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The Representation of Tokyo, the Tourist Gaze and the Politics of Transnational Production: On Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Japanese film Café Lumiere

Sun, June 26, 1:00 to 2:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 120


Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s film career has entered a new stage in the new millennium. As a filmmaker of worldwide renown, he was invited to produce his first foreign-language film, Café Lumière (2003), as homage to Japanese film master Ozu Yasujiro. Funded by Shochiku Studios, the film may have been endowed with a mission to promote Japanese national culture or increase the visibility of a particular city. Consequently, filming on location was required of the director: Café Lumière is not only set in Tokyo, but all the characters speak Japanese.
Using the approach of transnational film studies, this paper will examine two issues. First, as the film looks non-Taiwanese, what are the ways by which Hou ingeniously inserts the surrogate for his identity as Taiwanese so as to make the film transnational rather than national? Employing the hybrid identities of various characters in the film, Hou emphasizes the continual relationship of Taiwan and Japan from the colonial period to the present. Second, Hou represents Tokyo in a manner similar to that of the city-symphony genre popular in the 1920s, but as an outsider and even a tourist, Hou can hardly avoid the tourist gaze through which Tokyo is constructed as a utopian, womblike city. Remarkable and unique, Café Lumiere is not exceptional for its entanglement with the politics of transnational coproduction, but its representation of transnational cooperation does suggest that there is some hope for the new century.