INTRODUCTION
Film and the Urban Contract
this book inquires into the relationship between city and film in the
People’s Republic of China (prc) and Taiwan from 1949 to 2008—
from the establishment of the People’s Republic to the Beijing Olym-
pics. China’s cityscapes have transformed from drab rows of uniform
housing to gentrified neighborhoods and glitzy malls—and from live
museums of vernacular architecture to showcases for brand-name
urban design. The urban change is the result of policies that aban-
doned Maoist economic planning in favor of capitalist globalization,
yet the transformation is also part of a shift in visual practices. The
cities’ new looks, now made famous by broadcasts from the Olympics,
result from novel observation practices, imaging technologies, and
concepts of visualization. The visual media, and especially the stage
and screen arts, have played a crucial role in shaping Chinese cities in
the past sixty years.
Like many modern urbanists around the world, Chinese planners
set out to build better cities to engineer better citizens. The task re-
quired complex networks and collaborations, forming what I call ‘‘the
urban contract.’’ This book details how this evolving contract resulted
in redacting structure designs and city plans, redefining interior and
public spaces, and reassessing the value of cultural heritage sites and
contemporary political monuments. New visual practices have accom-
panied the material developments—stage plays and films display ar-
chitectural models; filmmakers borrow imaging techniques from ad-
vertising; playwrights redefine the ‘‘fourth wall’’ and performance
spaces; cameramen use photography as a form of preservation. Urban
planning and the cinema have coalesced in creating new ways to
represent lived space and imagine historical time.
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