Charitable or Traitorous? The ethics and aesthetics of performance in Myriad of Colors (1943)

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Abstract

In March 1943, Japan’s Toho Buyotai, aka the Toho Song and Dance Troupe, visited Nanjing and Shanghai to celebrate the third anniversary of Wang Jingwei’s pro-Japanese puppet regime in Nanjing. This political event brought about the first Sino-Japanese coproduced song-and-dance film, Fang Peilin’s Wanzi qianhong ([Myriad of Colors/On with the Show], 1943). Taking my cue from Poshek Fu’s reading of Shanghai’s occupation cinema as both collaborating and resisting, I argue that the ambiguous wartime politics of entertainment have shaped and been shaped by the ethics and aesthetics of performance within and beyond film texts, which is intimately connected with the development of the song-and-dance genre in early Chinese cinema. The song-and-dance performance as wartime entertainment needed to be justified by what Eileen Chang calls “the worthy cause of charity.” As a “Sino-Japanese cultural exchange,” Myriad of Colors cuts across and negotiates aesthetic, class, cultural, political, and national positions and boundaries. The romantic resolution is replaced by the performance of charity, thereby reconciling the soft film’s aesthetics and erotics with the leftist hard film’s charity and ethics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Global Film Music in the Early Sound Era
PublisherRoutledge
Pages550-564
ISBN (Electronic)9780429504471
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2024

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