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Since the early 80s of the last century, Taiwanese filmmakers tended to show social problems and tensions in their works. For Taiwanese cinema, it is often difficult to find its admirers because the directors of the films demonstrate the reality in the original way, which is quite different from the American or European one. The main distinctive feature of Taiwanese movies is a combination of realism and modernism. One part of the audience sees their innovative and revolutionary concept but another part does not understand the message put in the plot of the movies and considers Taiwanese cinema a strange phenomenon that reflects no less strange identity and mindset of the Taiwanese citizens. However, to avoid coming to misleading conclusions, it is necessary to define what challenges the Taiwanese cinema faced. Taiwan’s New Cinema is particularly significant for its truthful depiction of reality. Despite the considerable pressure it endured, it is still shaping the present-day industry.
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The importance of Taiwanese New Cinema lies in its uniqueness and development, which has continued despite the circumstances. The dawn of Taiwanese film production was connected with serious repressions. What is interesting, many censors and critics affixed commercial or highly propagandistic characteristics to the Taiwanese movies (Chiu et al.). Moreover, at the time of the coexistence of Mandarin- and Taiwanese-language films, the latter experienced decline due to neglect and suppression of the Kuomintang regime (Chiu et al.). It is a common mistake to think that China and Taiwan have many common features including social realism matters, political propaganda, and even the representation of romantic love stories among others. However, the comparison of Mandarin and Taiwanese cinema can reveal the fact that the first is more conservative and less realistic (Yeh, & Davis). Therefore, it did not manage to depict the effects and consequences of the Cold War period in Taiwan as well as the dramatic changes in the economic and political life of the country (Chiu et al.).
The Taiwanese cinema appears to stem from the true social reality. As it often happens, a few world-class directors, for example, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Ang Lee, and Edward Yang emerged in the film production industry (Chiu et al.; Yeh, & Davis). They have managed to vitalize the movies and forced the world cinematographic community to perceive and look at Taiwanese films in a different way. It was a kind of a rebellious response to the old genre principles expressed through the attempts to demonstrate sharp attention to critical social issues and aesthetical innovations. What is more, the films aimed to explore the society of Taiwan at that period (Chiu et al.). The Taiwanese New Cinema comprises a distinctive national cinema, which has become visible at the international level.
The significance of the Taiwanese film industry implies the reflection of the picture of a real society with its problems. For example, if one looks at the opening shot of the movie The Sandwich Man, which Hou Hsiao-Hsien directed, he or she sees motorcycle shops, photo studios, and many store signs for 31 seconds (Hsiao-Hsien et al.). On the one hand, nothing is surprising in the shot; however, it is a brief demonstration of life in Taiwan (Hsiao-Hsien et al.). Unlike other political propaganda films or movies about martial arts, The Sandwich Man shows the reality without embellishment (Hsiao-Hsien et al.). Due to its tendencies to reflect the existing situation and reject ideological messages, the Taiwan New Cinema became something entirely new.
In fact, the above-mentioned concepts were saved, and Taiwan’s New Cinema still shapes the production and perception of the present-day movie industry in the country in several ways. Thirty years ago, the Taiwan New Cinema movement embraced six definitions including time, response, collision, vent, history, and record that helped to reflect the reality in modern Taiwanese films (Yeh, & Davis). Thus, time had an essential role in the appearance of the given movement. From the very beginning, the Taiwanese society faced a range of transitions including the urban culture and middle-class rises as well as the industrial society establishment among others. These events became the key components of the plots used in Taiwanese cinema. For instance, Edward Yangs Taipei Story presents the truest reflection of the given period (Yeh, & Davis). The film serves as a bright example of differences between people that result in communication reduction (Yeh, & Davis).
Another concept of the Taiwan New Cinema is the response to the quick changes in society as well as interpersonal relationships. The new wave of rebellious films challenged the previous ones, which did not correlate with reality. The films produced earlier could not reach success and gathered a relatively little audience. The New Cinema movement, in its turn, changed the understanding of the mission of filmmaking (Yeh, & Davis). The depiction of real movie characters’ conditions of life in the urban and rural areas became a significant distinction of the Taiwanese cinematography and remains it today. The collision is the next connotation of the movement and means the reflection of the release of anger (Yeh, & Davis). In turn, anger appeared due to the international diplomacy dilemma of the 1970s (Yeh, & Davis). Many countries raptured diplomatic relations with Taiwan at that time. As a result, the Taiwanese films suffered severe pressure, which the unfavorable political situation caused. One of the difficulties was the promotion of Mandarin Chinese in films and on the radio. However, Hou Hsiao-Hsien had made a truly seditious step and combined two languages in the two last parts of The Sandwich Man (Hsiao-Hsien; Yeh, & Davis). The idea of collision is still essential for global politics and the role of Taiwan in it. The concept of the vent of the Taiwan New Cinema has also left a prominent trace in both the Taiwanese and world cinematography.>
The depiction of reality characteristic of Taiwan New Cinema has had a considerable influence on the present-day industry. Hou Hsiao-Hsien collected some of his works into Youth Rebellion Notebook DVD package (Yeh, & Davis). The life experience of the director’s generation is the subject that unites these films. It had a significant impact on many young modern filmmakers. Besides, the official history with integrated personal memory made an important contribution to the New Cinema movement. For instance, A City of Sadness begins with radio broadcasting the information about the Japanese Emperors’ surrender that contrasts with the childbirth occurring at the same time (Yeh, & Davis). The demonstration of the Taiwanese historical moments with inserted personal memories is still popular among filmmakers today. The last concept records, which represents both personal and Taiwanese society growth (Yeh, & Davis). Edward Yang represented the modernization process that touched the whole of Taiwan in his film In Our Time (Yeh, & Davis). Yangs work vividly portrays the changes in different life spheres, relationships, and living environments of ordinary people (Yeh, & Davis). These and other works of Taiwanese directors depict the social shifts in the country.
In fact, it is impossible to say that the analyzed view on the movie production is a burden for the modern filmmakers, audience, and critics. As was mentioned above, different external factors influence cinematography, which the case of Taiwan clearly demonstrates. On the one hand, the reflection of the present-day reality can turn into the genre crisis because the directors may face the issue of the lack of plots; this situation will force the filmmakers to produce movies about the same matters (Yeh, & Davis). On the other hand, the political and economic affairs of the country constantly change. It affects the opinions and attitudes of the representatives of Taiwanese society. The audience may get tired of watching the real-life around them daily and on the screen; people will demand something totally new (Yeh, & Davis). Therefore, these factors may bring new filmmakers who will strive to be and revolutionary (Yeh, & Davis). On the contrary, a big part of the international community would admire the old movies because it has never lived in the demonstrated conditions. It seems that nothing will change for the film critics who would continue to watch and analyze Taiwanese movies.
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Finally, having experienced a range of challenges and changes, Taiwanese filmmaking has grown into a significant event in the world of cinematography. Fortunately, political ideology and pressure of different circumstances did not manage to impede the development of the Taiwanese New Cinema. Such directors as Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Ang Lee, and others have channeled the film production into a completely new and rebellious direction. They decided that the reflection of real-life would be more advantageous than a conservative depiction of the non-existing world. Also, the principles of Taiwanese cinematography have remained the same since the 1980s when the definition of the New Cinema emerged for the first time. Such a long-standing view on the movie production has brought Taiwanese films acknowledgment of the filmmaking community and cinema lovers. However, time causes changes, and the demonstration of reality on the screen can become boring and obsolete. Therefore, it can lead to the genre crisis or, conversely, the appearance of film production nonconformists.