Aesthetics World Screen

Classical Hollywood Cinema:(1917-1960 Hollywood studio era)

linear centered on the psychology and agency of individual characters

coherence of time and space

sour romance

formal patterns of good and evil,cause and effect

overall compositional unity and closure

system of continuity editing

and star system

Case study: 1930s Shanghai Cinema

Historical context:

1842 The Treaty of Nanjing , Shanghai became a semi-colonial city

transnational incursions and foreign aggression (Japan, Europe, America)

cinema as a transnational medium arrived Shanghai against the semi-colonial reality

‘cinema was both a popular institution and a new visual medium in 1930s Shanghai’–Leo Ou-fan Lee

Cinema in 1930s Shanghai:

According to ab official report to the U.S. Department of Commerce: ‘In 1927, there were 106 movie theaters in China, and 26 out of them were in Shanghai’, ‘by the middle of 1930, there were 40 movie theaters in Shanghai, and the Odeon was the largest and most sumptuous in the Orient.’

During that time, Shanghai cinema was domained by Hollywood movies, the eight Hollywood major studios ‘had contractual rights to show theri first-run movies’ in Shanghai. –Leo Ou-fan Lee,p84

By the end of 1920s, Shanghai’s silent movies occupied a large market, and in 1932, the first sound film was born in Shanghai.

Cinema and print culture:

As a center of film production and film consumption, Shanghai welcomed moviegoing as a new lifestyle.

Influenced by the Hollywood star system, the modern consumption culture in Shanghai focused on women consumers especially. Similar to Hollywood, the film industry in Shanghai also catered the related merchandise rather than film itself. Different kinds of magazines appeared in Shanghai, such as movie magazines, female magazines.

During 1921 to 1949, there were 206 movie magazines in all (Lee). Some of the magazines had some critical movie reviews and moviegoing tips, such as how to choose a movie, how to buy cheaper snacks in movie theater. The most famous female magazine was Linglong, which had weekly ratings of on-show movies , English movie titles, numerous photos of Chinese and Western movie stars. Linglong represented the arrival of new commercial print culture.

The ‘modern woman’ image became very popular as well: Shanghai women started to live in apartments alone, good-looking was not enough, knowledge was more important, shopping and moviegoing became the new lifestyle.

The print culture and cinema culture both constructed the urban modernity of 1930s Shanghai.

Linglong magazine: a link of Columbia University’s study on this magazine


Film Industry in 1930s Shanghai:

Hollywood studio system: vertical integration


1930s Shanghai also followed that system, and with the finical linkage became a major Southeast Asian film market.

Film StreetAngel 1937 by Yuan muzhi ,starred by Zhouxuan

StreetAngel is notable for its stylistic hybrid with a mix of American, European and emergent Chinese film techniques and genres.–Ma Ning

We can see the Hollywood continuing editing , French montage and Soviet-style long shots from the opening scenes and the whole film.

StreetAngel is a combination of Hollywood melodrama with Chinese social content.

I have to apologize for the clips, it’s really difficult to find one with English subtitles for such an old movie.

A much longer one ,the first 1 min of the clip is a part of the opening scenes

Discussion: the relationship between print culture and cinema culture


Just as it’s name, Ilya Khrzhanovsky’s movie shows ‘4’ in many scenes: the number of people sit in the bar, the number of dogs on the road, the four sisters in the village…According to Khrzhanovsky, 4 was inspired by certain musical compositions (by Metalica on Valium?), the paintings of Goya and other artists, and the films of art-house directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and Andrei Tarkovsky. The movie features the grey Russian sky, the long and cold winter with everything seems lifeless and unusual. Are people satisfied with the way they are living, are people dreaming to experience something new in another life? In the movie, people are not satisfied with the way they live, but just a small number of them want to make a change. Sometimes, people who are alive are already dead inside.

Some people like to hide themselves in order to escape from the of themselves, however, there’s always some person to remind you who you really are. The talking in the bar is like a kind of escape for the three people, but when they go back to their life, the short break ends. One of them has to face to the suspect of murder, one has to face the death of her sister, one has to hide his love for dogs because of his controlling father’s Germaphobia issues. Life has to continue in the way it was. The movie talks about some serious issues in the contemporary Russia such as prostitution, masculinity, pragmatic identities. The man who loves dog but can not keep one himself, and eventually he was skilled because of a dog; a prostitute who is judged by all people is the one actually realizes how ‘different’ the village is and is determined to make a change. On her way home, different people sit beside her, they all ask the same questions, eat the same boiled eggs and drink Vodka, the scene looks like they are abusing on food and alcohol. Nobody seems to care about anybody else. What the difference between the individuals, just the names?

