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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


A Comic Vision in a Tragic World: On Wang Tong’s Taiwan Trilogy

Vol. 41 No. 2   06/2011    


A Comic Vision in a Tragic World: On Wang Tong’s Taiwan Trilogy 


Shie, Elliott S.T. 









Key words

Wang Tong 王童, Taiwan trilogy, comedy, double vision, Taiwanese film


       Compared with Hou Hsiao-Hsien 侯孝賢, the Taiwanese director Wang Tong 王童 cannot be considered a revolutionary auteur in terms of film language, but no one would deny his talent for storytelling. As a storyteller, Wang Tong combines the tragic and comic and thus revives the tradition of melancholic laughter in modern Chinese literature. Using the theories of comedy, this essay explores and articulates the comical elements, spirit, and vision of Wang Tong’s Taiwan trilogy. The first part of the trilogy, The Straw Man, sets up a variety of comical devices, including grotesque bodies, chance, and coincidence, and manifests a comical rhythm of death and rebirth. Nonetheless, the seemingly happy ending of the film departs from the “living happily ever after” formula of pure comedy by hinting at the uncertainty of the future. The second film, Banana Paradise, besides employing the comic elements of the first film, mediates the struggle between the apparatus of the nation-state and the marginal underclass from Mainland China. Without using any big heroic action against the powerful, the powerless employ the tactics of parasitism, living with the oppressor of the nation-state and taking advantage of it for their own survival. The final film, Hills of No Return, endows the comic elements of sex and excrement with symbolic meanings, and critiques not only the Japanese colonial regime but also greedy human nature and the dehumanization of the market. As a whole, Wang Tong’s Taiwan trilogy provides a double vision through which the audience can recognize the contradictions and ambiguities of human affairs and can thereby avoid the one-sidedness inherent in the act of judging.



Author: Shie, Elliott S.T.
Genre: Article
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