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Depictions of Nature in the 1969 Taiwan Film, The Winter

2012 December 15
by jwicks

Perhaps the most exquisite, artistic, and well-crafted film of Taiwan’s so-called “Golden Age” of cinema (1964-9) is none other than Li Hanxiang’s (李翰祥) 1969 film The Winter 《冬暖》. In their book Taiwan Film Directors, Emilie Yeh and Darrell William Davis briefly describe the film as a “sad, sweet story about a mainland émigré” in which Li “exhibits a stunning, fluid studio craftsmanship in his re-creation of a vernacular, parochial Taipei” (44-45). At the SCMS conference in Chicago in March, I’ll be presenting an aesthetic analysis of Li’s film using primary sources from late 1960s Taiwan, focusing my study within the film’s historical-material context, while using the lens of ecocriticism in order to reveal the ways in which Li’s fragmented images of urban Taipei generate a sense of anxiety and tension that is ultimately resolved by contrasting representations of nature. The images of nature also correlate in interesting ways with archetypal imagery of the Buddha as a peaceful, transcendent source of liberation. Li’s aesthetic sensibility is significant not only because he provides apt metaphors for both the narrative conflict and resolution, but, in terms of Taiwan’s economic development, Li’s film seems to foreshadow the environmental destruction that would result from rampant industrialization in the following decades as well as convey a sense of freedom impossible to realize during a time of political repression.

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