I can not forget the scenes of the village life, I said that is “different”, but actually it is cruel. A village which is almost occupied by old women, only three young girls (alive) and one young man. The eating scenes can be the most disgusting and cruel scenes of the year, I think. That is a village exists in the world, but out of the world. They relying on doing doll business, and by following one sister, they can earn money and live happily. I’m still shocked by the face of the dolls, it’s the doll without feeling and beauty and stuffed by chewed breads. Finally, the dogs eat the dolls, the chewed breads actually. After the young sister’s death, they started their “feast” (at least it looks like that), I can feel the other young sister’s lost because of the death, they keep drinking Vodka and crying, but the old just make the lose as an excuse to indulge themselves. They show off their breasts, tell the secrets of others, in fact, the feast never stops, they drink by the table, they drunk by the table and they sleep by the table. The young girls try to work out their relationships, the past and the future, they were born in the village, they know how “different”the village is but they have been living with that, after the death, they make their minds to do some change. When the old women put the whole roasted of pigs, the shocking starts. May some people think they can not eat the food like that, but the only difference is the size of your serve, the place where you are eating, but the difference between human and animals are just those moral sense. I still remember when I watched the scene one old woman throws the pig’s head to other living pigs, I closed my eyes, I really can not stand by it any more. I forced myself to think the world is beautiful, outside the theater is full of sunshine, there’s no chance to meet the people like that. But, can it? There must be some place are be like that, and some people live in that way, or, the place that most people are living in is really much better than the village in 4 ?

The gender issues, the war, the discrimination, the pollution, the national identity… there are a huge amount of issues that are irritating people, people are unsatisfied, people are feeling unsafe, people are struggling, therefore, who can find the way escape faster who wins.


When I watched the movie Maria Antoinette (2006) by Sofia Coppola, I always forgot that the movie was set in the eighteenth century. Alternatively, Coppola’s Maria Antoinette is more like a queen in Hollywood’s translation. Frankly speaking, at least , I can understand the controversial life of this famous queen. I can find the same personalities from my friends who are just like Kristen Dunst’s Maria Antoinette. That is a based-on-history movie but makes you feel familiar to today’s life, today’s young women you know and understand in real life. Forget about the 18th century settings, it’s a movie about young women today.

Coppola puts her Hollywood translation of Maria Antoinette into the movie. The first sign is Maria’s accent, that’s really punk – the Queen of France has an American accent? In my opinion, if this Austrian lady ever speaks English, at least she has a British or European accent, but American English? I think that’s why the Queen makes me feel so familiar at the first place, the American accent lowered my guard. Back to the history of Antoinette’s life, most of the scenes in the movie tell the truth, but in a Hollywood way, I say. The most unforgettable scenes must be the dressing abusing, gambling abusing and cake abusing. As I know, almost all of my girl friends have that habit – when women feel pressure, upset or too excited, they always use those reasons to go shopping, spend money on clothes, makeups, shoes, handbags… and some will give up the diet and go dessert binge. All of the above are the 21st century women’s way of dealing with mood swings. Some people think women are the most sensitive animal in the world, especially the beautiful women, I believe that if Maria Antoinette was the Queen in the 21st century, she would be the most sensitive, beautiful, fashionable and powerful woman of the age. When the movie released in 2006, Kristen Dunst’s Maria Antoinette look from the movie was on the cover of many countries’ Vogue, the fashion bible started to dig the fashion that Sofia Coppola’s Maria Antoinette brings to us, and people started to read this controversial queen again. A Hollywood punk can bring this wave, like Vivienne Westwood leads the punk wave in the fashion field.

Compared to the Oscar awarded movie The Queen (by Stephen Frears, 2006), Maria Antoinette is much more Hollywood, and really can be the Hollywood Punk. The Queen gives us some moving stories about Queen Elizabeth II, it’s about a woman, a powerful woman’s political and family life. As a wife, a mother, the queen of England, any of her reactions are under the judgment of the world. From the movie we know how strong a woman could be and how struggling the life could be, to any women to any people. So if this movie brings the shocking to me, that is the moving actually. However, to a woman, the life in eighteenth century must be more unfair. Maria Antoinette also experienced the judgment from the loyal families, the pressure from her mother and motherland, the tension between her and her husband, that’s why she started to live in her way. In the movie, we can not find some shootings directly reveal her sadness or desperation, alternatively, Coppola uses the beautiful dresses, the delicious cakes and the luxury life to express the feelings of the young queen, like a fashion leader of the 18th century, Dunst’s Antoinette uses a happy way to criticize the loyal families in the year of 2006. At the end of the movie, no mention about the guillotine, no moving speech, the movie gives us a different Maria Antoinette, the queen in Hollywood translation, the punk translation.

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Since the need of privacy has required the revolution of technologies, our living conditions changed a lot. Home, community is not the center of our social life any more. We have huge entertainment markets, we have legal system takes responsibilities to the whole country, so the community cannot be the judge of people’s life, and cannot be the center of people’s life. When we talk about home, it becomes a place for the individuals have intimate relationships to live in, and live in an intimate way.This is what I learned from my Intimacy and Technology class. However, if there’s a place like Dogville, all the rules are gonna be broken. Honestly, Dogville is the most shocking movie that I have never watched before.

