Painting the City Red

9780822347064: Hardback
Release Date: 7th April 2010

9780822347231: Paperback
Release Date: 7th April 2010

48 illustrations

Dimensions: 156 x 235

Number of Pages: 424

Series Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society

Duke University Press Books

Painting the City Red

Chinese Cinema and the Urban Contract

An examination of the role of cinema and theater in representing urban transformations in China from 1949 to the present.
Hardback / £99.00
Paperback / £25.99

Painting the City Red illuminates the dynamic relationship between the visual media, particularly film and theater, and the planning and development of cities in China and Taiwan, from the emergence of the People’s Republic in 1949 to the staging of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Yomi Braester argues that the transformation of Chinese cities in recent decades is a result not only of China’s abandonment of Maoist economic planning in favor of capitalist globalization but also of a shift in visual practices. Rather than simply reflect urban culture, movies and stage dramas have facilitated the development of new perceptions of space and time, representing the future city variously as an ideal socialist city, a metropolis integrated into the global economy, and a site for preserving cultural heritage.

Drawing on extensive archival research, interviews with leading filmmakers and urban planners, and close readings of scripts and images, Braester describes how films and stage plays have promoted and opposed official urban plans and policies as they have addressed issues such as demolition-and-relocation plans, the preservation of vernacular architecture, and the global real estate market. He shows how the cinematic rewriting of historical narratives has accompanied the spatial reorganization of specific urban sites, including Nanjing Road in Shanghai; veterans’ villages in Taipei; and Tiananmen Square, centuries-old courtyards, and postmodern architectural landmarks in Beijing. In Painting the City Red, Braester reveals the role that film and theater have played in mediating state power, cultural norms, and the struggle for civil society in Chinese cities.

List of Illustrations ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction: Film and the Urban Contract 1
1. New China, New Beijing: Staging the Socialist City of the Future 27
2. A Big Dyeing Vat: The Rise of Proletarian Shanghai and the Fall of Nanjing Road 56
3. Mansions of Uneven Rhyme: Beijing Courtyards and the Instant City 95
4. The First Precinct Under Heaven: State Symbolism and Unplanned Urbanism at Tiananmen Square 151
5. Angel Sanctuaries: Taipei's Gentrification and the Erasure of Veterans' Villages 187
6. "This is the Story of Our Street": Urban Preservation and the Post-Maoist Politics of Memory 224
7. The Day Trip of Your Dreams: Globalizing Beijing and the Postspatial City 281
Notes 311
Filmography 341
Stage Plays 351
Bibliography 353
Index 383

Yomi Braester is Professor of Comparative Literature and Cinema Studies at the University of Washington. He is the author of Witness against History: Literature, Film, and Public Discourse in Twentieth-Century China.

“Yomi Braester takes us beyond this notion of film as a time capsule for a vanishing reality. . . . Braester’s expertly localized study is essential reading for devotees of Sinophone film who lack intimate knowledge of contemporary urban culture in the PRC and Taiwan.” - Andrew Chan, Film Comment

“In this well-researched work, Yomi Braester takes a fresh look at Chinese urban cinema and stage plays from 1949 to the 2008 Olympics. . . . Painting the City Red will remain an important reference book for scholars of urban cinema and urbanization for years to come.” - Jenny Huangfu, China Journal

“. . . Braester’s point remains valid: as a device that mediates between state and non-state actors, visual media play a crucial and often overlooked role in the creation of new forms of urbanism. Any scholar of film, urban studies, and Asian history in general would be well served to read this book.” - Emily Baum, Journal of Asian Studies

“[T]he book offers rich insights into how Chinese cinema has responded to urban policies, participating in debates on how the city should develop, disseminating images of power, documenting alternative ways of using public space, and, in recent years, helping preserve historical memory in contexts of rapid change.” - Paola Iovene, American Historical Review

Painting the City Red is an exciting intervention in studies on cinema and the city. It provides a wealth of fascinating original research and insight into the way Chinese cities have appeared on film. But, equally important, it also argues for a new approach to the topic. Moving beyond analysis of the films themselves, it also includes remarkable research into the negotiations amongst city planners, politicians, developers and residents that shape the vision of the city.”—Chris Berry, Goldsmiths, University of London

“Yomi Braester’s Painting the City Red is not only a signal contribution to our understanding of urban space and visual culture in China, but one of the most thorough explorations of the city in cinema of any kind to appear in recent years. Braester is a matchless guide to the ways film and theatrical productions have been used to shape the future city, foster new spatial practices, and mediate between visions of a vanishing architectural past and the metropolis to come. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in the lightspeed urbanization of contemporary China, and how the creative destruction of its cities has played out on screen and stage.”—Thomas J. Campanella, author of The Concrete Dragon: China's Urban Revolution and What It Means for the World

"Braester’s point remains valid: as a device that mediates between state and non-state actors, visual media play a crucial and often overlooked role in the creation of new forms of urbanism. Any scholar of film, urban studies, and Asian history in general would be well served to read this book.”

Emily Baum
Journal of Asian Studies

“[T]he book offers rich insights into how Chinese cinema has responded to urban policies, participating in debates on how the city should develop, disseminating images of power, documenting alternative ways of using public space, and, in recent years, helping preserve historical memory in contexts of rapid change.”

Paola Iovene
American Historical Review

“In this well-researched work, Yomi Braester takes a fresh look at Chinese urban cinema and stage plays from 1949 to the 2008 Olympics. . . . Painting the City Red will remain an important reference book for scholars of urban cinema and urbanization for years to come.”

Jenny Huangfu
The China Journal

“Yomi Braester takes us beyond this notion of film as a time capsule for a vanishing reality. . . . Braester’s expertly localized study is essential reading for devotees of Sinophone film who lack intimate knowledge of contemporary urban culture in the PRC and Taiwan.”

Andrew Chan
Film Comment