Celluloid Comrades: Representations of Male Homosexuality in Contemporary Chinese Cinemas
272pp. February 2007
Celluloid Comrades: Representations of Male Homosexuality in Contemporary Chinese Cinemas
Author: Lim, Song Hwee;
"Without question, Song Hwee Lim has presented us with an exemplar of quality scholarship in the study of contemporary Chinese cinemas. By combining an impressive command of Chinese and Western literary as well as film source materials with a sophisticated mode of analysis and an unassuming argumentative style, he has authored an exhilarating book—one that not only treats cinematic representations of male homosexuality with great sensitivity but also demonstrates what it means to read with critical intelligence and vision." —Rey Chow, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, Brown University

"Celluloid Comrades is a timely demonstration of the importance of queer studies in the field of transnational Chinese cinemas. Lim dissects gay sexuality in selective Chinese-language films, and vigorously contests commonly accepted critical paradigms and theoretical models. Readers will find a provocative, powerful voice in this new book." —Sheldon H. Lu, Professor of Comparative Literature, University of California at Davis

Celluloid Comrades offers a cogent analytical introduction to the representation of male homosexuality in Chinese cinemas within the last decade. It posits that representations of male homosexuality in Chinese film have been polyphonic and multifarious, posing a challenge to monolithic and essentialized constructions of both ‘Chineseness’ and ‘homosexuality.’ Given the artistic achievement and popularity of the films discussed here, the position of ‘celluloid comrades’ can no longer be ignored within both transnational Chinese and global queer cinemas. The book also challenges readers to reconceptualize these works in relation to global issues such as homosexuality and gay and lesbian politics, and their interaction with local conditions, agents, and audiences.

Tracing the engendering conditions within the film industries of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, Song Hwee Lim argues that the emergence of Chinese cinemas in the international scene since the 1980s created a public sphere in which representations of marginal sexualities could flourish in its interstices. Examining the politics of representation in the age of multiculturalism through debates about the films, Lim calls for a rethinking of the limits and hegemony of gay liberationist discourse prevalent in current scholarship and film criticism. He provides in-depth analyses of key films and auteurs, reading them within contexts as varied as premodern, transgender practice in Chinese theater to postmodern, diasporic forms of sexualities.

Informed by cultural and postcolonial studies and critical theory, this acutely observed and theoretically sophisticated work will be of interest to a wide range of scholars and students as well as general readers looking for a deeper understanding of contemporary Chinese cultural politics, cinematic representations, and queer culture.

10 illus.

"[Celluloid Comrades’] extensive coverage and erudite exegesis guarantee that it will be a fundamental work for all scholars interested in Chinese cinema and sexuality for many years to come. . . . Thoughtful, rigorous, and challenging." —The China Quarterly (190, June 2007)

"Undoubtably one of the most thoroughly researched and tightly argued books on Chinese cinemas. Its primary emphasis on themes notwithstanding, it engages with all aspects of the film medium—audio, visual, narrative, and historical/contextual. Its methodological rigor and the richness of its insights will significantly raise the bar for future studies on Chinese cinemas and sexualities." —Bulletin of the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy (31, September 2007)

"Transcending its specialized subject matter, Lim’s accessible study of representations of male homosexuality in Chinese cinema makes a substantial contribution to the fields of queer studies, Chinese cultural studies, and film theory. . . . Highly recommended." —Choice (January 2007)

"One of the most outstanding works on queer representation in Chinese cinemas. . . . Fascinating insight into modern Chinese societies and their political and cultural changes." —China Review International (Spring 2007)

Author: Lim, Song Hwee;
Song Hwee Lim is lecturer in world cinemas at the Department of Film Studies, University of Exeter.
Read the introduction (PDF).