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Yang ± Yin:
Gender in
Chinese Cinema

 
UK VHS video
cover of the British Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema videotape
509k
.
Hong Kong VCD
cover of the Hong Kong DVD containing Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema
43k
.
Hong Kong DVD
cover of the Hong Kong DVD containing Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema
visit the web page
Taiwan DVD
cover of the Taiwan Kong DVD containing Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema
38k
 

A Documentary
Featuring
Chang Cheh


  • Museum of Fine Arts May/June 1997 Film Calendar blurb for Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema
  • Transcriptions of the Opening Fifteen Minutes of Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema (VHS differs from VCD and DVD)
  • Anecdote about director Stanley Kwan badgering Chang Cheh and being kicked out of the house by Chang Cheh's wife
  • Interview with Stanley Kwan about Yang & Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema from Hong Kong Panorama 96-97
  • From VHS: Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema [the full film, subtitled in Chinese with some English voice-over]
  • From VCD: Documentary: Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema [the full film, subtitled in Chinese and English]
  • Website for a DVD which contains Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema: 7-Disc 100 Years of Cinema 3-Box DVD Set


    [From the Museum of Fine Arts (in Boston, Massachusetts) May/June 1997 Film Calendar, page 14:]

    NEW CHINESE CINEMA
    June 19-29

    Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema, [directed by] Stanley Kwan (Hong Kong, 1996, 80 min.). This highly personal film essay demonstrates that Chinese cinema has dealt with questions of gender and sexuality more frankly and provocatively than any other national cinema. Yang ± Yin examines male bonding and phallic imagery in the swordplay and kung fu movies of the '60s and '70s; homosexuality; same-sex bonding and physical intimacy; the continuing emphasis on women's grievances in melodramas; and the phenomenon of Yam Kim-Fai, a Hong Kong actress who spent her life portraying men on and off the screen.

     

    Transcriptions of the opening fifteen minutes
    of Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema

    Chang Cheh in Yang ± Yin
    screen capture of Chang Cheh from Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema
    269k
    .
    Yang ± Yin title sequence
    Yang ± Yin title sequence
    bigger: (933k) 267 x 200
    John Woo in Yang ± Yin
    screen capture of John Woo from Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema
    214k

    Note on the transcriptions by Steven Feldman of the opening
    fifteen minutes of Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema,
    A Film to Celebrate 100 Years of Cinema by Stanley Kwan:

    KEY:
    red text indicates text particular to the VHS version
    green text indicates text particular to the DVD version
    [brown text] indicates information I myself added

    In the VHS video, there is English language voice-over standing in for the Chinese dialogue of director Stanley Kwan during Chapter 1: ABSENCE OF FATHER (1) and Chapter 2: FEMININE AND MASCULINE FACE AND BODY.

    On the VCD and DVD, the voice-over from the VHS is not heard during Chapter 1: ABSENCE OF FATHER (1) and Chapter 2: FEMININE AND MASCULINE FACE AND BODY. Instead, there are Chinese and English subtitles. I don't know about the content of the Chinese subtitling, but the English subtitles on the DVD say something very different than the spoken words heard in the VHS video.

    There are also slight differences in the English subtitles ascribed to Chang Cheh.

     
    VHS Video Contents

    [Title:] Chapter 1: ABSENCE OF FATHER (1)

    STANLEY KWAN'S VOICE-OVER: When my father took me to a bath house, it was the first time I'd seen so many male bodies. These shots from my film, Actress evoke that memory. My father died when I was fourteen. My memories of him are mostly memories of longing for his love, because I always felt that he preferred his daughters to his sons. We were so poor when I was young that I had to sleep with him, head to toe, on a sofa, and I recall touching him while pretending to be asleep. I also vividly recall the smell of his body. This picture is one of the few that I have of him. He didn't like to be photographed.

     
    VCD and DVD Contents

    [Title:] Chapter 1: ABSENCE OF FATHER (1)

    STANLEY KWAN, DIRECTOR: One friend of mine is amused by my films. He once asked me why I like to shoot so many male bathhouse scenes. This is from my film Actress. I did the same in Red Rose, White Rose. My friend thought I was just indulging myself. But he didn't know the person who took me first to a bathhouse was my father. When I was a kid, I shared a bed with my father. Now, entering this kind of naked, all-male world, I can feel his presence. My father died when I was 14. He left very little for me to remember him by. Not even photos. This is one of the few I have.

