March 12, 2021
This essay examines a regional, not global, dimension of Chinese cinema: the Chinese character in its brushed form. Calligraphy and cinema have an intimate relationship in East Asia. Indeed, the ubiquity of the brushed word in cinema is one element that actually ties works in Korean, Japanese and Sinophone Asia together as a regional cinema. At the same time, I will explore the very specific difference of Chinese filmmakers’ use of written language. On first glance, cinema and calligraphy would appear as radically different art forms. On second glance, they present themselves as sister arts. Both are art forms built from records of the human body moving in (an absent) time and space. The essay ends with a consideration of subtitling, upon which Chinese cinema’s global dimension is predicated. How does investigating this very problem lead us to rethinking the nature of the cinematic subtitle, which is very much alive―a truly movable type?