Actually, I was a little late on the day we watched this movie(world screen Thurs), so the very first scenes to me are just some people are doing a play in a theater, of course, latter, I realized that is exactly the movie!!If we can accept on every season’s fashion show, the designers refresh our cognition of tendency and construct new concepts of makeups, dresses, high heels, handbags…, it is still a little hard to accept the small town that Lars von Trier constructs to us. It really cost me some time to adjust myself into the movie, to make myself believe that the white painted outlines are the walls, the word ‘Gooseberry Bushes’ stands for the real bushes, and the sound effect also accompanies with the non-existent objects. Trier did a so impressive work, and broke so many rules of the cinema fashion. Not a Hollywood style, not a box office aimed movie, but strong enough to blow your mind. Dogville is set in the 1930s, and considered to be ‘a symbol of any small towns in the U.S.’, so some critics accuse this movie has ‘strongly anti-American message’. However, the actors just act on the stage, that takes the audience to see the real face of cinema–acting. No matter which big star plays role in the movie, no matter how amazing the scenes and the sound effect are, films are still all about acting. Trier brings the real face of film back to us, and makes us face the questions that the movie tries to tell.

In the 1930s, a small town is like a community, that’s the center of people’s social life and the judge of everything. People who live there would like to be engaged in that community, would like to follow the rules of the community. That is just like what Grace did. No matter where she comes from, what she experienced, day after day, she’s willing to get involved in Dogville’s life. She tries her best to help others to prove her value, then the residents accept her, but when she breaks some rules, they abandon her, cheat on her, and even abuse both her body and soul. Dogville is a ‘trap’ for Grace, that’s a place saved her before, destroyed her later, and taught her a lesson finally-“If there is one town that the world would be better without, it’s Dogville.” When it comes to a small town, it must has something in common. It seems a place out of law, but easily under control, the majority is the judge of anything, it can make you become the hero or the public enemy. Sometimes I think Dogville may be the ultimately cruel place in the world, people live there have the faith but no faith, they have their bodies alive but no lives, that’s some way some people live, in Dogville, in the world.

Like a refreshing fashion show, Lars von Trier refreshes the fashion of cinema…

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Christian Dior Spring Summer 2007

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Those terms above are some main concepts in Buddhism, backing to Kim ki-duk’s movie Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring, we can see how the Buddhism concepts reveal a man’s life.

Spring: the fish died – Transgression 破戒to violate the precepts

The little boy(a Buddhist) plays tricks on some little animal, unfortunately the fish died. Though he tried to save its life as the master asked, the Transgression starts, when he was a little child. And the master just watched what the boy did without saying a word, but latter, the master use the same way as the boy did to the animals in order to teach him a lesson. This is the way Buddhists always do when they want to tell or teach something, this is why in Buddhism, meditation is an important lesson to them all, no matter what level they have already reached.

Ten Precepts
The ten kinds of good behavior, the first five of which are also observed by lay practitioners.
1. not killing (unintentional, child’s curious)
2. not stealing
3. no improper sexual behavior (such as adultery, etc.)
4. no false speech
5. no consumption of alcohol
6. not eating after noon (one day one meal, no food from noon till tomorrow’s sunrise)
7. not watching dancing, singing and shows ;
8. not adorning oneself with garlands, perfumes and ointments
9. not using a high bed
10. not receiving gold and silver

Summer: the young girl comes – Transgression, violate the precept again

No improper sexual behavior (such as adultery, etc.) 色戒

When the girl comes to the temple, we can see those two young people start a chasing game, and finally, they reach each other’s heart and body. In the movie, there’s no certain scenes show that whether the master knows their transgression or not, but Buddhism believes that if something is going to happen, it must happen one day, nothing can stop it, and it must lead to some result. If the killing of the fish is the start, then comes with the sexual behavior, and something must be waiting ahead.

Autumn: murder the wife – Transgression

not killing (intentional, take revenge) 杀戒

This time is the real killing,the intentional one, the most serious one in the young man’s life, and also a turning point of his Buddhist life and ordinary life both.

-curious -> the fish died
-desire of sex ->leave ->murder
-the master asks the young man to cave Chinese characters (the Buddhist scriptures) ->helps him to do lessons,meditation, enlightenment
the master puts 閉(close) on his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth-> no desire, nonexistence, reincarnation

By caving the Buddhist scriptures, the master finished his teaching lessons, the rest lessons should be meditated by the young man himself. If a master has some missions, one of them is to help ordinary people to enlighten. In some Buddhism stories, a master always dies when he thinks that’s the time for his death, at that time, they died peacefully without desires, complains…they believe the death is a start of reincarnation.

Winter: Reason – Results 因果报应
Meditation – Enlightenment

無 Nonexistence, emptiness, no desire

Uncover enlightenment
Awakening- To experience enlightenment
To acquire a valid understanding of something
To understand or comprehend a matter; To understand an experiential reality through reason

Through the whole winter, the young man finished the beginning of enlightenment finally.

And spring: the young man getting old, a new baby comes -> Reincarnation

Buddha always sits at somewhere higher look at everything happens.

Like four seasons change by the time, the cycles of life change as well, we never know if the life that the master experienced as the same as the young man, but the cycles of reincarnation must follow some rules, to someone, somewhere

Songgwangsa Temple, Gwangju, Jeollanam-do,S.Korea

Not like Chinese and Japanese, Korean Buddhism is full of concept of harmony, from the temple’s design to the Buddha’s figure. Songgwangsa temple is one of the oldest temple in S.Korea.