Chen Kaige’s King of the Children, based on the novel by Ah Cheng, was made at Xi’an Studio, 1987. Chen’s renowned first film, Yellow Earth, contains beautiful visuals evoking Chinese painting. The film is a multilayered examination of the effect of China’s feudal culture and modern revolution on the peasant class. PHOTO BY JOAN LEBOLD COHEN.
Film director Chen Kaige became the first member of the so-called Fifth Generation of Chinese film directors to win international success when he made Yellow Earth in 1984. His latest film is Forever Enthralled (2008).
With his film Yellow Earth (1984), Chen Kaige became the first member of the so-called Fifth Generation of Chinese film directors to attain international success. The Fifth Generation, whose members were graduates of the first class of the reopened Beijing Film Academy after the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), came of age after the death of Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong (1893–1976) and reacted against the didacticism and melodrama of China’s film tradition.
Yellow Earth contains beautiful visuals similar to Chinese paintings. Deceptively simple with minimal action and dialogue, the film is a multilayered examination of the effect of China’s feudal culture and modern revolution on the peasants.
Chen’s next film to gain international fame was Farewell My Concubine (1993). This film is set in the Beijing Opera of the twentieth century and deals with the betrayal of love and art. It won the Palme d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival and other awards. Chen’s 1999 film, The Emperor and the Assassin, is a historical epic about Qin dynasty emperor Shi Huangdi or Ying Zheng, who unified China in the third century BCE.
In the 1980s and 1990s Chen and other filmmakers achieved success in international film festivals and art house markets and looked overseas for financing for their projects. His 2005 film The Promise was edited and adapted for North American audiences and released in May 2006; his most recent film Forever Enthralled (2008) is a biographical film based on the life of Mei Lanfang, the male Beijing Opera star famous for playing women’s roles.
Chen Kaige. (1990). Breaking the circle: The cinema and cultural change in China. Cineaste, 18(3), 28–32.
Zha Jianying. (1995). China pop. New York: New Press.
The more you try to cover things up, the more exposed they will be.
Yù gài mí zhāng
Source: Eng, Robert Y. (2009). CHEN Kaige. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 306–307. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.
CHEN Kaige (Chén Kǎigē 陈凯歌)|Chén Kǎigē 陈凯歌 (CHEN Kaige)