China (movies: Last Emperor - Farewell my concubine)

Luciano Dondero DOND001 at
Sun Feb 25 05:06:00 MST 1996

Recently I have seen on video two movies based in China, "The Last Emperor"
and "Farewell to my concubine".

I would be interested in knowing what other comrades think about them, in
particular I look for the views of people from China and Asia and also of
people who are familiar with the area.

In my opinion, they convey, through the powerful depiction of the personal
drama of a few individuals a sense of the sheer horror that was China under
the imperialist yoke, but also of the real crimes of the Maoist leadership.

However, although the first movie was directed by an Italian (Bertolucci)
while the second movie was by a Chinese director (Chen Kaige), it seems to
me that it is in the first one where it is possible to see the contradictory
character of Chinese Stalinism.

To me, as a Trotskyist schooled in an "orthodox" frame, it is very important
to get confirmation of the fact that the Chinese revolution did dramatically
change for the better the living conditions of a big chunk of the world
population, yet it failed to open the road to a truly Socialistic/Communist
liberation of the masses.

Bertolucci does underline that the Chinese Communist Party did free
everybody from slavery and from the most abject feudal elements of
backwardness present in Chinese society (just one example: the binding of
feet for the women). Yet he captures the sheer madness of the so-called
"Cultural Revolution" (whose book-burning activities, to name only one
aspect, make the Nazis look amateurish in this respect).

Che Kaige, on the other hand - and perhaps *because* he is Chinese and the
movie is made at some distance from the 1945-49 revolution - tends to make
it all look the same: China was, is and perhaps always be a bad place -
seems to be his message.

Obviously, I profoundly disagree with such a pessimistic approach - and it
could just be my own peculiar reading of the movie. Any thoughts?

--Luciano Dondero--

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