Epitome, Legitimation, and Reproduction: Nostalgia and Grand History in Two Chinese Melodramatic Films

September Liu

Abstract


Nostalgia arises recently in mainland China along with the release of many sensational melodramas that are no longer set in the countryside as they were. What fate will befall nostalgia when modernity turns people into urban descendants who have no bodily memory of the soil and the wistfulness it engenders? Such a question invites me to look at some generic patterns of which nostalgia partakes in today’s melodramas. This short essay will examine three recently-released melodramas — Zhang Yimou’s Under the Hawthorn Tree (Shanzhashu zhi Lian, 2010), Peter Chan’s American Dreams in China (Zhongguo Hehuoren, 2013), and Guo Fan’s My Old Classmate (Tongzhuo de Ni, 2014) – based on a revisit of nostalgia’s discursive forms and roles in the four-decade-long history of contemporary Chinese melodramas. I will argue that China’s latest cycle of urban melodramas spells a distinctive interlacing narrative of personal nostalgia and grand history. This study is intent on enriching our understanding of nostalgia in global cinema and the socio-political transformations that all of us are now experiencing as participants.

Keywords


Nostalgia; Melodrama; China; History; Cinema



DOI: 10.6092/issn.2280-9481/8530

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Copyright (c) 2019 September Liu

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