      [Title:] Chapter 2: FEMININE AND MASCULINE FACE AND BODY

    V.O. (VOICE-OVER): Most of the films I've directed have centered on women. They include Red Rose White Rose, Actress, Rouge, and Love Unto Waste. Why do I make so many films about women? Does it mean that I'm rather feminine myself? I'm sure that it does have something to do with the women in my family. As the eldest son, I became the official head of the family at the age of fourteen. The others' lives suddenly came second to mine. My sisters had to leave school and start work to help pay for my education, and my mother became a resilient woman who worked tirelessly to hold the family together and provide for her children. As a result, I felt less like a surrogate father than like a child. The women of the family supported and protected me.

    Like everyone in Hong Kong, I grew up fascinated by martial arts films. The genre was always popular, but it peaked in the early 70's when Bruce Lee came back from America and starred in four kung fu films. His premature death in 1973 was shattering. It really was as if a legend had died.

      [Title:] Chapter 2: FEMININE AND MASCULINE FACE AND BODY

    STANLEY KWAN: My films include Rouge, Full Moon in New York, Love Unto Waste, Actress, and Red Rose, White Rose. All of them thought of as 'women's films.' Are the women in these films just projections of myself? I have three sisters, one brother. You could call it a predominantly female family. After my father died, my mother worked hard to raise us. My sisters left school to help pay for my education. All of this was automatic. Just because I was the eldest son. Even though I was only 14, I had replace my father. Be the family head. I always ask myself if this situation formed my attitudes to [sic] women, or if my sisters and mother taught me what I know about female strength.

    As a child, my feminine side identifed with the heroines of Hong Kong films. But in the 70s, the balance in Chinese films shifted. Bruce Lee's stardom ushered in a new vein of 'masculine films.'

      [footage of Bruce pummelling Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon]

    V.O.: For me, the appeal of the genre was less the kung fu or the swordfighting than the spectacle of male bodies in action, very often half naked. The master of the genre was Zhang Cher, who discovered stars like Wong Yu, Di Long, David Chiang, and Fu Shung. Actually, Bruce Lee wasn't really my type. I preferred Wong Yu, an ex-swimming champion from Guang Jo. Unfortunately, I can only show these images from his films. Shaw Brothers, the company which produced them in the 60's, wouldn't allow us to use any clips.

    Zhang Cher was a Shaw Brothers contract director at that time. Virtually all of his films focused on men and male relationships.

      [footage of Bruce pummelling Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon]

    S.K.: I liked 'masculine films' too. But not for the fights or the wiry, muscular types like Bruce Lee. I preferred a hero of the 60s. The swordsman type -- Wang Yu. Wang Yu was 'discovered' by director Chang Cheh. The films they made together included One-Armed Swordsman. It was a huge hit. The first Hong Kong film to gross more than one million dollars. After that, almost all of Chang's films dealt with male bonding and 'blood-brotherhood.' It's a pity Shaw Brothers wouldn't let us use any clips from those films.

    Chang Cheh's vintage films should be on this screen now. Please imagine them for yourself.

      CHANG CHEH: At that time, Chinese cinema was unique in the world. No other film industry gave top billing to women. Women stars in western films still come second today. Back then, even Ingrid Bergman got second billing. I felt the Chinese emphasis on women stars was strange, so I set out to make very masculine films. It was one way to move Chinese cinema forward. 'Martial chivalry' films were an old Chinese genre. They showed swordplay for its own sake. But King Hu and I set out to make more of fight scenes. We tried to make the fights express ideas and themes. Realism didn't come into it. We explored our fantasies.

    When I began making films, I wanted to do something new, so I tried to see some old traditions in a fresh way. The traditional Chinese hero has no truck with women. He's much more concerned with his male friends. The classical archetype is the novel The Three Kingdoms. Its heroes are the brothers Liu, Guan and Zhang. They're the epitome of what I wanted to show in my films.

    [an amiable, brotherly clip from The Slaughter in Xian, 1990]

    V.O.: One of the action stars who became popular in Zhang Che's films was Di Long.

      CHANG CHEH: At that time, Chinese cinema was unique in the world. No other film industry gave top billing to women. Women stars in western films still come second today. Back then, even Ingrid Bergman got second billing. I felt our Chinese emphasis on women stars was strange, so I set out to make very masculine films. It was one way to move Chinese cinema forward. 'Martial chivalry' films were an old Chinese genre. They showed swordplay for its own sake. But King Hu and I set out to make more of fight scenes. We tried to make the fights express ideas and themes. Realism didn't come into it. We explored our fantasies.

