Discussion for The Good Earth and Fu Manchu films (Wednesday 2/4)

February 1, 2009 at 8:31 pm 9 comments

Please prepare for class on Wednesday by selecting a scene from THE GOOD EARTH  and one of the two Fu Manchu films (DAUGHTER OF THE DRAGON and THE MASK OF FU MANCHU). We will watch the clips in class and discuss them.  You can post your selection by resonding to this post.  I expect all students from the class to post, but we may not get to everyone’s selection due to time constraints—so we will start with the scenes the most people in class have selected.

When making your selection, please be specific about the scene: at what point in the film did it occur?  What action and develops took place?  And which characters were involved?  Please limit your clip to about 5-10 mins.  Also, when making your selection, tell us why you selected this scene—what is its significance in the film?  Does it tell us something about the larger discussion—in relation to race and representation, filmic language, popular culture, etc.—we have been having in class?

Lastly, please formulate at least one question with your selection to initiate discussion in class.  I will be referencing your selections as I prepare for class on Wednesday afternoon, so please post before noon on Wednesday.  And don’t forget to sign your posts.  Thank you!

Posted by Ming-Yuen S. Ma

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Fu Manchu in Star Wars? Presentation and Discussion of P.O.P./Cultural Intimacies on Wedensday, 2/18, 7pm, BH210

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Michelle Fong  |  February 4, 2009 at 7:07 am

    THE GOOD EARTH
    (1) When it occurred in film? What action and developments took place? Which characters were involved?

    The scene that stuck out to me occurred when the crowd stampedes a mansion, ransacks it and O-Lan is trampled. Afterwards, when most have left, she finds a bag of abandoned jewels. Her brief joy is interrupted by the sound of gun shots. She hides the jewels in her clothes right before soldiers drag her outside. Tension builds as we discover that there is a firing squad killing those who plundered the mansion. Just as O-Lan is next in line to be killed, the army is ordered to leave and there is some relief.

    (2) What is its significance in the film?

    O-Lan is usually subservient and reserved in the film. The attention is primarily focused on her husband, Wang Lung. Here we see her act out independently and more boldly. She’s probably driven by hunger and need to support her family. O-Lan, the supposedly weak woman, saves the family from poverty, not Wang Lung.

    (3) Does it tell us something about the larger discussion we’ve been having in class?

    There were Asian actors with perfectly American accents yet they still chose yellow-face for the main characters. Wang Lung and O-Lan were white actors in yellow-face with Asian-accented English.

    The crowd stampede was interesting in that it was the first time we’ve seen it in the films screened for this class. They had shots from higher up so that you could see the movement of the crowd. They used music (?) and alternating shots between the crowd and close-ups of O-Lan being trampled to build up tension.

    There wasn’t very much conversation relative to other scenes. They used shots to tell the story more than words. Examples include the stampede, the patting down of the woman before she got shot, the firing squad and finding the bag of jewels. Even without words I felt myself nervous about her fate with the firing squad and relieved when she survived the stampede and found the bag of jewels.

    (4) Question to initiate discussion.

    O-Lan and Lucy (from Broken Blossoms) act similarly even though O-Lan’s situation seems relatively better. What is the point of making O-Lan seem broken down, sad and weak?

    THE MASK OF FU MANCHU
    (1) When it occurred in film? What action and developments took place? Which characters were involved?

    After Fu Manchu discovers Terry has given him the fake Genghis Khan sword, he orders him whipped. Fu Manchu’s daughter sees to this. Terry is dragged out and whipped by black slaves while the daughter supervises. Afterwards, we see her admiring him as he lays unconscious.

    (2) What is its significance in the film?

    It shows what a villain Fu Manchu’s daughter is. She can torture someone that she appears to like. If she is this evil, then Fu Manchu must have no limits. She had a very intense, scary and almost possessed look on her face as Terry was whipped. It was almost as if she was deriving pleasure from it. It was sickening.

    (3) Does it tell us something about the larger discussion we’ve been having in class?

    As we discussed earlier in class, there was up-lighting, especially when the shot focused on Fu Manchu’s daughter during the whipping. This brought out facial features that made her appear more villainous. In addition, there is a shot of just Fu Manchu’s head inserted in the whipping scene. Like his daughter, Fu Manchu appears happy during the whipping.

