label r shifted
Session C4
The Poetics of Postcolonial Rearticulation in The Puppetmaster
池思親 Vivian Szu-Chin Chih
Literature, University of California, San Diego, USA

In my paper, I plan to investigate the cinematic poetics, the editing style, and the “historiophoty” in Hou Hsiao-Hsien's “The Puppetmaster” (1993). The paper aims to discuss how the manifestations of visual and audial poetics, including Hou's distinguished long-takes and scenery shots, performances of Taiwanese puppetry and Taiwanese/Peking operas in the film, and the film editor Liao Ching-Song's (廖慶松) self-claimed "Yun-Kuai editing method” (「雲塊剪接法」), are designed technically, aesthetically, as well as philosophically to represent the contemporary history of Taiwan during the Japanese colonial era.

“The Puppetmaster” is the second of Hou's “Taiwan Trilogy” that deals with Taiwan's historical, cultural, and political backgrounds since the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895. Using the anecdotal autobiography of the Taiwanese puppet master Li Tian-Lu (李天祿) as its main narrative line, Hou presents the life story of this important Taiwanese cultural figure through interweaving the recitation of Chinese poetry in Taiwanese, vignettes of Taiwanese and Peking operas, film episodes of Li’s life, and Li's own oral narrative in “The Puppetmaster.”

Much has been discussed regarding the historical and political aspects that “The Puppetmaster” alludes to. Yet, few academic papers have investigated the construction of its visual and audial poetics, as well as the role played by editing. The paper, therefore, seeks to fill this gap of the academic dialogues. Through examining Hou's image construction and Liao's “Yun-Kuai editing method” in "The Puppetmaster," this paper aims to continue the exploration of Liao's poetic editing style extended from the “Qi-Yun editing method” (「氣韻剪接法」) exerted in A City of Sadness (1989). According to Liao, the High Tang poet Du Fu's poetry had inspired him to invent “Qi-Yun editing method” for the editing of Hou's nonlinear shots in A City of Sadness. How, then, are the two editing methods different from each other? In addition, how has Liao’s Taoist editing philosophy influenced the editing of “The Puppetmaster”?

In other words, this paper investigates the relationship between the aesthetic form of “The Puppetmaster” and its content. By citing the historian Hayden White’s term, “historiophoty,” this paper argues that the “docudrama” nature of the film helps to justify the colonial history of Taiwan and Li’s life before 1945, as represented by its fragmentary plot arrangement and puppetry/opera performances.