1. Know what movie “Red Sorghum” is about (produced in 1988)2. Read the attached article (check Zhan


1. Know what movie “Red Sorghum” is about (produced in 1988)2. Read the attached article (check Zhang Xudong, Red Sorghum)3. Combine film and article, answer question in the attached image (check 7.24.2019) 4. I only need ONE complete paragraph, the word limit is between 200-250 words. *Note: Please read the question and instruction carefully, all sub-questions need to be answered.


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Title: Chinese modernism in the era of
Volume: na
Pages: Chapter 11: Ideology and Utopi
Notes: Please Scanand Send Chapter
11. Thank y
Author of Part: Zhang Xudong
Title of Part: Chinese Modernism in the
Era of Reforms
Call #: PL2303 .C39 1997
Barcode: 31142028987744
Location:BOBST / MAIN /
Durham and London
Ideology and Utopia in Zhang Yimou’s
Red Sorghum
Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum, sometimes considered the first ‘~se~
nous comedy” of the New Era, is a hybrid of an exaggerated Fifth
Generation sculptural consciousness and a cinematic fabulation catering to
mass emotion. Its reception in intellectual circles, a mix of celebration and
bitter accusation of sellout, reveals much about the stunned audience who
instinctively realizes that it is no longer the privileged spectator the film
is intended to address. Instead, it finds the camera aimed over its shouldet
at a nebulous realm of being that impatiently demands its own picture.
Whether embracing or resisting this coming regime of sensation, which has
acquired its cinematic nuance and its political implications in Red Sorghum, everyone must feel the overwhelming power of that regime, a power
that intellectuals as a social group have yet to learn to deal with.
Some critics immediately identified the central figure of the film as the
mainstream, the masses of the New Era, or simply ideology, all of which
point to the emerging yet nameless social space grounded by the economic
reforms in the late 1980s. The term “ideology” in particular suggests a
historical redefinition of the term in the Chinese context, or rather a cognitive encounter with that stranger called social libido, with its repression,
sublimation, and self-assertion in the new historical setting, while the ideological apparatus of the bureaucratic state seems to have receded into a
frigid,moribund corner. The overlap of an unfinished aesthetic modernism
and an emerging mass ideology evolved from a changed mode of production
Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum
makes Red Sorghum the last film of the Fifth Generation and the first of a
new transnational genre. Zhang Yimou, who was soon to be known worldwide as the major figure in China’s New Cinema, stood out in r987 as a
triumphant and yet problematic embodiment of this transition.
Before going into the film text, a few details regarding the making of the
As the Golden Bear winner in Berlin in 1988, Red Sor-
film are relevant.
film ever to bring home a major international
film festival award. For an emergent public [at both elite and popular levels!
deeply ashamed by domestic film production, I the international success of
ghum was the first Chinese
Red Sorghum meant
a sudden coming of age of Chinese cinema, an unex-
pected proof of the promise
of cultural exploration,
and a reassuring signal
from the international
market toward its new standards of productivity and
ideological content in which a new image of the public was inscribed.