    The villains are yellow-face. Their dress is very regal.

    (4) Question to initiate discussion.

    What is the purpose of the shot of Fu Manchu’s head during the whipping scene?

    –Michelle Fong

    Reply
  • 2. rylee rubalcava  |  February 4, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    The scene I chose from the good earth is the final one when O-lan is dying and Wang Lung is by her bedside telling her that she was the best wife a man could have. I selected this scene because throughout the film O-lan had given so much of herself to her husband, and received little in return. She was the real reason any good ever came to him, and it was not until this scene that Wang Lung had a true appreciation for his ever faithful wife. It is telling of a larger discussion of gender and inequality, and how often in society women are not seen as equals.

    The scene I chose from Daughter of the Drangon comes after Ling Moi makes an attempt at killing the Petri son, but is not able to do it. She goes to the alter and holds up a knife in an effort to kill herself because she says she would rather die herself than kill the man she loves. She is stopped by the old man. This is significant in the film because it represents the weakness shown by what is considered a womanly trait. Foo himself would have never shown this kind of weakness but because Lin Moi is a woman emotional weakness in inherent in her.

    Question: Why are women so often portrayed as weak characters when in fact it is often the case that they are the real heroes?

    Reply
  • 3. Fred Chang  |  February 4, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Scene selected:
    Mask of Fu Man Chu – The scene where Dr. Fu Manchu mixes the potion from the animals to create the mind control potion. This scene demonstrates Fu Manchu’s evil intentions with his intellectual knowledge. The scene has camera work and lighting that shows the cinematography skills of that time period. Also, it is a crucial point in the story.

    The Good Earth – The scene where Wang Lung, his sons, Ching and the works tried to fight off the locust. I thought this was an important scene because it shows Wang Lung’s relationship to the land. He is still dependent on it, regardless if he was poor or rich. Also, it demonstrated that in the face of crisis, family triumphs over all as Wang Lung forgives the Younger Son.

    -Fred

    Reply
  • 4. Brandon Sze  |  February 6, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Scene from The Good Earth-
    I would like to share the “Montage” scene where Olan gives birth to her first son while the rain puts the crops in jeopardy.

    This scene was one of the most striking and excited scenes from the movie. The sudden storm, the endangered crops, and Olan’s giving birth, amalgamates into a very perplexing emotion. To express this emotion, the filmmaker decided to adopt the “montage” technique. This technique shocked me because it basically consisted a few still shots (the door of their house, and the crops), with some poor special effects (the rain and thunder). The shot went back and forth between these few still pictures, and I wondered how the filmmakers can express such complicated feelings and emotions through a few still pictures and poor special effects.

    The surprising thing is that they did. Towards the end of this scene, the camera stopped at the door for about 5 to 10 seconds. The filmmakers attached to this very simple 10 second shot a piece of very dramatic music. With the music, the very boring shot was made into a scene full of emotions, anticipation, and adrenalin.

    Reply
  • 5. Tommy Meyer  |  February 10, 2009 at 8:23 am

    The Good Earth

    The scene I have selected from this movie occurs in the middle, when Wang Lung and O-Lan are in South China because of the famine. At the beginning of this scene, Wang Lung is outraged that his son stole meat from a lady, scolds him, and says that his family must be honest. Some days pass and the robbing of the Great House occurs. O-Lan manages to get a small bag of rubies, narrowly escapes from death, and brings her prize back to her husband. At the sight of the rubies, Wang Lung is ecstatic and realizes this is just what he needs to go back to the land.

    To me, this scene signifies the major change in Wang Lung’s character: he is acquiescing to the lifestyle he had tried so hard to avoid. With these rubies, Wang Lung has become the Lord of the Great House. This drastic transformation in Wang Lung’s character is quite ironic from the beginning of the scene because stealing is what incensed him so much. Yet when O-Lan brought back the rubies, which were stolen from the Great House, Wang Lung did not feel as those the rubies were stolen: they were now his property. This is the point in the movie where Wang Lung transforms from an honest hard-worker to a greedy Lord. This is most definitely the turning point in the movie.