    When I began making films, I wanted to innovate. So I tried to freshen up some old traditions. The traditional Chinese hero has no truck with women. He's much more concerned with his male friends. The classical archetype is Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The heroes of the book are blood-brothers Liu, Guan and Zhang. They're the epitome of what I wanted to show in my films.

    [an amiable, brotherly clip from The Slaughter in Xian, 1990]

    S.K.: Chang Cheh's swordsmen were different from those before. They had more overtly masculine qualities. Ti Lung was a later example of the sexy male hero.

      TI LUNG: Men relate to each other much as they relate to women. I agree with Chang Cheh about this. Men have their own charisma, their own way of moving, that can be attractive, too.

    PEGGY CHIAO, CRITIC: Those Chang Cheh films are all about male bonding. He worships the male body. All those muscles, all that nudity. It's all very sexual. I think it's his vision of male paradise! Very interesting.

    CHANG CHEH: It's my reading of a Chinese tradition, nothing else. No Chinese reader thinks of homosexuals when he reads a book like The Three Kingdoms. Nobody thinks the heroes of Water Margin are gay.

    V.O.: There's a strong emphasis on phallic weaponry, bodily penetration and even disembowelment in many of Zhang's films. I asked him how much he was aware of the symbolic undercurrents.

    CHANG CHEH: Freud tells us that everything has sexual origins. He finds sexual symbolism everywhere. Swords, knives, even guns can be male sexual symbols.

    [A foreboding clip from The Slaughter in Xian starts.]

    CHANG CHEH: I don't know if it's true or not.

    [As the Slaughter in Xian clip continues, a man is graphically impaled by being lowered onto a two-foot-long spike.]

    V.O.: I wondered what considerations Zhang had in mind when he cast his action heroes, especially when he introduced newcomers, like Wong Yu.

    CHANG CHEH: Wang Yu and Ti Lung were traditional hero types, tall and well-built. The exceptional one was David Chiang. I chose him because I liked him, and I liked the fact that he wasn't a traditional hero. Men in old Chinese films were weak, book-reading types. The swordplay genre gave us the classical hero type: tall, well-built, square torso. David is nothing like that, so I took a risk with him. There's an attractive sense of evil about him, too.

      TI LUNG: Men relate to each other much as they relate to women. I'm with Chang Cheh on that. Men have their own charisma, their own way of moving, that can be attractive, too.

    PEGGY CHIAO, CRITIC: Those Chang Cheh films are all about male bonding. He worships the male body. All those muscles, all that nudity. It's all very sexual. I think it's his vision of male paradise! Very interesting.

    CHANG CHEH: It's my reading of a Chinese tradition, nothing else. No Chinese reader thinks of homosexuals when he reads a book like The 3 Kingdoms. Nobody thinks the heroes of Water Margin are gay.

    S.K.: Chang Cheh's cinema is full of phallic symbols. All the blades and guns are inescapably phallic. And the way he uses them can be astonishing. So I asked him if this was deliberate?

    CHANG CHEH: Freud tells us everything has sexual origins. He finds sexual symbolism everywhere. Swords, knives, even guns can be phallic symbols.

    [A foreboding clip from The Slaughter in Xian starts.]

    CHANG CHEH: I don't know if that's true or not.

    [As the Slaughter in Xian clip continues, a man is graphically impaled by being lowered onto a two-foot-long spike.]

    S.K.: Chang moved away from stolid heroes when he cast the more sensitive David Chiang. I asked him why he made that change.

    CHANG CHEH: Wang Yu and Ti Lung were traditional hero types, tall and well-built. David Chiang was an exception. But I liked him. I liked him because he wasn't a typical hero. Men in old Chinese films were book-reading types. The swordplay genre gave us the classical hero type: tall, well-built, square torso. David is nothing like that, so I took a risk with him. There's an attractive sense of evil about him, too.


      [two clips from A Better Tomorrow]

    V.O.: John Woo was Zhang Cher's assistant director on several Shaw Brothers films in the early 70's. He started directing kung fu films himself soon after, but the films which eventually led him to Hollywood were his gangster thrillers of the mid-80's: A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and A Bullet in the Head.

    Many critics have seen links between his films and Zhang Che's, especially in their celebrations of male bonding. I asked Zhang Che if he sees the connection himself.

