Paying attention to form as well as theme, assess how Ju Dou deals with questions of the male and the recuperation of Chinese masculinity. Ju Dou is a film directed by Zhang Yimou, a fifth generation director. The plot entails a romantic relationship between Ju Dou and Tianquing, an adopted nephew by Ju Dou’s husband Jinshan, who is the owner of a dye factory. Ju Dou is the aunt of Tianquing, the relationship is supposed to be a family one, making their love affair illicit. Birth of her illegitimate child and the death of the two males make Ju Dou a controversial film.
Ju Dou rebellious character may have lead the film to be banned as it was considered politically dangerous portraying this type of female lead character, who rebels against male authority. ‘The feudal patriarchal figures in these films demand to be read allegorically as the communist party power structure itself. ‘ (Berry: 2006). Readings of the film is what resulted it in being band, which underpinned events of 1989. The 1989 events of Tiananmen Square, which lead to the fall of the communist party in China. Moral and social vales restrain Ju Dou and Tianqing relationship as they are always over shadowed ethical values.
Ideas of filial piety and chastity for woman are shadowing Ju Dou. When looking closer at filial piety, we have to understand that Tianquing tries to remain obedient to his ‘father’ figure, as he still looks after him even though he continues his affair openly in front of Jinshan. Ju Dou makes several suggestions to Tianqing to kill Jinshan and he refuses due to his loyalty that Jinshan is his master. ‘Ju Dou renders repressed male masculinity and sexuality in the form of visual allegories. ‘ (Cui: 2003) looking at the visuals of Ju Dou we can begin to see how male masculinity is repressed.
The’ female figure is trapped in an incestuous relationship with the patriarchal farther. ‘ (Cui: 2003) Ju Dou has been bought by Jinshan so she is his wife but also in debt to him like a slave. The entrapment allows the male figure to have what we can assume a dominating role/ power over Ju Dou. This dominating power is the ‘allegorical element, through which men attempt to verify their own identities (Cui: 2003)’. Jinshan sexual abuses Ju Dou, as he is impotent, therefore punishing her for his sexual inabilities, the sexual abuse is his way of remaining dominate and reinforcing his masculinity upon her.
When thinking about the Ju Dou and the representation of male masculinity we have to understand the culture this film is placed in. Western audiences have to become aware of the ideology and cultural belief of Chinese people at the time to understand the controversy regarding male masculinity within Ju Dou. Confucian ideology such as filial piety, which refers to ideals of certain virtues that are to be held above all else, such as respect for you elders and parents. Other cultural aspects that effect the perception of the film would be the dominance of the patriarchal system.
The patriarchal system refers to the social organisation of the male being the head/ leader of the family unit. ‘Ju Dou exposes the oppression that issue form social tradition’ (Cui: 2003). The narrative structure revolves around a female lead character; through the structure is how the audience are able to create meanings revolving around gender. Chi describes a triangle of relations, ‘which involved Jinshan, the wife Ju Dou and then the nephew Tianqing. ‘Cui suggest that the struggle to posses the woman threatens to restore the masculinity.
The narrative structure creates barriers of ‘human desire and ethical confinement’,(Cui: 2003). Cui points out that it is Ju Dou who initiates the seduction, express male desire through the representation of a women. The use of point of view shots brings us to the topic if the male gaze. Male gaze within Ju Dou is different to the Hollywood male gaze. The Hollywood male gaze is a topic the Laura Mulvey discusses. ‘Men act and women are acted upon. ‘ We could apply this to Ju Dou, the female is the lead character in the film as her actions are what primarily pushes the narrative forward.
Although her actions alone are not what pushes the narrative. Tianqing looks at Ju Dou through a peephole while she washes. As she washes we see her scars and bruises, this disrupts the idea that Tianqing is looking for pleasure but maybe out of pity. ‘Visual pleasure is structured according to a patriarchal ideology where by the female image signifies sexual difference while the male gaze controls the representation. ‘ (Cui: 2003). Themes of voyeurism within the film deal with questions of masculinity.