Porn power : sexual and gender politics in Li Han-Hsiang's Fengyue films

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Book chapter

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As Normal As Possible: Negotiating Sexuality and Gender in Mainland China and Hong Kong

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Hong Kong University Press


This chapter seeks to queer a part of Hong Kong cinema history considered to be most heteronormative through studying some of the most controversial works of one of the most prolific and influential Chinese filmmakers. Li Hanhsiang's (Li Hanxiang) (1926-96) achievement is best remembered for his big-budget, elaborate Chinese historical epics. Alongside his award-winning huangmei diao (romantic musicals) and gongwei (palace chamber) dramas, he has also directed and scripted a significant number of "smaller" and less discussed softcore pornographic films mostly set in the late Ming. These films constitute a genre of its own known as fengyue pian, a genre invented by Li, who was especially attracted to late Ming literature deemed obscene. In reexamining Li's film authorship of various genres in Hong Kong from the 1970s to 1990s intertextually, focusing on fengyue as a discursive site in foregrounding the contradictions produced by the meeting of early modern (late Ming) and contemporary (Hong Kon)Chinese desires, I seek to explore the various ways in which diverse and non-normative forms of sexual representations and spectatorships (could) have been constructed in Hong Kong cinema, including at moments when this cinema has been considered culturally traditional, as well as artistically and politically conservative. This chapter, in strategically reading between Li's genres and mapping their consistencies, traces the cultural assumptions and prejudices underlying the dismissal of fengyue as a genre, in contrast to Li's other genres, and the ways in which in retrospect, the invention of fengyue could be re-read as an interventionist response against (increasing) sexual conservatism in contemporary Hong Kong. In order to shed light on a much suppressed trajectory in Hong Kong cinema, this chapter reclaims Li as a radical classicist not only to further illuminate the political criticality of his authorship held in high regard by film history but also to highlight the ways in which this criticality was represented specifically and no less, through the representation of sexuality.

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Copyright © Hong Kong University Press 2010. All rights reserved.

Additional Information

ISBN of the source publication: 9789882205727



Recommended Citation

Yau, C. (2010). Porn power: Sexual and gender politics in Li Han-Hsiang's Fengyue films. In C. Yau (Ed.), As Normal as Possible: Negotiating Sexuality and Gender in Mainland China and Hong Kong (pp.113-131). Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

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