In the year before the film’s release, the economic reforms in tbe rural
areas bad been declared a success. The urban industrial and administrative
reforms, which were seen as the decisive phase of Chinese modernization,
proved to be a much thornier task for the state to carry out than initially
tbought; tbe economic, social, and political consequences and side-effects
of such reforms appeared to be both hope-inspiring and anxiety-causing for
average city dwellers. Double-digit inflation was one of the brand new experiences for the citizens of the People’s Republic, causing widespread panic
and suspicion of the Reforms policies. At the fourteenth congress of the
Chinese Communist
Party, Zhao Ziyang, former premier and tben P~
secretary-general, launched tbe theoretical elaboration of the nonon of soCialism at preliminary
stage.”-His Gall for a realistic redefinition ofJ;hiaeseback
-escalating ublic ex-
The prevalent euphoria about reforms and the myth ofmode~nIzatlOn were thus put through a frustrating reexammanoni the SOCIaldesire
for a brand new mode of life unburdened by material limitations and ideological taboos was subdued. Then, in the summer of r988, the entire nation
watched its enormous
hind by the Western
Olympic delegation on television being left far besports superpowers and further beaten (in terms of the
gold medals taken) by its neighbor, South Korea, the host of the Seoul Olympic Cames.s
In this atmosphere
a public craving for what Zhang Yimou termed “an
ode to life” quietly fomented. In one of his rare articles, called “A Glorification of Life, an Advocate of Creation-a
Director’s Journal about Red
Sorghum,” Zhang explicitly explains his intention to “demonstrate a joyful
and boundless view of life.” What attracted him toMo ~
308 Chinese Modernism in the Eraof Reforms
same title was “its wild sorghum field, its miraculous characters, its men
and women so reckless and unconstrained, so generous and at ease.” Zhang
further remarks: “They live and die with dignity, radiating the heat and
vigor of their bodies, showing the freedom and joy of life.”3
The story line of Red Sorghum is abruptly cut into two parts, each drawn
from one independent story in Mo Yan’s Red Sorghum Saga [Honggaoliang
xilie], “Nine” I”my grandma”], daughter of a poor peasant widower, is sold
as the bride to a leper winery owner. On the way to the wedding, an ill-fated
kidnaping takes place in a haunted sorghum field, which ends up with the
head sedan carrier (“my grandpa”) killing the bandit. He evolves as the hero,
and the bride takes a fancy to him. Three days later, when the newly married Nine is on her way back to her father’s, she runs into another kidnaping, only to recognize that the kidnaper is “my grandpa.” They make love in
the field of swinging sorghum. That night the winery owner is mysteriously
murdered, leaving Nine the owner of the winery. When she is just about to
restart the business, “grandpa” returns to claim his woman and eventually
becomes the de facto master of the Eighteen Miles Slope. When “my dad”is
nine, the japanese come and force the villagers to trample down the sorghum to build a military highway. One day the japanese flay alive two
“troublemakers” in public. One of them is Luohan, a disappeared winery
worker who was sent back by the Communists to organize local resistance.
The horrifying death 01Luohan leads to a plotted attack on a japanese patrol
truck the next morning by the winery workers led by “grandpa.” On her way
to deliver food to the spot, Nine is shot to death by a japanese machine gun
just belore “grandpa” and his men launch their final, suicidal strike. Every
one is killed except “grandpa” and “dad,” standing in the wild sorghum field
in the dizzying redness 01the sky.
The Mythology of Desire
What constitutes Red Sorghum as a f:ilm, its basic units, are not the magical
realist ministories but rather several concentrated scenes deliberately orga~ nized in a highly theatrical fashion and b,gygBt te the 3ClCC~
~elaboratellavish cinematic disposition. The filmic quality, in terms of its
internal coherence and visual strength, is as exotic and eye-opening to the
local audience as to foreign viewers. The sculptural composition and the
Carnival of colors give the cinematographic’texture·
oil painting- k
density and glamour. Zhang Yimou, who was director of photograp yin rhe
Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum
Figure10. The jolting of the weddingsedan in ZhangYimou’sRed Sorghum 119871.
!CourtesyPhotofest,New York!
two initial and still archetypal works of Fifth Generation film, The One and
the Eight and Yellow Earth demonstrates his capacity to mobilize visual,
photographic elements to set in motion 30 internal dynamism that animates and actualizes his intention as a director.
The construction of a self-referential world of spectacle lies in the depth
of the artistic design as well as in the camera movement. The images that
make up the world of Red Sorghum-the
red wine, the half-naked [male]
body, the dry, dusty open ground on which the sedan carriers display their
“jolting” technique, the restless sorghum swinging ecstatically in the wind,
the dizzying sun overlooking a Dionysian dreamworld-also constitute a
self-enclosed system of signification. This is a space where mythology is to
flourish. This mythology was immediately embraced by an anxious audience who anticipated
their-mlbigtlQU8 social-ideological ideAlity ‘9 b.
II and their blurr
ran e on t e screen. After its success at the Berlin International Film
Festival, Red Sorgbum won at home for “Best Feature Film of r987” in the
Hundred Flowers Awards [Baihua [iang], a mass audience-oriented award
3 r 0 Chinese Modernism in the Eraof Reforms
based on popular vote by ordinary moviegoers rather than on the decision of
a committee of professionals las in the Iinji jiang, or Gold Rooster Awards).
Defiantly hilarious and spectacular in its cinematic fabulation, Red’
Sorghum as a film is solemnly intertwined with the social desire and ideological imagination released by and encoded within its optical situation.
