Chris Berry - The Japan Complex in Taiwanese Cinema
In Taiwan, it used to be common to say that older people who had nostalgic memories of the half-century of Japanese colonisation
In Taiwan, it used to be common to say that older people who had nostalgic memories of the half-century of Japanese colonisation (1895-1945) had a “Japan complex.” This talk considers how the Japanese colonial period has appeared in Taiwanese cinema. Between the Chiang Kai-shek KMT Nationalist government assumption of power in 1945 to the death of Chiang Kai-shek to the late 1970s, representations were few. But since the Taiwan New Cinema of the 1980s, with its focus on the Taiwan experience, the Japanese colonial era has become ever more common on Taiwan’s screens. From the opening scenes of Hou Hsiao Hsien’s historical trilogy (A City of Sadness, The Puppetmaster, and Good Men, Good Women) to the more recent blockbuster hits of Wei Te-Sheng (Cape No.7, Seediq Bale, and, as producer, Kano), why has Taiwanese cinema developed a Japan complex? I argue that the key to understanding this phenomenon is China—first, the repudiation of the old KMT policy that wanted to see Taiwan as an entirely Chinese province with no separate identity of its own; and, second, in the face of the looming power of the People’s Republic of China, the opportunity to fulfil the audience’s fantasy of a world without China.
CHRIS BERRY is Professor of Film Studies at King’s College London. In the 1980s, he worked for China Film Import and Export Corporation in Beijing, and his academic research is grounded in work on Chinese-language cinemas and other Chinese-language screen-based media. He is especially interested in national and transnational screen cultures in East Asia. Prior to his current appointment, he taught at La Trobe University in Melbourne, The University of California, Berkeley, and Goldsmiths, University of London.