Cinematic women’s perspectives on contemporary China and sexuality: a heterogeneous sample of Chinese women’s filmmakers’ works
Cinema is a dynamic that shapes China across time and space. Scholars working on the Chinese cinematic production distinguish several categories like leitmotiv film (zhuxuanlü), entertainment film, art film, and underground film – those categories can of course overlap, articulating both politics and market requirements – and all of them constitute what we call “Chinese cinema” from abroad. In this paper I intend to present a sample of this heterogeneity with the study of three films by women filmmakers: Letter from an unknown woman by Xu Jinglei (2004), Perpetual Motion by Ning Ying (2005), and Lost in Beijing by Li Yu (2007). These three filmmakers all have different backgrounds, and the three movies didn’t face the same conditions of distribution: the first was successful both domestic and abroad, the second was a low-budget and was only released in a few theatres, and the third one was edited multiple times by censorship, before being totally censored one month after its release. Nevertheless, the three of them are known abroad and won prizes in film festivals. Although what is catching our interest here is that the three scripts were written by the filmmakers themselves, and deliver different women’s perspectives on life in China. The question of female sexuality is significant to the narratives, whether it is commodified, romanticized or mocked. Through these case studies we will see how these directors negotiate their own viewpoints within the various dynamics of the Chinese cinematic industry.