Body in Question offers extremely useful insights for unpacking renowned Chinese filmmaker Jiang Wen’s subversive and celebrated films In the Heat of the Sun and Devils on the Doorstep (especially considering that the author met with Jiang Wen “to confirm the views expressed” in the book) and also understanding/appreciating Jiang’s larger vision and process as a filmmaker. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in political, banned/censored, independent, and/or Chinese film -- or, for that matter, anyone interested in 20th century political/social history.
For students of Jiang Wen's work, this is a "must read."
A few passages of note:
“In the Heat of the Sun is the very definition of a subversive film.”
“What we have, then, in this film [Heat of the Sun] is not some nostalgic eroticization of politics but rather the politicization of erotica: in other words, anti-nostalgia.”
“Jiang Wen’s use of this esoteric language [both visual and verbal] in the cinematic narratives of Heat of the Sun and Devils on the Doorstep, and the intensity of his reliance on it in details scarcely noticeable by an ordinary filmgoing audience, suggest the address of his films to an audience other than the ordinary one…, an audience that might represent an imagined communion of the filmmakers with the lofty artistic traditions of China’s past, or perhaps an audience of one, Jiang Wen himself.”
“He [film critic Xiao Peng] quotes Jiang’s associate director Zhao Yijun as saying that 'Jiang Wen left on him the deeply carved impression, first of thoroughness, second of thoroughness, and third of thoroughness. Because Jiang Wen’s production put his thoroughness first, his results were first rate.' Peter Hessler adds, based on his interview with Jiang Wen: 'During the filming of Devils on the Doorstep, Jiang Wen refused to film outtakes. If a small part of a scene was unacceptable, he insisted on reshooting the entire thing from the beginning. In the film industry, this practice is unheard of, and Jiang Wen reportedly used every roll of Kodak black-and-white movie film that was available in China – five hundred thousand feet, or roughly five times the amount required for an average feature film…. '”
“As anyone remotely interested in China will be aware, since the late 1970s the pursuit of economic equity, of a classless society, has been, at the very least, deferred; the command-economy and central control of everything other than politics and the military has given way to capital formation based on a market economy, so that the Party’s wartime claims must continually be recalled to mind and unsatisfied antagonisms with Japan must repeatedly be aroused. Jiang Wen’s critique is more radical than this. Through its depiction of the Party elite, In the Heat of the Sun dares to suggest that except as ideology, myth or false memory, equality never existed. As for the Party’s continuing claims to wartime heroics, Devils suggests that such boasts are illusory as ghosts.”
Last, Jerome Silbergeld notes that the target of Jiang Wen’s Devils on the Doorstep “knows no age or nation.” He goes on to quote Jiang Wen: “I went to Japan for the first time in 1991, and visited the Yasukuni Shrine. Nearly everything I saw there reminded me of China – the shrine could have been Chinese. Since then, I’ve visited Japan many times and I’ve come to realize that there aren’t two types of person and that war crimes are not fundamentally a Chinese-Japanese issue. The real issue is war itself. It’s war that changes people.”