      [two clips from A Better Tomorrow]

    S.K.: In the 70s, one of Chang's assistants was John Woo, who now works in Hollywood. His Hong Kong films included A Better Tomorrow and The Killer. They were very romantic, male-bonding films. Very similar to Chang Cheh.

    Many people draw comparisons between John Woo and Chang Cheh. What does Chang Cheh himself think?
      CHANG CHEH: I doubt I had any direct influence on John Woo. Maybe we have similar tastes. Maybe that's why people compare our films. He's obsessed with love/hate relationships and inner turmoil. That's why his A Better Tomorrow resembles my Blood Brothers [a film John Woo worked on]. The parallels are obvious.

    V.O.: In The Killer, John Woo shows the intense bond which develops between a charismatic hitman and the cop who sets out to catch him. Scenes like this one, in which the cop helps the hitman to extract a bullet from his arm seem consciously homoerotic. I asked John Woo if he saw it that way himself.

      CHANG CHEH: I doubt I had any direct influence on John Woo. Maybe we have similar tastes. And that's why people compare our films. He's obsessed with love/hate relationships and men in inner turmoil. That's why his A Better Tomorrow resembles my Blood Brothers [a film John Woo worked on]. The parallels are obvious.

    S.K.: Many articles on The Killer cite the scene in which Danny Lee helps Chow Yun-Fat remove a bullet from his arm. They see this as the peak of homo-eroticism in John Woo's work. Does he see it that way himself?

      JOHN WOO, DIRECTOR: Any homo-erotic feelings in this are unconscious. There may well be some, I'm not sure. I just set out to express emotion very directly.

    Some things in The Killer couldn't be said verbally. Their mutual admiration is expressed visually. The scene in which Danny Lee helps remove the bullet from Chow Yun-Fat's arm: I didn't conceive of it in sexual terms. I just saw them as people who'd got beyond the 'first date' stage.

    Whenever I deal with such romantic relationships -- whether the characters are men or women -- it always comes out strongly in the films. I don't mind how the public takes such scenes or how they react to the film as a whole. Once the film is finished, it no longer belongs to me; my original feelings no longer matter. Viewers will have their own feelings.
      JOHN WOO, DIRECTOR: Any homo-eroticism in this is unconscious. It may be there, I'm not sure. I just set out to express emotion very directly.

    Some things in The Killer couldn't be said verbally. Their mutual admiration is expressed visually. The scene in which Danny Lee helps remove the bullet from Chow Yun-Fat's arm wasn't conceived in sexual terms. I just saw them as people who'd got beyond the 'first date' stage.

    Whenever I deal with such romantic relationships -- whether they're men or women -- the feelings are intense. I don't mind how the public takes such scenes or how they react to the film as a whole. The finished film isn't mine. My original feelings no longer matter. Viewers will have their own feelings.

      [clip from The Killer, in which Danny Lee says, "His eyes are so intense. Easy to empathize. Eyes full of passion."]

    V.O.: I wondered if John Woo would feel able to include scenes like these in the Hollywood films he makes now.
      [clip from The Killer, in which Danny Lee says, "His eyes are so intense. Easy to empathize. Eyes full of passion."]

    S.K.: The bullet scene in The Killer and the general emphasis on male bonding. Could John Woo have such scenes in his Hollywood films?

      JOHN WOO: To make films here like the ones I made in Hong Kong -- films on male bonding or 'martial chivalry' -- I'd have to work outside the mainstream. Otherwise, no way.

      JOHN WOO: If I wanted to do here what I did in Hong Kong -- films on male bonding or 'martial chivalry' -- I'd have to work outside the mainstream. Otherwise, no way.

     


    For another take on homoeroticism in the cinema of Chang Cheh, see the article, "The Fallen Idol -- Zhang Che in Retrospect," by Tian Yan, taken from the 8th Hong Kong International Film Festival publication, A Study of Hong Kong Cinema in the Seventies (1970-1979). The final paragraph is especially relevant.

     

    Anecdote about director Stanley Kwan badgering Chang Cheh
    and being kicked out of the house by Chang Cheh's wife

    anecdote source 1
    kungfucinema.com
    January 15, 2007
    anecdote source 2
    AV Maniacs logo
    January 22, 2007

      KEY:
    red text indicates text Linn deleted
    green text indicates text Linn added
    [brown text] indicates information I myself added





    Ti Lung/David Chiang hate? - Page 4 - Kung Fu Cinema Forums
    URL 1 | URL 2 | URL 3 | URL 4

    01-15-2007, 09:15 PM   #34
    Linn1
    Senior Member

    I suspect...

