Whither the Walker Goes: spatial practices and negative poetics in Huang Jianxin’s “Urban Attitude” films and the works of some “outside-the-institution” filmmakers in the late 1990s

"Wither the Walker Goes: Spatial Practices and Negative Poetics in in 1990s Chinese Urban Cinema," anthologized in The Urban Generation: Chinese Cinema and Society at the Turn of the 21st Century, ed. Zhang Zhen (Duke University Press, Feb 2007).


Grounded in a conviction to make sense of the city, its materiality as well as visuality, and a commitment to everyday creativity, flânerie, “drifting,” and other forms of spatial practices are known subversive tactics against alienation in urban life in the West.  But when these categories become sheer metaphors, and when they can only be realized as textual strategies replacing material engagement with everyday urbanity, the implication has to be totally rewritten.  This last statement characterizes my critical discussion of several films this essay engages with: one group is Huang Jianxin’s “urban attitude” series, which includes Stand up, Don’t Grovel (aka Stand up Straight, Don’t Drop, aka Stand up, Don’t Bend, 1992), Back to Back, Face to Face (1994), Signal Left, Turn Right, and Surveillance (1996); and the second group includes Zhang Ming’s In Expectation (aka Rainclouds Over Wushan (1996); Jia Zhangke’s Xiao Wu (1997); and Lou Ye’s Suzhou River (2000).


Article accessed on-line [......]