Beyond Labourer’s Love: Rethinking early Chinese film comedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article examines three lost short comedies produced alongside Labourer’s Love by the Mingxing Film Studio in 1922: The King of Comedy Visits Shanghai (Huaji dawang you hu ji), Havoc in a Bizarre Theatre (Danao guai xichang), and The Naughty Kid (Wantong). I propose to look beyond the extant Labourer’s Love and instead to delve into the broader intertextual, intermedial fabric of early film comedy for a re-evaluation of this neglected genre. Drawing on advertising texts, stills, and film reviews, this study corrects misinformation and supplements new data, based on which I posit two notions for a reconceptualization of early Chinese comedy film. First, I propose the Chinese concept of renao (“hot noise”) as a particular sensorial-somatic mode of experience to account for the Chinese engagement with film comedy in the tumultuous 1920s. Second, I borrow the Chinese poetic device of allusion to interpret their widespread references to Hollywood films in structural, narrative, and visual terms. Through the prism of allusion, the appropriation and re-production of Hollywood elements can be regarded as a means of adding authority to inchoate Chinese filmmaking, while at the same time complicating familiar topoi, symbols, and imageries in culturally sensitive ways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-297
JournalJournal of Chinese Film Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • silent film
  • film comedy
  • Chinese film


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