    Chang Cheh didn't comment on the period because of the amount of crap he had taken over the years from HK film critics after about 1976 and beyond. When he returned to HK after what was considered the failure of his production company, and the venom films didn't do as well as his previous films locally, the critics took the chance to turn on Chang in a big way. This is when questions about him being gay turned up, and also complaints about his talent slipping at the box-office and in his films. He was attacked at all angles at this time, so there's little wonder he wouldn't want to go through it much. You'll note even in the introduction [to the book Chang Cheh: A Memoir] a mention is slipped in about Chang's "gayness," then Chang denies it at least twice in the rest of the book. Considering the man was dying as the book was being compiled, I lost of LOT of respect for the HK Film Archives for that.
      Favorite Chang Cheh films?
    URL 1 | URL 2 | URL 3

    01-22-2007, 07:33 PM   #11
    Linn Haynes
    Wife of Kung Fu Badass

    Re: Favorite Chang Cheh films?

    [Quote:] "It was something of an open secret that Chang was homosexual, and this knowledge informs his work in an interesting manner."

    Actually, it's nothing of the sort. It's more of an open secret that a couple of his fellow critics (Chang Cheh was considered on of the top Mandarin film critics in the world prior to his success as a writer and director of films), and two of the most powerful, waited years until he was finally down after the failure of his film company in Taiwan to start this rumor, which they propagated throughout his lifetime (and afterwords) in every media they could in an effort to ruin him. Even as he said it was a lie until his dying day. It's little wonder it still continues, as every HK written book on the director's work mentions this story, even his biography! The following is a bit I posted on another forum just a few days ago:

    When he returned to HK after what was considered the failure of his production company, and the venom films didn't do as well as his previous films locally, critics took the chance to turn on Chang in a big way. This is when questions about him being gay turned up, and also complaints about his talent slipping at the box-office and in his films. He was attacked at all angles at this time, so there's little wonder he wouldn't want to go through this period much in his biography. You'll note even in the introduction, there's a mention slipped in about Chang's "gayness," even as Chang takes the time to deny it at least twice in the book to set the record straight. Considering the man was dying as the book was being compiled, I lost of LOT of respect for the HK Film Archives for publishing the comments.
     
     
    On a sidenote, this reminds me of a behind the scenes story I heard a little while ago. There's a film called Yang + Ying : Gender In Chinese Cinema that's about gay filmmakers in HK. During this film, there's a segment on Chang Cheh. He's interviewed by Stanley Kwan. If you've seen the film, you see Chang Cheh sitting in his house talking on camera. During that segment in the film, there's a narrator talking about the clear signs of Chang Cheh's gay films with the typical shots of shirtless fighters, etc. Then they cut to a VERY frail (I'm guessing late 80s) Chang setting in his living room and being asked about being a gay filmmaker. Chang was not told he was being interviewed for a piece on gay films, but on Shaw Brothers films he directed. Chang is asked the question, replies that he was not gay, and simply wanted to put forth strong male role-models on screen during a time where there were none. But Kwan didn't stop there, he continued to ask the same question four more times, in the film it's just once more. On the second question, the old man nearly falls out of his chair and almost starts crying while denying as loud as he can that he is gay. In the film, the narriator continues on talking about Chang's gay films as if nothing happened. But Kwan continued to ask the question two more times, until Chang brokedown crying saying that such questions were what ruined his career and they were untrue then and now. His wife came in and kicked them out of the house.

    Zhang, Che, and Agnes Lam, English ed. Chang Cheh: A Memoir. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Film Archive, 2004. ISBN: 9628050265 ISBN-13: 9789628050260
     
    On a sidenote, this reminds me of a behind the scenes story I heard a little while ago. There's a film called Yang + Ying : Gender In Chinese Cinema that's about gay filmmakers in HK. During this film, there's a segment on Chang Cheh being interviewed by Stanley Kwan. If you've seen the film, you see Chang Cheh sitting in his house talking on camera. During that segment in the film, there's a narrator talking about the clear signs of Chang Cheh's gay films with the typical shots of shirtless fighters, etc. Then they cut to a VERY frail (I'm guessing late 80s) Chang setting in his living room and being asked about being a gay filmmaker. Chang was not told he was being interviewed for a piece on gay films, but on Shaw Brothers films he directed. Chang is asked the question, replies that he was not gay, and simply wanted to put forth strong male role-models on screen during a time where there were none. But Kwan didn't stop there, he continued to ask the same question four more times, in the film it's just once more. On the second question, the old man nearly falls out of his chair and almost starts crying while denying he is gay. In the film, the narriator continues on talking about Chang's "gay" films as if nothing happened. But Kwan continued to ask the question two more times, until Chang brokedown crying saying that such questions were what ruined his career and they were untrue then and now. His wife came in and kicked them out of the house.