The reckless characters are exploited: set as heroes and heroine against a
prosaic environment, their trampling willfulness is focused on by a staring
and consenting camera eye. Nature and traditional culture, invented as a
social harbor by the Search-for-Roots- writers, are transformed into atriumphant “philosophy of We,” asserting paradoxically both a sublimated world
of peasant utopia and an unapologetic Social Darwinism unfolding according to the logic of desire and conquest. The paradox, to be sure, is rooted in
both the resolution of the social-libidinal to pursue satisfaction and the ideological ambivalence of this pursuit operating in the complex of social relations in a postrevolutionary era. Visually and ideologically, Red Sorghum is
constructivistic in that it sets forth this “philosophy of life” through both
the emancipatory image of the emergent “capitalist new man” [along with
the new law he carries out through his actions! and an overburdened, somehow disoriented collective memory or ideal. In so doing, it not only provides
an aesthetic outlet for public anxiety, but also, more subtly, makes a local,
largely precapitalist, and intensely cultural mode of experience ready for a
post·revolutionary everyday world. Its carnivalesque aura and its densely
invested aesthetics therefore require a closer social analysis.
In what sense and to what extent is a film like Red Sorghum still to be
considered a modernist film? Like Yellow Earth, Red Sorghum is more an
ontological picture of a general spiritual situation than a narrative presenra
tion of a specific space; it is more a subjective intervention than an objective
more a metaphorical artifact than a photographIc analysIs,
more an ideological construct than a critical reflection. Unlike Yellow
Earth, however, the visual mechanism of identification established in Red
Sorghum reveals a different relationship between humans and their world
and indeed a different political agency in coping with this relationship.
Compared to Yellow Earth, which disposes a symbolic space of expression land whose cinematographic disposition has been recognized as the
emblem of the Fifth Generation’s “authenticity”], Red Sorghum unfolds
through a device of mythological fabulation, which envelops a desired solution of an ideological entanglement. If the cinematography of King of the
Children underscores the search for an allegorical space in which the subject can be situated and reflected, then the camera of Red Sorghum assumes
Zhang Yimou’sRed Sorghum 3II
the new mission of investing this subject position with an ego economy.’
Allegory therefore disappears from the interactive terrain of subjects and
objects, only to reemerge more vividly and convincingly in the social realm
of libidinal objects.
When the socioeconomic ground undergoes radical transformations,
when the ideological environment [the “good old days”]suddenly becomes
unrecognizable and has to be reapproached from a distance as a changing
landscape, the archaic passion for myth becomes active. Striving for its
awakening in the dreamworld, the social unconscious anchored around Red
Sorghum tends to ascend into a now aesthetically legitimate ego-space.
Under such circumstances the real is no longer aimed at but rather presses
its way out of the mire of representation. Myth, insofar as it is rooted in a
collective superstition or a false consciousness, is reflexive of something
that is equally accessible from political perspectives. Moreover, as the
mechanism for producing a cult figure, mythology must entail a transfermative power to endow worldly objects with the coherenceand the thrill of
the sublime, a power that derives from the social and communal experiences in which it is based. The use of red as the predominant color in Red
Sorghum can be taken as a vulgar revenge against the painstaking speculation of early Fifth Generation films, an ecstatic requital to the tortuous,
self-punishing contemplation of the phantoms filling in the unfinished
project of Chinese modernization (the depiction of barren hills in Yellow
Earth is a classic example]. The philosophical reflection on the fate of the
nation is replaced, with a shared sense of relief, bya mythological collective
self-discovery, an individual self-assertion, and the internalization of adventure as the instinctual pursuit of the boundless joythat life has to offer.
All this raises once again the question of the meaning of modernism in
the Chinese context. By carrying on an avant-garde explorationin the visual
sphere, the Fifth Generation ties itself to a changing complex of social relations and value systems. To the extent that the symbolic order is constituted in the Chinese circumstances by different agents (for instance,
state politics and its discursive institution) and through different channels
(for instance, the totalizing discipline of social life], this modernism has
different underlying objectives and strategies. It does not matter that what
has already been established somewhere else as classic and canon is imitated so long as the foreign images help to tear down the great wall of
cinematic cliches, uniformiry, and revolutionary asceticism.Chinese modernism is formally constituted as an allegory of styles that in a particular
conjuncture of culture and history, yields its historicity within the purely
3 r 2 Chinese Modernism in the Eraof Reforms
aesthetic. Such a modernism emphasizes the neutral aspects of the technical medium, which release forms for the collective desire by processing
images for the popular mainstream Iii one believes that “middle class” is
still a relatively empty signifier waiting for the Chinese reality to catch up).
