Published: March 2, 2015

This Friday, March 6, Kenneth Chan of the University of Northern Colorado will present on Hong Kong director Stephen Fun's two-part 3D martial arts extravaganza, Tai Chi Zero and Tai Chi Hero.

These kung fu flicks would have been unremarkable as Hong Kong entries to the genre if not for the fact that the director has amalgamated, rather creatively, the martial arts film with a form of retro science fiction: steampunk films. While the deployment of this fin de siècle fantasy aesthetic injects new life to contemporary martial arts cinema (since Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon renewed global attention to the genre in 2000), Chan wishes to unpack its cultural logic by suggesting (1) that the film reformulates the familiar tension between Chinese cultural traditionalism and technologized modernity, and (2) that it forces a rethinking of China's and Chinese cultures' relationship to the West, especially with the rise of China as a modern economic giant and a major player in 21st century global capitalism. Does technology function as a cinematic/cultural trope to signify China's entry into the circuit of cosmopolitan engagement? And if so, what are the ideological and cultural implications of this mode of representation?

Chan will give his talk at 5:00 p.m. in Humanities 250 on the CU-Boulder campus. This event is part of our 2014-15 "Mediating Asia" series.

Steampunk-ed Kung Fu