    Considering the dozen upon dozens of films NOT made by Chang Cheh in HK that feature shirtless, sweaty males fighting, half the island must have been made up of gay filmmakers in the 70s and 80s!
     


    Interview with
    Stanley Kwan
    on Yang & Yin:
    Gender in Chinese

    .
    HK Panorama 96-97
    the cover of Hong Kong Panorama 96-97
    123k | 393k
    .

    Cinema, by Linda
    Lai and Kim Choi,
    from Hong Kong
    Panorama
    96-97


    From Hong Kong Panorama 96-97
    [a publication of the 21st Hong Kong International Film Festival], pp. 42-43:

    Interview with Stanley Kwan on Yang & Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema

    Interviewed by Linda Lai & Kim Choi

    Collation by Linda Lai
    Translated by Anita Lee

    Stanley KWAN was born in 1957 in Hong Kong. In 1976, he entered the Department of Communications at Baptist College and enrolled at TVB's artiste training class. The following year, he worked part-time at TVB before becoming a full-time production assistant. In 1979, he left the station to become an assistant director to Peter Yung, Ronnie Yu, Ann Hui, Patrick Tam, Yim Ho, Leong Po-chih and Tony Au. He made his directorial début in 1985 with Women, followed by Love Unto Waste (86), Rouge (88), Full Moon in New York (89), Centre Stage (92), Siqin Gaowa Special (video, 93), Two Sisters (TV, 93), Red Rose White Rose (94) and Yang and Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema (docu video, 96).

    During the hour-long interview, the interviewers experienced with Stanley Kwan, through his recollection of days gone by, his course of breakthrough, which was rough but also quite comforting. There was also his friendship with Edward Lam. Unconsciously, Kwan saw Yang & Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema as the material embodiment of his own "coming out."

    INTERVIEWER: How was the script of Yang & Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema conceived and developed?

    STANLEY KWAN: Cinema celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1995. BFI [British Institute] invited 18 directors from various places, each to make a film of 52 minutes long, about the development of their respective cinemas in the past one hundred years. The Chinese cinema section was intended for Shu Kei, but he was busy with Hu-du-men. So Tony Rayns suggested that BFI should contact me, and I agreed to take over. I have never made a documentary before. Though BFI asked us to portray history, it also asked the directors to do it in a personal way. According to BFI, the film should not be a documentary, but a film about cinema made by a certain filmmaker. As I have only made fiction films (except for commercials and short films), I started out thinking about Hong Kong's New Wave, Taiwan's New Cinema and contemporary cinema of mainland China. But then I realized that it was like rushing into a Chinese herbalist store, pulling out every drawer of the medicine chest, and then taking bits and pieces here and there. But what was the final prescription, I just didn't know. So I talked to Edward Lam. When we went to the Berlin Film Festival with Centre Stage in 1992, a German director asked us to make a short film for a project called Erotic Tales. The participants would come from 12 different places. I developed some ideas with Edward, and told him that I wanted to talk about my father.

    For many years I have been suppressing the mixed feelings I felt towards my father. At the same time, I have been making films on women and their stories. Actually, I wanted to make a film about more personal things, like my own sexuality and the reconstruction of my recollection of my father. With these things in our hands, Edward and I conceived a project called An Over-sexed Man. We had dug too deep and produced a one-hour script, while people only wanted 30 minutes. Then the whole thing got shelved, and the script was put aside. When BFI came to us, we quite naturally thought about my father. That's how the idea for Yang & Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema got started.

    INTERVIEWER: From what you said, were you trying to deconstruct your mixed feelings for your father when you were making this film?

    STANLEY KWAN: True. You see, there were no father images in my previous films. So we thought that it might be possible to look for father images in other films, to fulfill my expectations for my father.

    INTERVIEWER: Now that production is finished and the film has been screened, do you feel that you have successfully dealt with your feelings about your father? Or are you still a bit confused?

