, the CMPC began an initiative to support several fresh, young directors. In 1982, the film In Our Time (1982), which featured four young talented directors (Edward Yang , Tao De-chen , Ke I-jheng , and Jhang Yi ), began what would be known as the rejuvenation of Taiwanese cinema: the New Wave Cinema .
In contrast to the melodrama or kung-fu action films of the earlier decades, New Wave films are known for their realistic, down-to-earth, and sympathetic portrayals of Taiwanese life. These films sought to portray genuine stories of people living either in urban or rural Taiwan, and are often compared stylistically to the Neorealism movement in Italy. This emphasis on realism was further enhanced by innovative narrative techniques. For example, the conventional narrative structure which builds the drama to a climax was abandoned. Rather, the story progressed at the pace as it would in real life.
Due to its honest portrayal of life, New Wave films examined many of the important issues facing Taiwan society at this time, such as urbanization, the struggle against poverty, and conficts with political authority. For instance, Hou Hsiao-Hsien's City of Sadness portrays the tensions and the conflicts between the local Taiwanese and the newly arrived Chinese Nationalist government after the end of the Japanese occupation. Edward Yang's Taipei Story (1985) and A Confucian Confusion (1994) talk about the confusion of traditional values and modern materialism among young urbanites in the 1980s and 1990s. The New Wave Cinema films are, therefore, a fascinating chronicle of Taiwan's socio-economic and political transformation in modern times.
The Second New Wave (1990s- )
The New Wave gradually gave way to what could be informally called the Second New Wave, which are slightly less serious and more amenable to the populace, although just as committed to portraying the Taiwanese perspective.
For example, Tsai Ming Liang's Vive l'Amour , which won the Golden Lion at the 1994 Venice Film Festival, portrays the isolation, despair, and love of young adults living in the upscale apartments of Taipei. Stan Lai 's The Peach Blossom Land (1992) is a tragi-comedy involving two groups of actors rehearsing different plays on the same stage; the masterful juxtaposition and the depth of the play's political and psychological meanings helped it win recognition at festivals in Tokyo and Berlin.
Lee Ang is perhaps the most well-known of the Second New Wave director. His early films Pushing Hands (1991), The Wedding Banquet (1993), and Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) focus on the generational and cultural conflicts confronting so many modern families. His recent Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) revived the wuxia genre successfully. Although not in the tradition of New Wave or Second New Wave, it is a commercial success which placed Asian films firmly in the international domain.
Notable directors, actors and actresses
- Imperial Japan at the Movies
- Asian Films Connections.org: Taiwan
- Taiwan Cinema
- Chinese Taipei File Archive
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