The Founding of a Republic

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The Founding of a Republic

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sat Oct 31, 2009 2:59 am

Has anyone else seen this movie, which came out last month?

I'd like to set up this thread as a discussion on both the film and on the historical power struggle between the Guomindang and the Communists in post-WWII China. I don't want to bias the discussion from the start for those who haven't seen it yet, but I do have some first thoughts on the movie here (I'm not making any evaluation of its historicity, though, just judging it on its merits as a film).
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Re: The Founding of a Republic

Unread postby agga » Tue Nov 03, 2009 4:17 am

WeiWenDi wrote:Has anyone else seen this movie, which came out last month?

I'd like to set up this thread as a discussion on both the film and on the historical power struggle between the Guomindang and the Communists in post-WWII China. I don't want to bias the discussion from the start for those who haven't seen it yet, but I do have some first thoughts on the movie here (I'm not making any evaluation of its historicity, though, just judging it on its merits as a film).


any idea where it can be seen online (am i allowed to ask?)?
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Re: The Founding of a Republic

Unread postby agga » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:34 am

ok, i'll see if i can find it in chinatown this weekend... if my wife were here she could help, or at least find some way to download it, she usually procures our entertainment. i'm on my own for the fall... :(
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Re: The Founding of a Republic

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Fri Nov 06, 2009 4:45 pm

Agga, I PM'd you a link, but I don't know why it didn't go through.

http://www.watch-movies-online.tv/movies/the_founding_of_a_republic/

I haven't checked the website it's linked to, so I don't know if it works, but it's supposed to be subbed in both Chinese and English. Let me know if it does work.
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Re: The Founding of a Republic

Unread postby agga » Sat Nov 07, 2009 6:15 am

i got your PM, thanks. the link worked, i just finished the film -

first impressions are generally good. it's the barest sort of political and military history - no ordinary people at all, no explicit motives for the characters, and absolutely no ideology for either side, except for not wanting to divide China - history as a series of private and relatively banal conversations between famous men. but, it was entertaining. i had a single moment of cognitive dissonance with Tang Guoqiang - I had read that he played Mao in some other productions, but never seen them. the scene where a messenger comes in and informs him that 500,000 enemy have been killed at the end of the huaihai campaign, and he hesitates.. For a second, in my mind, he was Zhuge Liang getting all sad over killing Nanman with flamethrowers.. but no, he was just relieved that the fighting was just about over.

of course it's a propaganda film - it's not educational in the least, and wouldn't make much sense to someone who didn't know the basics of how the civil war unfolded between 1945 and 1949. the characters are all just cartoon archetypes, since the audience presumably already knows who they are, and no actual characterization is necessary. almost every line of dialogue reveals plot action, i.e., what must be done next, what general strategic choice should be made. to make it a real epic, it would have had to follow Mao and Jiang from the 1920's. as is, it's presented as the very last chapter in that epic. it doesn't make Jiang out to be a villain, but doesn't need to, since the point is simply to show the inevitability of the CCP victory.

there were of course many parts which were almost funny in what they glossed over - i basically mentioned these already, and they're standard for this sort of thing. civilians are nonexistent. there's no mention at all of ideology, or of what these guys were actually planning to do *starting next year* - all the talk at the Consultative Conference was about flags and anthems and holidays, nothing substantial at all, nothing about land reform or sticking it to the landlords. it's almost as if it's being set up as a sort of tragedy - i'm sure there's some dramatic name for this, where the audience knows a tragedy is coming after the end of the show, but the characters are oblivious? did you get that hints of this are intentional, or would a chinese audience be totally blind to it? My wife and her chinese friends are watching it together tomorrow night, I'll be informed as to their opinion (i think they're mainly interested in all the movie stars).