    STANLEY KWAN: I think I have dealt with those feelings successfully. I don't have any more hang-ups. Some people asked me if I would feel more at ease after I have "come out". Or if homosexuality would become the subject matter of a large part of my future films. I don't think so. I think with my character, I value the process of experiencing and deconstructing my own problems, more than having to make a contribution to the gay movement. Doing this film does not mean declaring that I am going to do something for the gay movement. I don't want to give myself a label -- that I am going to make gay films, or use my films to promote the gay movement.

    INTERVIEWER: In the later part of the film, there is a conversation between you and your mother. You asked your mother very frankly how she looked at the relationship of you and your partner. Some people would focus on this part of the film, and even "magnify" this part, as if "coming out of the closet" is your chief aim in the film.

    STANLEY KWAN: I don't know if friends were joking when they said after seeing the film, "the first part of the film is an hors d'oeuvre, while the plate de résistance is really the conversation with your mother." What I thought was without this conversation, the audience might not understand my intention. I've come to dislike obscurity more and more. Subtlety is different from obscurity. When I make fiction films, there is always subtlety because it is close to me. I definitely don't like obscurity; I don't evade the issue by beating around the bush. Without this conversation, people would have asked me why I was looking for such a thing with this subject matter. They would have been very obscure. But what kind of an answer would they have expected from me? An obvious one or an obscure one? What kind of answer should I have given them?

    INTERVIEWER: Are you comfortable with what you have done?

    STANLEY KWAN: Yes. But I became very concerned about my mother's feelings. After the film was aired on television, I got very sensitive. I was all ears every time a relative phoned us up. The only thing I want to apologize to my mother is that she has to face up to things that I need not.

    INTERVIEWER: When I was watching the film, I felt that she was giving you her support with the best of intentions. She is also like all mothers, who go out of their ways to understand and accept their children, no matter how much they disagree with them. I have a feeling that she is like this.

    STANLEY KWAN: Certainly. But I feel that my mother, being who she is -- a 60-year-old plus woman without too much education, who has worked hard all her life and who has never had too many chances to know the outside world -- has already achieved a lot.

    INTERVIEWER: How did you decide on the film clips?

    STANLEY KWAN: Actually, I had decided on which directors to approach when I discussed the script with Edward Lam. It was all planned. Like Ang Lee, I had decided on him at the very beginning, and it was to be quite a lengthy coverage.

    INTERVIEWER: Beside the interwiew with Zhang Yimou, who else's have you left out?

    STANLEY KWAN: Jiang Wen's, Ann Hui's and Wu Yigong's.

    INTERVIEWER: King Hu's name appeared on the acknowledgment list.

    STANLEY KWAN: I thanked him for giving us many films, though we ended up not using a lot of them. There are also segments of actresses of the older generation that we didn't use, like Li Lili's. For me, the 30s is the golden age of Chinese cinema. So I have interviewed many more film workers who are still alive but are not so well-known, like Huang Shaofen, and some cinematographers and recordists.

    INTERVIEWER: In the film, you put forward the relationship of your sexual orientation, family background and film experience.

    STANLEY KWAN: My desire and my feelings for my father in my youth took effect on my cinema-going experience, not filmmaking experience. I loved to watch Wang Yu, and I imagined touching Wang's arm when I was touching father's thigh. I carried a water bottle in my school days. When I drank from it, I imagined kissing Wang. When I gave my father a massage, I watched his back and thought of Wang's martial arts films. That's pretty much the relationship between cinema and my family. Turning to my filmmaking, even though I still have the same feelings, I have not projected them onto my films. On the other hand, my own sexuality was mainly projected onto female characters. So the relationship is different for different stages.

    INTERVIEWER: In your future films, will you look at your subject differently even if you still tell stories about women?

    STANLEY KWAN: Yes. I often said that it is very important for a director, an actor or anyone doing creative work, to know how to get close and at the same time stay at a distance. When you get close, you give your passions and experiences. But you need to pull yourself away after a certain period of time. For me, I am beginning to learn this -- to get close and stay far away, at the same time.

    INTERVIEWER: How do you evaluate the films you made in the past? Those with women as subject matter?

    STANLEY KWAN: I think I have indulged too much in female characters. Rouge is an obvious example: whatever pain the character Fleur suffers I also suffer, and whatever pain I suffer I want Fleur suffer with. From now on, I will be more relaxed. I think I can relate my own feelings with my characters. But I want to start trying not to force my own feelings on my characters as frequently as before. I hope to make progress in this aspect.

    INTERVIEWER: Did you prepare your mother psychologically before shooting?

