“China loves Italy”: transnational co-productions between China and Italy behind the mask of market
Yongchun FU and Maria Elena INDELICATO
ABSTRACT Since the term “transnational cinema” first appeared in 1997, most studies have focused on films epitomising the logic of either profit maximisation or ethnic affinity to explain phenomena such as the mainstreaming of Kung Fu movies. Yet, these two logics do not account for the entirety of the transnational projects which have been produced to date, hence the call for more studies on “trans-border patterns” that operate beyond both of them (Berry 2010, 123). In this article, we take up this call and approach the co-productions between China and Italy as exhibiting a “trans-border pattern” which satisfies interests beyond both the market and ethnic affinity. We trace the history of such a “pattern” back to the arrival of the Italian pioneer of Chinese cinema, Amerigo Lauro, in Shanghai in the early 1900s. We contextualise the productions of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Chung Kuo/China (1973), Giuliano Montaldo’s Marco Polo (1982) and Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor (1987) to provide exemplary cases of a non-market oriented affinity between two culturally distinct nations: China and Italy. We conclude by suggesting that China has pursued transnational co-productions with European countries such as Italy to exercise a more productive control than censorship over the ways China is to be represented internationally.
Keywords: Transnational cinema, nationalism, cinematic representation, censorship, Amerigo Enrico Lauro, Michelangelo Antonioni, Giuliano Montaldo, Bernardo Bertolucci, co-production.
Yongchun Fu is Associate Professor at the Department of Media and Communication, Ningbo Institute of Technology, Zhejiang University. His research interests include early history of Chinese film industry and transnational Chinese cinema.
Maria Elena Indelicato is Lecturer at the Department of Media and Communication, Ningbo Institute of Technology, Zhejiang University. Her research work spans from colonial history of Australia to the intersection of race and emotions in public discourses. With Associate Professor Fu, she is researching the history of Italian and Chinese co-productions.