EAC 389 (class #8476): The Cinematic Art of Zhang Yimou


Meeting Time/Place:      Monday and Wednesday, Earth Science 241, 5:45 P.M-8:45 PM

Instructor:                     Prof. Jim Hargett, Hum. 254C, 442-4233


Office Hours:                Monday and Wednesday, 09:15-10:00 A.M. (or by appointment)


Course Description and Introduction

This is a film course focusing on the cinematic art (or films) of Zhang Yimou (b. 1951), one of Chinafs best-known gfifth generationh movie directors. The goals of the class are (1) to introduce you to seven of Zhang Yimou most representative films; (2) to help you gain a critical understanding of how and why Zhang Yimou made and directed these movies; and (3) to introduce you to some of the social, political, cultural, and economic changes that have taken place in China since the 1970s and show you how these changes are reflected in Zhang Yimoufs cinematic art. We will accomplish these goals by (1) viewing the films themselves; and (2) attending class lectures and participating in class discussions; (3) reading several published scholarly articles on Zhang Yimou and his films, which are assembled in the Course Reader; and (4) writing a research paper on an approved topic related to Zhang Yimoufs filmography.


Required Text

The instructor has prepared a Course Reader: The Cinematic Art of Zhang Yimou, which is available only at Shipmates (Stuyvesant Plaza).


What Will You Learn in This Course?

In many ways, cinematic texts are mirrors. That is to say, in addition to providing entertainment, they also reflect social, political, cultural, and economic issues and concerns. In this course you will be taught how to identify, decode, and understand these issues as they appear in seven films by Zhang Yimou.


Class Organization

The class will meet twice weekly. Typically, during the first session we will view the weekfs film. The second class will be devoted to discussing and decoding the film, with particular attention paid to major (and recurrent) themes and images. Background details (historical, cultural, and so on) will be provided by the instructor as needed. Copies (DVDs) of the films viewed in the course will be available on reserve in the library after we view them.


Prerequisites: Students are expected and required to have some basic knowledge of traditional, modern, and contemporary Chinese history, society, and culture. No knowledge of the Chinese language is required. All the films we will view in the course will have English subtitles.


Grading: Your final grade will be determined by (1) your attendance, preparation, and contributions to class discussions (33.3%); (2) your grade on the research paper (33.3%); and (3) your grade on the final exam (33.3%).


Attendance and Makeups: Students are expected to attend all classes. Attendance will be taken at the start of each class. If you arrive late, you will be marked absent. One absence is allowed. An additional class cut beyond the allotted one absence will result in a gplush/gminush reduction in the final grade. In other words, if you cut two classes and earn a gBh in the course, your final grade will be B-; three class cuts would get you a C+, and so on. Makeups for missed work will be given only if the absence was due to a documented medical or personal emergency. If possible, consult with the instructor before the absence. Please note: the final exam will be given on Monday, 14 May, 5:45-8:45 PM (also in our usual classroom, ES 241). It will not be possible to take the final exam before this date, so please do not ask.


Academic Integrity: The discovery of any cheating (including plagiarism or shared work of any kind) on an exam or written assignment will result in (1) immediate expulsion from the course with a failing grade; and (2) a report to appropriate SUNY officials. Appeals may be made through appropriate channels. Just so we are clear: if you use any words/phrases/sentences or ideas from an internet website without citation, it is plagiarism. One plagiarism offense gets you thrown out of the course with a failing grade.


Food, Drink, and Cell Phones: Please do not bring any food or drinks to our class meetings. Also, please turn off your cell phone during class.


How to do well in this course: (1) complete all assignments on time; (2) view the films carefully (Take notes! You may want to bring a small flashlight to facilitate note taking); (3) attend class regularly; (4) donft come to class late (the teacher really, really dislikes late arrivals because they disrupt the class); (5) actively participate in classroom discussions (this means raise your hand and participate!).


Class Schedule


Wed. 14 Mar: Course introduction. Judou (Judou), 1990


Mon. 19 Mar:   Judou: lecture and discussion

                        Read: Sheldon Hsiao-peng Lu, ed., Transnational Chinese Cinemas:                          Identity, Motherhood, Gender, pp. 1-31.

                        Read: Paul Clark, Reinventing China: A Generation and Its Films, pp.                                  164-86.

Read: Jenny Kwok Wah Lau, gJudou: A Hermeneutical Reading of Cross-cultural Cinema,h pp. 2-10.


Wed. 21 Mar:  Raise the Red Lantern (Gao hongdeng gaogao gua), 1991

                        Read: Jerome, Silbergeld, China Into Film: Frames of Reference in                            Contemporary Chinese Cinema, pp. 282-297.

                        Read: Read: Sheldon Hsiao-peng-lu, ed., Transnational Chinese Cinemas:                 Identity, Motherhood, Gender, pp. 105-136.


Mon. 26 Mar:   Raise the Red Lantern: lecture and discussion

                        Read: John Dragon Young, Reviews of Raise the Red Lantern and The                                    Story of Qiu Ju, pp. 1158-1161.                      

                        Read: Memoirs from the Beijing Film Academy: The Genesis of Chinafs                              Fifth Generation, Chapter 1.


Wed. 28 Mar:  Qiu Ju Goes to Court (Qiu Ju da guansi), 1992; lecture and discussion of                              Qiu Ju

                        Read: Jerome, Silbergeld, China Into Film: Frames of Reference in                            Contemporary Chinese Cinema, pp. 120-131.


Wed. 11 Apr:   To Live (Huozhe), 1994. Research paper topic and preliminary                                          bibliography due today.


Mon. 16 Apr:   To Live: lecture and discussion

                        Read: Rey Chow, gSentimental Returns: On the Uses of the Everyday in                                    the Recent Films of Zhang Yimou and Wong Kar-wai.h


Wed. 18 Apr:   Shanghai Triad (Yao a yao yao dao waipo qiao), 1995


Mon. 23 Apr:   Shanghai Triad: lecture and discussion

                        Read: Yan Ye, gFrom the Fifth to the Six Generation: An Interview with                                    Zhang Yimou,h pp. 2-13.


Wed. 25 Apr:   The Road Home (Wode fuqin muqin), 1999


Mon. 30 Apr:   The Road Home: lecture and discussion. Optional first draft of the                            research paper may be handed in today.


Wed. 2 May:    Hero (Yingxiong), 2002

Mon. 7 May:    Hero; lecture and discussion. Research paper due today.


Final exam:     Monday, 14 May, 5:45-8:45 PM, ES 241.