Chinese and American Film Review
22 October 2013
On Thursday 17 October, I attended a presentation by Professor Paul Pickowicz on Cold War Propaganda: Chinese and American Film, looking at the Korean War. The event was held at the Edinburgh University Languages and Humanities Centre. Professor Pickowicz's lecture was very thought provoking, using two different examples of propaganda in film we could see the similarities and differences in style. We looked at two films, one a Chinese film from 1956, and the other an American film from 1959. Both depicted the same battle, in the same place, but both say they won the battle. Both stories go along the lines of the 'heroes'; a small platoon on the top of the hill, defending it from the hordes of enemy trying to attack. It was interesting to see the differences and strangely the great similarities in the two films. Both are seen as pro-war films, they have an almost identical plot; both have their heroes fighting against the odds and winning. Although they succeed in different ways; in the Chinese film it is because they follow orders and look out for one another, while in the American film, though there are conflicts between the heroes, they work through their struggles and come together to succeed.
The American film unlike the Chinese film is very misogynistic, typical of classic war movies so there are very few female roles. The Chinese film is very feminised; the character of Wan Lan, a nurse, is the only female character in the film and has a fair influence in the overall atmosphere of the film. Another difference between the two movies is how they portray the enemy, the American film addresses the enemy, but the Chinese film only says that the enemies are enemies and that is enough. These two films take different views to how people should act and think and it was fascinating to see these different ideals of characteristics from different countries. The lecture contained many of these concepts, and had a variety of tangents from it. I really enjoyed it and it has made me want to learn more about the history of Asia, in particular China, and has opened my eyes to a very interesting side of common historical events and how they are portrayed through film.