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Great Directors: Zhang Yimou

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It is widely recognised that Zhang's visual imagery redefines the politics of Chinese self and identity. In the first decade, this imagery focused on the sexual power, reproductive continuity and spectacle of the female body onscreen. Beautiful young women, played by Gong Li, are wife-daughter-mother-lover-virgin-vamp in the trilogy. Red Sorghum breaks cultural taboos against representing female ecstasy, orgasm, and fecundity onscreen. Bold close-ups of Jiu'er's face panting and wide-eyed in the sedan-chair wedding sequence and again in the wild-sorghum abduction scene were unprecedented in mainland Chinese cinema. In Red Sorghum, female desire is not only a force of nature but also the foundation of a vibrant, productive community until destroyed by Japanese invaders. Erotic close-ups continued in the next two films, such as the bathing and seduction shots in Judou and the ritual foreplay around foot-massage and lighting lanterns in Raise the Red Lantern. Rey Chow's essay on the trilogy emphasises the films' visual display, a display that 'fetishizes' cinematography itself while zooming-in on the seductive, the forbidden and the female as 'bearers of his filmic ethnography'. She argues that this interest in the power of the cinematic apparatus continues in later films, such as To Live.

About Senses of Cinema:

Senses of Cinema is an online journal devoted to the serious and eclectic discussion of cinema. We believe cinema is an art that can take many forms, from the industrially-produced blockbuster to the hand-crafted experimental work; we also aim to encourage awareness of the histories of such diverse forms. As an Australian-based journal, we have a special commitment to the regular, wide-ranging analysis and critique of Australian cinema, past and present. Senses of Cinema is primarily concerned with ideas about particular films or bodies of work, but also with the regimes (ideological, economic and so forth) under which films are produced and viewed, and with the more abstract theoretical and philosophical issues raised by film study.

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