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Storytelling in the Age of Post-socialism: Wang Xiaoshuai’s “Third Front Trilogy”

Abstract
China, for the past six decades, has witnessed two massive population movements in reversed directions: the government-imposed relocation to rustic hinterlands during the Mao era, and the market-driven rural-to-urban migration in the post-socialist age. Revolving around a group of socialist workers’ relocation and homecoming, Wang Xiaoshuai’s王小帅 trilogy, comprising Shanghai Dreams (Qinghong青红, 2005), Eleven Flowers (Wo shiyi我11, 2012), and Red Amnesia (Chuangruzhe闯入者, 2014), connects the two movements through its visual representations. By examining the embedded dichotomies, namely the inland area against coastal cities, socialist remnants against post-socialist prosperity, and personal recollections against collective amnesia, I explore the geographical, historical, and historiographical Other implemented in the trilogy’s visual narratives. This elusive yet omnipresent discourse of otherness replaces the impression of documentary realism, the hallmark of Wang’s cinematic style as exemplified in pervious works, with a sense of Benjaminian storytelling. Additionally, in his tales of two cities, the director grapples with aporias of a post-socialist China through the discourse of woman. In this regard, I investigate how the female body, once the recipient of male gaze and the object of desire, has become the masculine other’s outlet of revenge, thereby providing narrative closure to the tension-ridden tales.
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