    STANLEY KWAN: No, didn't. I'm sure it is not only today that my mother learned that her son is gay. But Chinese people just find it difficult to talk about it. I have an upcoming project about how a mother handles the fact that her son is gay. Both the producer and scriptwriter have talked with my mother. I was not present when they did the talking. I told them before that they could be straightforward and could ask questions directly. Because I think mother and I both know it in our hearts. In the end they still chose to beat around the bush, and let my mother tell them something. But in the relationship between me and my mother, like the conversation at the end of the film, there's nothing to struggle against.

    INTERVIEWER: You emphasized in the film that Chinese cinema handled gender and sex much earlier and in a more open way than foreign cinema. Could you elaborate your argument?

    STANLEY KWAN: Frankly speaking, I'm not very familiar with the early history of foreign cinema. I think it is more like wishful thinking on my part. Talking with people involved in the former Shanghai film industry, I felt quite strongly that the values portrayed in the Chinese cinema of the 30s, set against the political climate, moral standards and social conditions of those years, were inducive [sic] to something more open and free.

    INTERVIEWER: Is there anything in particular that you were unhappy with after finishing this film?

    STANLEY KWAN: Yes, the fact that I could not have got hold of clips from Shaw Brothers productions. I consider it a defect. They let me look at some of their films in their archive. I saw some movies about revenge, like The Golden Sparrow [sic] , and I told them which segments would be suitable. They didn't say "no" until very late, when I had to leave for Venice. If I had known it earlier, I would have shot the part on Zhang Che (Chang Cheh) differently.

    INTERVIEWER: Finally, please talk about your working relationship with Edward Lam.

    STANLEY KWAN: I can become very stubborn at some stage. But before that, I am "easy". I think Edward and I have a good chemistry going. He likes giving people a kick, and because of this, I would ask myself what would happen if I moved a step forward.

    INTERVIEWER: Are you entering a stage where you will engage homosexuality as subject matter?

    STANLEY KWAN: This comes quite naturally.

    Yang and Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema
    Director: Stanley Kwan
    Script: Edward Lam
    Cinematographer: Christopher Doyle
    Editor: Maurice Lee
    Music: Yo Yo Yu
    Producer: Ma Fung-kwok, Colin MacCabe, Bob Last
    Production: Kwan's Creation Workshop, 1/F., 15, Lion Rock Rd.,
    Kowloon City, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
    Tel: 852 2383 0267   Fax: 852 2794 3709
    Export Agent: BFI TV, 29 Rathbone Street, London WIP lAG, UK.
    Tel: 44 171 436 0370   Fax: 44 171 636 3289
    Print Source: Media Asia Distribution, 412-416, World Commerce Centre, 11 Canton Rd.,
    Tsimshatsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
    Tel: 852 2314 4288   Fax: 852 2314 4247
    1996 Color & B/W Betacam   79 min

    List of Film Extracts from Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema

    From Yang ± Yin Gender in Chinese Cinema | BFI | BFI
    http://explore.bfi.org.uk/4ce2b7e1b0a1c

    A personal account of Chinese film history by Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan, who examines in particular issues of gender and sexuality. Includes interviews with a number of important filmmakers as well as the director's mother; Kwan also uses this film publicly to address his own sexual identity.

    Film extracts: Rouge (1988) Actress (1991) Full Moon in New York (1989) Red Rose, White Rose (1994) Way of the Dragon (1973) The Three Kingdoms () The Slaughter in Xian (1990) A Better Tomorrow (1986) The Killer (1989) Waves Wash the Sand (1936) The Highway (1936) Song at Midnight, Part II (1941) The Phantom lover (1995) Song at Midnight (1937) Autumn Begonia (1943) Farewell My Concubine (1992) The Big Stage () Two Stage Sisters (1964 TV version of Farewell My Concubine story) Legend of Garland Mountain (1985) Hibiscus Town (1987) Woman Basketball Player No. 5 Maiden Rose (1995) Fallen Angels (1995) The Time to Live and the Time to Die (1985) Rebels of the Neon God (1992) A Brighter Summer Day (1991) Father and Son (1981) Ah Ying (1982) The Wedding Banquet (1993) Pushing Hands (1985) Taipei Story (1985) A City of Sadness (1990) Vive l'amour (1984) The Square (1994) Beijing Bastards (1992) Peking Opera Blues (1987) The Lovers (1995) Swordsman II (1991) Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai (1953) Ashes of Time (1994) Handsome Siblings (1994) The Purple Hairpin (1957) Tragedy of a Poet King (1968)



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