21 апреля 2009 | Автор: Admin | Рубрика: Художественные книги » Мемуары. Биографии | Комментариев: 0
Hye Seung Chung, "Hollywood Asian"
Publisher: Temple University Press | 2006-10-28 | ISBN: 1592135153 | PDF | 248 pages | 1.2 MB
More than 20 years ago, I completed a book on Robert Florey, who directed Philip Ahn in three movies and at least twice as many filmed television dramas. The two were close friends, with Florey visiting Ahn's Moongate Restaurant, and Ahn writing Florey's name in Korean on the background of a Vietnamese prison set in ROGUES' REGIMENT. Florey's DAUGHTER OF SHANGHAI, starring the fabled Anna May Wong, featured Ahn in his first lead role, and was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2006.
However, back when I wrote on Florey, there was almost no writing about Asians in Hollywood. Books on Asians and cinema implied Japan, usually auteurist approaches to Kurosawa or Ozu, or perhaps Satyajit Ray in India, and maybe some fan interest in the Hong Kong martial arts genre. This has fortunately shifted in the last few years, and Professor Chung has been in the forefront, opening the subject of Asians in Hollywood for scholarship. Moreover, she has done so in several unique ways.
Biographies of performers have been so dominated by popular books, consistently dwelling on a few of the most famous players in cinema, that this avenue has been eschewed by scholars. Chung's volume proves why academia cannot abandon this aspect of film history. She has created a masterful work, which demonstrates the need for the scholarly biography of certain performers. Ahn was far more than the second-tier player of menacing Japanese in World War II films for which he is often most remembered. Chung weaves together the forty years in which Ahn combined his career as Hollywood's first Korean "star" with activities carrying on the legacy of his father, "Tosan" An Ch'ang-ho. An Ch'ang-ho was a renowned educator and leader of the Korean independence movement as well as early Korean American immigrants, allowing the book to provide unique insights into American ethnic studies, immigration, and Korean studies, as well as filmmaking . Chung has extensively mined primary resources, including those of the Ahn family.
In her biography, Chung explores new avenues of textual reading by combining film production, film history, historical context, theoretical insights, and detailed visual analysis. In analyzing such films as DAUGHTER OF SHANGHAI, her conclusions have wide implications for the way in which ethnicity could be treated in Hollywood movies that were made outside the conforming pressures of big-budget "specials." As the Library noted when adding DAUGHTER OF SHANGHAI to the Registry, "B-films during the studio era often resonate decades later because they explore issues and themes not found in higher-budget pictures." Chung also offers intriguing commentary on the ways in which Asian audiences perceived "difference" in Hollywood films through masquerades that are opaque to non-Asian viewers. She demonstrates how Ahn, as a Korean partisan during World War II, when his ancestral country was occupied and his father had died there after Japanese imprisonment, was willing to play Japanese villains. These roles are often decried now as anti-Asian when seen outside of their historical context, but the Asian solidarity in America is a comparatively recent development, and one that took place long after Hollywood war films of the 1940s and 1950s.
Chung has taken the star approach a step further than other recent books on Wong and Sessue Hayakawa by examining an actor who usually was in various supporting, rather than starring, roles. Actors in this position have generally been overlooked by biographers, and Chung provides an example of how such a career may be fruitfully explored. Hollywood Asian revises the common definition of star-status that confined it (during the studio era) almost exclusively to Caucasian actors. Her new approach will serve as a model and expand the range of performers who may be considered for star analysis.
Chung's writing is impeccable: lucid, intelligent, and challenging, and never encumbered with unnecessary jargon. Her work is accessible to the scholar as well as wider audiences, who will enjoy both her intellectual rigor and her creativity. This is a truly groundbreaking book in the areas of ethnicity, history, and the star system, and I recommend it unreservedly.