speaking of movie stars, the very worst, most blatant propaganda was the flag scene with the women delegates - a bunch of beautiful actresses reciting patriotic boilerplate about the flag, ugh. in general, though, i liked it - watching Mao get all triumphant in his first Beijing military parade, while Jiang squirms, it's nice drama if you know more of the details, which I'm sure a Chinese audience does, with a good bit of skew. seeing the story drawn out from one famous photograph (Mao and Jiang's toast in Chongqing) to another (actually, I was surprised they didn't model the Tiananmen declaration photo - a tease) is fun to watch, since it was a fascinating set of campaigns - this film was a gloss, a pretty and basically correct gloss. most of what's wrong with it is what was left out.

as for "basically correct", what was up with that conversation about "we need the capitalists or the economy won't work right" - were they supposed to be talking about the situation on the ground, or was that supposed to be some revision of what the CCP was thinking ALL ALONG?
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Re: The Founding of a Republic

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sat Nov 07, 2009 3:09 pm

I agree with what you're saying, definitely, about the propaganda scenes (the scene with Zhang Ziyi touting the brilliance of the five-star flag design in the cutesiest possible way was fairly blatant), though somewhat disagree that there is no characterisation. There isn't much space for it, so I can see somewhat the justice of your point that they can come across as cartoon archetypes; however, the plot is driven by Jiang's character flaws and by Mao's exploitation of them - his suspicion, his inflexibility and heavy-handedness toward dissenters and (with regard to the corruption in the GMD) his indecision. My interpretation was that the Red Army's victory is not shown as inevitable, but rather enabled by Jiang's political mistakes.

agga wrote:as for "basically correct", what was up with that conversation about "we need the capitalists or the economy won't work right" - were they supposed to be talking about the situation on the ground, or was that supposed to be some revision of what the CCP was thinking ALL ALONG?


:lol:

I'd wondered about that, too. It's like watching the official history redact itself before our eyes!
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Re: The Founding of a Republic

Unread postby agga » Tue Nov 10, 2009 2:42 am

WeiWenDi wrote:however, the plot is driven by Jiang's character flaws and by Mao's exploitation of them - his suspicion, his inflexibility and heavy-handedness toward dissenters and (with regard to the corruption in the GMD) his indecision. My interpretation was that the Red Army's victory is not shown as inevitable, but rather enabled by Jiang's political mistakes.


i don't think there was actually enough information in the film to make this kind of interpretation - you're reading between the lines, as I was, and as were chinese viewers. I think that Jiang was basically portrayed as a flailing depressive, and that none of his actions were shown to have any consequence at all - the movie presents the story as if the crucial factors were the CCP's ability to get KMT and CDL members to attend the conference they were calling (it's almost like one of those movies where the scrappy rock band organizes an independent music festival, and all they need is for those record executives to show up - will they make it??), and emphasizes the political defeat of Jiang. but, it's all shown as myth - there's almost zero description of why the KMT was losing popular support (the little side-story with Jiang's son was interesting).

Mao, on the other hand, is shown as riding a wave into Beijing (there is that little dip at the beginning), just sitting back and smiling, repeatedly amazed at his good fortune (but maybe this is actually accurate?). very little is shown regarding important decisions that were made - it really is presented as if the CCP victory was inevitable, or at least that it was clinched by the participation of the CDL and some KMT defectors. like i said before, it's a history of famous faces. on top of that, the faces are cartoons - depressed Jiang, ebullient Mao. but, what can you really do in 2 hours? maybe someday they'll do this story some real credit with one of those great miniseries that CCTV does so well. if they could maintain the tone, but add much more detail and character, it would be fantastic. (Mao's only flaw seems to be his chain-smoking; it would have been good public health policy to redact that as well!)

in all, it was a good show, and most of its propaganda value was in what was left out - which makes it pretty watchable and entertaining, and much less kitschy and overbearing than it would have been if it were made a few decades ago.
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Re: The Founding of a Republic

Unread postby Cao Chao » Thu Apr 22, 2010 2:30 am

Personally, I've gotten quite sick of the amount of Chinese Civil War / Sino-Japanese War movies and series that have been made (not to say that some of them are quite good - The City of Life and Death aka Nanjing! Nanjing). It's like they can't think of anything else or flesh out any other topic. If you take a look at historical movies, there isn't anything really that is made about any period between the Chinese Civil War and today.
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