When Comedy Is Not a Comedy (Zhang Yimou's 'Comedies')
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The authoress examines three Zhang Yimou's films, 'The Story of Qiu Ju', 'Keep Cool' and 'Happy Times', from the point of view of genre affiliation. They are the only productions of the Chinese director, called comedies. As we can only view the issue from a European perspective, it is difficult to find out why the films aspire to be called comedies although it is also difficult to refuse them the right. Given all the differences between the three, the movies share the same controlling theme - the absurdity of today's life, which becomes peculiarly striking when we speak about life in the city, which in turn forces the heroes to take absurd attitudes and measures that are futile and lead to nowhere. In this situation the category of comedy may be one of possible interpretation keys. While the comic character of 'Keep Cool' is unquestionable and although the viewer from other cultures may miss its humour, the case of 'The Story of Qiu Ju' and 'Happy Times' is different. Genre affiliation acts like a kaleidoscope as very rotation produces a different image. We may watch the films either as black comedies, melodramas or dramas. The least is shown to the European from the angle of comedy. It probably happens not because the films contain least elements of comedy but rather because the culture gap is the hardest barrier to overcome.
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