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Visual Culture Colloquium
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
12:30 pm - Old Library 224

Qinna Shen
Associate Professor of German and Chair
Department of German and German Studies
Bryn Mawr College

“Female Desire, Pop-Rock, and the Tiananmen Generation: The Synergy of Sexual and Political Revolutions in the Banned Chinese-German Film Summer Palace (颐和园, 2006)”

1989 comprises a vital part of the Tiananmen generation’s memory and identity. Yet, any attempt to address the turbulent events in mass media, however oblique, carries a high risk of censorship. Lou Ye, a prominent Sixth Generation director, took that risk in his film Summer Palace (2006). His iconoclastic exploration of sex and politics at a thinly disguised Beijing University was banned in China and languishes in relative obscurity in the West. This talk teases out the rich and complex texture of this masterpiece by undertaking an expository reading of Summer Palace’s plot in conjunction with its musical soundtrack and many intertextual references. The film’s narrative arc stretches from Beijing to Berlin, linking two cities where communist rule was openly challenged in 1989, and using a delayed death in Berlin as an opportunity to commemorate the dead of 1989, constructing an alternative site of mourning for the victims in Beijing.