    This scene is also a nice reflection of O-Lan’s character in that it shows her willingness to do anything for the betterment of her family, and more specifically, her husband. She takes the rubies from the Great House, and even though she was faced with death, she clung to her prize and managed an escape. Watching her face as she gave the rubies to her husband was priceless: all of the physical and emotional beating she had taken at the Great House was all worth it. She was thrilled that her husband appreciated her prize, and I sensed that this was her purpose in life.

    The Mask of Fu Manchu

    In this movie the scene I felt was most representative of the characters of Fu Manchu and Fah So Lee was directly following the whipping of Terry Granville. Fah So Lee was standing over Terry Granville’s unconscious body, smiling and thinking to herself. She leans down close to Granville’s body, but just as she attempts a kiss, Fu Manchu enters the room. Immediately Fah Lo See steps back. They converse, and Fu Manchu tells Fah Lo See that he needs Granville for further use. The scene then cuts, and we as the viewers are left with an accurate representation of these two characters.

    Fu Manchu is commonly depicted as an evil genius, and in this scene this notion holds true. He had Granville whipped unconscious and was devising an evil plan using Granville to get to Genghis Khan’s possessions. He does not appear angry with his daughter; rather he thinks carefully and simply tells her what he needs with Granville. He is able to be cool, calm, and collected, all which are traits that contribute to his overall character.

    Fah Lo See is represented as a sexually-driven, spirited, and submissive character in this scene. She begins by craving Granville’s body, gives sass to her father, and then ends the scene by retreating back from Granville’s body. This is because of the influence of Fu Manchu on her as a father. She follows the traditional role of passive daughter, and herein lays the true character of Fah Lo See.

    Question for further discussion

    Why do you think that Wang Lung’s character undergoes major transformation, while O-Lan’s remains relatively constant?

    – Tommy

    Reply
  • 6. Steven  |  February 11, 2009 at 2:01 am

    I was surprised by a scene that comes before the point when the family leaves for the south. Wang had, to this point, been adamant about holding onto his possessions, including his daughter and land, in the face of famine. However, he had requested that his uncle bring certain investors to his home to purchase his land. He is actually at the point of selling his land, even after admitting that its value is much greater than what they were offering, when his wife intervenes.

    Throughout the film, his wife is dedicated to the goal of him being the consummate farmer: honest, wealthy, and hard-working. She never tells him that she stole the jewels she brought him, so we can assume that they chose never to acknowledge his complicity in their theft. Other than that shortcoming, she is never content to let him stray from his goal, though it is she that steals the gems, and suggests that they sell their daughter.

    Wang’s dedication to his vision is not steady; only at the end does he finally return to the agrarian ideal.

    My question, then, is what are we supposed to think of him? Is he a simpleton, taking what life gives him, or is he a clever landowner who seeks to make his way through non-agricultural means as well?

    Reply
  • 7. Matthew Park  |  February 11, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Mask of Fu Manchu:
    One scene to take not of in the Mask of Fu Manchu, was the torture scene of Granville by Fu Manchu, his daughter, and the henchmen. The interesting aspect of this scene was the extended interaction of not two (asian and white, which we were used to seeing in the other movies screened) but three races: Asian, American, and African. The scene consists of Fu Manchu ordering the black henchmen to torture Petri. The first thing to take note of is the ‘alliance’ formed by the minority races. The Asians and Africans are portrayed as the villains hurting the valiant, white man. An even more interesting thing to point out is the hierarchy and roles the “villainous” races play. Fu manchu, representative of the asians, is supposed to be the supergenius and the mastermind behind the plot. On the other hand the black henchmen are muscular men with seemingly little independence, and capable of brute force. This perhaps reinforces stereotypes of the time (still present today)
    portraying asians as intelligent, and africans as physically superior.
    The scene I chose in The Good Earth, was the ending of the battle against the locusts. This is the second of two ‘victory’ scenes in the movie, the first being in the town when news of the successful revolution spread. The significance of the two scenes can be observed by comparing the setting and the manner in which the victories were celebrated. The first victory scene in the town takes place in the dark of the night. Everything is chaotic, and confusion and destruction are pervasive. Disorder (in addition to integrity) seems to be the binding theme. In the second victory scene against the locusts, however, the opposite is true. In terms of setting, they celebrate in the brightest time of day, which is contrasting to the previous night scene. Night is often associated with darkness or evil, all negative connotations, while daylight tends to represent good. Another difference in setting is the urban vs rural landscape. The victory in the farmlands was a portrait of unity and organization. It took a well planned strike to fend of the locusts, and when the farmers won, they celebrated together. This is starkly different from the victory in the town in which, despite having a successful revolution, people still seemed to be out for their self interest( ie the plundering). The point of the negative and positive imaging between the rural and urban victory scenes is to imply that the urban development was having a negative effect. Clearly the rural victory scene had numerous positive connotations as opposed to the urban one. It emphasizes the point that the cities are full of corruption, while the rural farmlands are innocent and untouched. The changing character of Wang in correspondence to the changing setting also supports this.

