A TRAVELLER’S GLANCE
Antonioni in China
It is understandable that Michelangelo Antonioni, one of the few Western directors permitted to film in China during the Cultural Revolution, was able to catch only a ‘quick glance’ of the country, as he put it in his 1972 documentary, Chung Kuo–Cina; time constraints and the political situation did not allow him to do otherwise. But what a glance! The film galvanized the prc in a mass campaign against the director and touched off diplomatic incidents across Europe; four decades later, it would again stir intense but very different responses among Chinese viewers. In between, Chung Kuo had become that intriguing oxymoron: a well-known obscure film. The least seen and least studied of Antonioni’s works in the West, in China its notoriety was once inversely matched by the number of its viewers—it was the film that everybody deplored but almost nobody had watched.
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