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date: 09 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics edited by John Richardson, Claudia Gorbman, and Carol Vernallis. This chapter theorizes an important new development in auteur cinema, the neosurrealist metamusical, through Jan Assman’s idea of “figures of memory,” which are aspects of cultural memory that are differentiated from everyday experiences by their ritualized and temporally displaced nature. Musical numbers in this view become figures of memory that highlight reflectivity. Tsai Ming-Liang’s The Wayward Cloud (Tian bian yi duo yun, 2005) is a classic example of a neosurrealist metamusical, a surrealist sensibility manifesting itself in the film’s collage-like assemblage of genres-art house cinema, film musicals, and hard-core pornography-combined with an element of absurdism. The use of vintage popular songs as found objects is central in negotiating cultural meanings, including tensions between local Taiwanese culture and mainland China, the mediatized West and the local everyday. Although the film contains potent critical messages, its dominant modality is playful camp aestheticism, which is theorized by means of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s idea of “reparative reading.”

Keywords: cultural memory, Tsai Ming-Liang, The Wayward Cloud, Jan Assman, figures of memory, metamusical, neosurrealism, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, reparative reading

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