Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Antigravity Dreams in Contemporary Chinese Cinema

Humanity's communal dream life is haunted by a sense of flying. Yes, you must be able to remember those nightly visions in which your body has floated free of gravity, letting you soar through the sky with a magical power that's both thrilling and taken for granted.

As has been pointed out by any number of observers, experiencing films shares a good deal in common with dreaming dreams, so it should come as no surprise that floating and flying feature largely in contemporary cinema. For reasons related to their long obsession with mystical martial arts, the Chinese are particularly likely to portray the human body as an Antigravitarian object.

I'll allow stills taken from one recent Chinese martial arts movie to represent and dramatize this trend. The movie is Zhang Yimou's Hero, which was released in 2002 and stars a perfect cast that includes Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Maggie Cheung, Jet Li, and Zhang Ziyi.

Here in Hero, the special effects suggest that you can slough off gravity at will, as you might dead skin, which always makes for a very satisfying fantasy experience:

Unfortunately, fascism appears to triumph at the end of Hero, which mars the movie badly. For fascism is not an Antigravitarian form of government. In fact, it's got the worst kind of gravity written all over it.

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