    Question: At first, Wang Lung and his family pray to the gods so that the earth is favorable to them. Later however, as the locust scene shows, they try to change the path of nature and try to dominate it. What does this victory convey?

    Reply
  • 8. Bailey Busch  |  February 12, 2009 at 2:40 am

    The Good Earth:
    Scene: When O-Lan is trampled while looting the palace and acquires the bag of jewels.

    1) When it occurred in the film:
    The family had already migrated to the south and were living as refugees.

    2)What is the scene’s significance?
    By embarking to saver her family on her own, by partaking in a looting raid, O-Lan is breaking her feminine stereotype. By not upholding the role as a subservient wife and mother she fails to yield to the patriarchal structures of society. While pushing her way into the palace she is trampled. When she is trampled the camera shot shows a foot stepping hon her stomach. Symbolically the stomach of a woman reads as a source of life, and connotes the virtues of femininity. The placement of the foot on her stomach suggests to the audience that O-Lan does not fit the typical role of a subservient mother. In essence, the statement is being made that children are not the only contribution of value that she can make to the family. The fact that she acquires the bag of jewels works to confirm this cinematic statement.

    (This theme runs throughout the film. In another scene, just after her baby is born, Wang Lung enters to find the baby laying on the bed while O-Lan sits separated from her child on the opposite side of the room.)

    3)Does it speak to the larger themes we’ve covered in class?
    As we’ve discussed, there are certainly portrayals of men, women, and relationships that are stereotypical. O-Lan’s divergence from that mold is crucial to highlight as she is represented as a heroine who supports and saves the family, she is the backbone that holds their values together.

    4)Question:
    Why was O-Lan portrayed as such a strong character?… especially after her apparent subservient/reserved behavior at the beginning of the film.

    -Bailey

    Reply
  • 9. Liana Engie  |  February 12, 2009 at 3:03 am

    The Mask of Fu Manchu:
    At what point in the film did it occur? What action and develops took place? And which characters were involved?

    The scene I chose is the one in which Fu Manchu is testing the authenticity of the sword. Lightning streaks flash about and he also reaches out his hand so that the lightning will jump onto his fingers, looking ominous.
    His daughter stands behind him, on the right of the screen.

    why you selected this scene—what is its significance in the film?

    In the scene, Fu Manchu feels so close to reaching his end goal. He can see himself with the sword and the mask, dreaming of his power and the control over others that he will have. He is at a point that is pivotal to his future and his power.

    Does it tell us something about the larger discussion—in relation to race and representation, filmic language, popular culture, etc.—we have been having in class?

    Fu Manchu is depicted as the wise, evil Oriental scientist who mystically controls the lightning and is using some intimidating and foreign process of testing a magical object. Lightning is used.

    The Good Earth:
    At what point in the film did it occur? What action and develops took place? And which characters were involved?

    I chose the scene where Wang Lung first sees his second wife, Lotus. He is sitting in a bar/restaurant; a city establishment which he is uncomfortable in.

    why you selected this scene—what is its significance in the film?

    Wang Lung is at a pivotal point in his life. He is beginning to get the power and control of a lord – though he has been building the fields up over time, now he has just bought the lord’s house and is beginning to show the darker side of himself. It starts with this moment – seeing Lotus (“She’s like a dream!”) and falling for her.

    Does it tell us something about the larger discussion—in relation to race and representation, filmic language, popular culture, etc.—we have been having in class?

    Lotus is a dragon lady – she’s seductive and conniving; a gold digger who tries to woo her husband’s son. Wang Lung also shows the two sides of himself – one when he is in the city and his true self from when he was on the land.

    Reply

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