An interview with Visiting Professor, Frank Hsueh

November 12, 2019 by Denise Ing

The Cinema Studies Institute welcomes Visiting Professor, Frank Hsueh (Feng Xue 薛峰), Associate Professor of Cinema Studies, School of Arts, Wuhan University who will be in Toronto until October 2020 thanks to a Youth Talent Training fellowship. We asked him to tell us a bit about himself. 

What are your areas of research, and what drew you to those areas?

My research interests lie in early Chinese cinema, film adaptations of classical novels, and Chinese film history. Modern Chinese history is a fascinating field. I think exploring the history, including film history, is a necessary way to reveal the truth of reality. And adaptation studies forces us to reconsider how we respond to the ever-changing cultural products.

Are your research interests reflected in contemporary blockbuster films in China?

A few blockbuster films adapted from The Journey to the West are included in my research, for example, Stephen Chow’s 2013 movie Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, Pou-Soi Cheang’s 2014 movie, The Monkey King: Havoc in Heaven’s Palace. These two movies achieved huge box-office success, but not every Chinese like these adaptation versions. The monkey king is one of the most familiar cultural characters in the western world, and so I hope to learn the North American audience’s reaction to these film adaptations.

What was the very first film that made an impression on you?

First Blood (1982). In the 1980s, I was shocked by the action and gunshot scenes in this film when I saw it for the first time in my hometown in China. That kind of lifelike American action movie is different from the exaggerating style of the Chinese martial arts movies at that time. Many years later, I agree with David Bordwell’s theoretical description of Hong Kong films: ‘It is all too extravagant, too gratuitously wild.’

What are your top three favourite films or media of all time?

1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000). Due to this film, Chinese martial arts movies reached a new peak.

2. The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959). I believe that anyone who has seen this film would never forget the final full-length shot.

3. "Game of Thrones" (David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, 2011-2019). This TV series presents an alternative truth of reality through the impressive characters and the surrealistic plots.

Tell us about what research and activities you plan to pursue during your year in Toronto.

I plan to continue conducting the current research: the film adaptations of The Journey to the West, and explore the ways that early Chinese cinema is shown and spread. During my visit, I will participate in events sponsored by CSI, collaborate with CSI Faculty on research projects of mutual interest (e.g. film history, film adaptation, early Chinese cinema). And I will present my research at CSI. Meanwhile, I will actively participate in international conferences on cinema studies to be held in Toronto.