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Speaker: Jason McGrath, Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Literatures, University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Spring in a Small Town (小城之春, 1948) has been celebrated as filmmaker Fei Mu’s masterpiece, epitomizing a poetic style of cinema that is said to draw successfully on traditional Chinese aesthetics while also offering a notable Chinese contribution to global art cinema. Here it will be taken as a prime example of apophatic realism, a mode of film narration that takes the real as fundamentally unrepresentable. This mode of realism—which indeed has parallels both to traditional Chinese aesthetics and philosophy as well as to international precedents including film noir and French poetic realism—stands in contrast to the much more common mode of critical realism then prominent in Chinese cinema, which relies on a confidence that art can successfully represent historical and social totalities.