Rey Chow explores these questions through nine contemporary Chinese directors (Chen Kaige, Wong Kar-wai, Zhang Yimou, Ann Hui, Peter Chan, Wayne Wang, Ang Lee, Li Yang, and Tsai Ming-liang) whose accomplishments have become historic events in world cinema. Approaching their works from multiple perspectives, including the question of origins, nostalgia, the everyday, feminine "psychic interiority," commodification, biopolitics, migration, education, homosexuality, kinship, and incest, and concluding with an account of the Chinese films' epistemic affinity with the Hollywood blockbuster Brokeback Mountain, Chow proposes that the sentimental is a discursive constellation traversing affect, time, identity, and social mores, a constellation whose contours tends to morph under different historical circumstances and in different genres and media. In contemporary Chinese films, she argues, the sentimental consistently takes the form not of revolution but of compromise, not of radical departure but of moderation, endurance, and accommodation. By naming these films sentimental fabulations screen artifacts of cultural becoming with irreducible aesthetic, conceptual, and speculative logics of their own Chow presents Chinese cinema first and foremost as an invitation to the pleasures and challenges of critical thinking.
Chow explores the vicissitudes of cross-ethnic representational politics in a diverse range of texts across multiple genres, including the writings of Georg Lukacs, Michel Foucault, Max Weber, Jacques Derrida, Fredric Jameson, Etienne Balibar, Charlotte Brontë, Garrett Hongo, John Yau, and Frantz Fanon; the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Marguerite Duras, and Alain Resnais; and the cartoon drawings of Larry Feign. Tracing out hauntingly familiar scenarios from stereotyping and coercive mimeticism to collective narcissistic abjection, the rise of white feminist racial power, and intraethnic ressentiment, Chow articulates a series of interlocking critical dialogues that challenge readers into hitherto unimagined ways of thinking about an urgent topic.