Through purely visual dispositions of the cinematic [modernism as a technicality of modes of expression}, the real is constructed as an aesthetic
projection of an imaginary relationship between humanity and the world
(modernism as an experience of Chinese modernity).
The heterogeneity and unevenness of the social space give rise to an
allegorical freedom of imperfection in Chinese cinematic modernism. Like
Chinese modernism in general, the FiIth Generation evolves from a cultural engagement to develop a discursive and cinematic autonomy or selfreferentiality, which offers itself as a more effective register of a historical
experience than socialist realism. It is ironic that the social world had collapsed into the private domain of an embryonic middle class even before the
heroism of its public culture settled down in the domain of formal self-rule.
Red Sorghum represents the spectacular flight of a local modernism to
adapt to the new ideological environment. Its success can be read as an
exaggerated affirmation of the new social forces and expectations. Therefore, its most extraneous cinematic details are where its innermost
can be captured. In terms of this innermost stance Red Sorghum is a film
manifesto yet to be fully claimed by the economic, political, and cultural
forces competing in the social sphere. Until that is done, its aesthetic ambiguities will stand for a Chinese dilemma and a Chinese crisis, iI not at the
same time a Chinese alternative.
Red Sorghum is widely regarded as a highly nationalistic film. Not intent to
challenge this conclusion, I nevertheless find some of the arguments oversimplistic with respect to the interplay between, on the one hand, a cinematic code still elitist [at least “authorly”] in nature and, on the other hand,
a popular ideology that, as Gellner tells us, resides io shared social conditions rather than in its doctrinal or discursive modifications and nuances’
My ioterest is less in debatiog whether or not the film is nationalistic than
in looking at the way io which modernism and nationalism are constructed
within one another and obtain their articulation through each other in the
social and cultural context of the late r980s.
Red Sorghum
The brief comments on the film by the Hundred Flowers Awards committee recognize a linkage between a mass ideology and an aesthetic principle, easily placed under the rubric of nationalism: “Red Sorghum eulogizes
forcefully and boldly the indomitable will to freedom and the great, inexhaustible vitality of the Chinese nation. It perfectly combines narrative and
lyrics, realism and symbolism, and convincingly
charm of cinema tic language.:”
demonstrates the unique
The sweeping success of the film in r988 rested upon a social need, a
collective lust for the aesthetic in both materialistic and mythological
terms. To this extent, nationalism was more an ideological effect of the new
environment than a socio-ontological discourse striving for expression in the film (which nonetheless releases its ideological
Content while being consumed). To relocate the enterprise of representation
in the sphere of sensation, Red Sorghum bypasses the political-ideological
structure of signification as well as the cultural vacuity that underlies Chen
Kaige’s painful explorations. This route is not only possible but indeed encouraged when commodification
is politically sanctioned in order to push
the stagnant Reforms through the bottleneck of rhe system of cenrralized
prices, lifelong employment Ithe so-called iron rice bowl), state ownership,
and all the social, political,
and “cultural” obligations associ-
ated with preexisting relations of production. By appealing to the social
imaginary and by further providing a transfigured world of the collective
ego-object Zhang delivers a state-of-the-art substitute for both the socialistrealist discourse and the transient modernist experimentation in visual production. Red Sorghum,
the last Fifth Generation
film to forge a holistic
vision, is also the first New Cinematic
work to address a wide variety of
individual needs. As long as individual
desire is circumscribed by rhe na-
tional project of modernization,
Red Sorghum cannot but be a “nationalist”
work, in which
ego-space looms on a “national” horizon,
a rudimentary
where it is to be perceived.
Zhang knows only too well rhat this substitu-
tion is to be accomplished
by making the object of desire available in the
first place. The greatest
being available,
of Red Sorghum probably lies in its
in its confidence in catering visual stimuli in the most
reified form to a public s …
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