Chinas Problems Essay

11214 Words Feb 4th, 2016 45 Pages
Under “Western Eyes”: The Personal Odyssey of
Huang Fei-Hong in Once upon a Time in China by Tony Williams

Rather than being read in exclusively postmodernist terms, Tsui Hark’s series Once upon a Time in China may be understood as a new version of a Hong Kong cinematic discourse involving historical “interflow.” It deals with dispersion, China’s relationship to the outside world, and strategic forms of reintegration designed to strengthen national identity.
In Sammo Hung’s Wong Fei Hung Ji Saam (West Territory Mighty Lion/Once upon a Time in China and America, 1997), Master Huang Fei-hong (Jet Li Linjie) travels to the Wild West to visit an American branch of the Po Chi Lam Clinic set up by his student Sol. During the journey,
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While Yee and Seven repeat their earlier lines, their Indian counterparts inhabit their bodies. The Indian princess (Chrysta Bell Eucht) wears Yee’s
Western costume and asks Huang, “What is your name?” Her brother takes Club
Foot’s position on the stagecoach. Stranded traveler Billy (Jeff Wolfe) is now an
Indian, and Huang finally falls from the coach pierced by an Indian lance.
These images form minor incidents in the entire narrative structure of Once upon a Time in China and America (1997), the sixth part of Tsui Hark’s epic series.
Tony Williams is a professor and area head of Film Studies in the Department of English,
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He has written numerous articles on film and literature and several books, including Larry Cohen: Radical Allegories of an American
Filmmaker (1997).
© 2000 by the University of Texas Press, P.O. Box 7819, Austin, TX 78713-7819

Cinema Journal 40, No. 1, Fall 2000

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However, as Zhang Ailing (Eileen Chang) once remarked, if historical issues may
“be found in life’s irrelevances,”1 significant structures of feeling may appear in visual and sound motifs seemingly marginal to the main narrative. In Once upon a
Time in China and America, these motifs echo themes that dominate the entire series produced by Tsui Hark, namely, the continuing challenges of historical change and geographic relocation and the

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