On Sinophone Film

When it comes to non-anglophone cinema, it’s very rare that a title penetrates the mainstream bubble in the west. We know that India and Nigeria have some of the most productive film industries in the world, both in terms of grossing as well as the number of films produced, which doesn’t necessarily translate to international recognition. This does not exclude that the essential is beyond the obvious – Indian cinema is massively popular outside India, notably in Afghanistan, and the Turkish series “Resurrection: Ertugrul”, currently on Netflix, has been a resounding success in Pakistan, something which leads us to rethink how we understand cultural diffusion and its implications in the world at large.

From East Asia, Japan has been the exception in this area, although notably through its animated series (and despite having a high quality film industry), and recently we’ve seen a South-Korean title winning an Oscar for best film. However, Chinese language film has an old tradition which hasn’t been noticed in the last few years. It’s apparent, especially in mainland China, the tendency to produce big budget films, with more investment in visuals to impress rather than in substance – although one could say this phenomenon is known to those who follow Hollywood, which has been producing title after title rich in special effects, to the detriment of content. The reality is that art does not gain with sacrificing authenticity.

One name that has been making the rounds recently, especially given certain developments in the topic of international relations, is the film series “Wolf Warrior”, with an aesthetic that evokes American war hero films and which has been used in media to refer to the People’s Republic of China’s diplomatic corps. However, we would like to present here different references, especially cult classics, which bring to the fore the quality of film productions from different regions.

In the Mood for Love (2001) is a widely acclaimed film, owing to its directing technique and the performance of the main actors, who with a notable mastery of nuance involve the viewer as a spectator of their lives. Mr Chow (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung Man-yuk) discover that their respective partners are involved in an adulterous relationship, and gradually become romantically involved themselves as they find out the truth, while also coming into conflict with their own morality. The film places us as observers, where emotionality and the atmosphere make this work by director Wong Kar-wai, an evocative and visceral piece.

Ip Man (2008) is a story that mixes real elements with a fictional plotline, where the main role is that of a martial arts master who leads a simple life according to Confucian principles, when the Japanese invasion drastically changes life in Foshan, where Ip Man (Donnie Yen) made his residence. An action film, despite lacking the hyperbole of the genre, Ip Man is yet another Hong Kong classic film.
This film is currently available on Netflix.

Lust, Caution (2007) tells the story of a college student and protest-theater actress that finds herself in the role of a spy, whose mission is to seduce and set up the assassination of an official from the puppet government of the Japanese occupation. Within the style of Ang Lee, this film explores and develops characters to a very high level, and the historical context is an added bonus to an already risque and intense film.
By the same director, names such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Eat drink man woman (1994) are also noteworthy.

These are some of the films we recommend, with other names and other regions to be addressed in the future.

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