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date: 25 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the critical discourse on acting in early Chinese cinema, and particularly the ways in which the contrast of film acting with stage acting exemplified broader rhetorics of realism, modernity, and scientism in semicolonial China following the May Fourth Movement. An emphasis on realism and mimesis in cinema rather than the formalism and semiosis of traditional Chinese art forms was part of a broader contemporary interest in the idea of objective representation. At the same time, the close-up in particular was thought to demand a new style of “interior performance” in which character emotions were felt by the actor and conveyed through the eyes and face with the purpose of “moving” modern audiences with authenticity. Nonetheless, claims for the unique realism of the film medium must be viewed in light of the growing dominance of realism in all the arts, including theater.

Keywords: realism, formalism, mimesis, semiosis, theater, scientism, objectivity, acting, performance

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