||This thesis investigates the narrative and individualism of Qiong Yao cinema, a genre generally termed as “wenyi aiqing pian” (literary and artistic romantic film) and “santing dianying” (film of three rooms) in Taiwan film history. Fifty novels written by the popular female writer Qiong Yao were adapted into films from 1965 to 1983. Qiong Yao cinema thrived with the rise of Taiwan's economy, the so called “Taiwan Miracle” between 1963 and 1980. Although Qiong Yao films made in this period are generally considered escapist romance, they in fact reflect social conflicts and project strong female subjectivity and individuality.
Chapter one elaborates on the twenty years of cinematic glory enjoyed by Qiong Yao genre. Qiong Yao adaptations are generally divided into two periods: the Southeastern Asian mode of the 60s and the Taiwan mode of the 70s, 80s. This chapter first introduces the adaptations made by the Central Motion Pictures Company and Grand Pictures Company to show the rise or fall of Qiong Yao genre and how Qiong Yao intervened in the production. The chapter argues that the materiality of the cinematic form makes Qiong Yao films distinctively different from her novels. Although the films are still very much in the Wenyi (literary and artistic) tradition of Taiwan, the representation of space on screen and the attraction of stars give Qiong Yao films a familiar but unique quality. The two representative directors in the Qiong Yao genre, Li Xing and Bai Jingrui, are briefly discussed before the chapter surveys the criticism on this genre, which underestimates the significance of Qiong Yao films.
Chapter two probes into pairs of binary oppositions recurrent in Qiong Yao films. This chapter argues that Qiong Yao film narrative in general is organized by two sets of binary oppositions, one social and the other cultural. On the social level, one can find the old/young contrast functioning in narrative involving a traditional family. There are also the poor/wealthy and morally good/bad contrasts playing important roles in the development of the plot. Besides the social opposition common in most melodramatic narratives, this chapter argues that there can be found in Qiong Yao film narrative cultural oppositions of art/money and modern/traditional. At the time when Taiwan was immersed in the drive of economic growth, the cultural oppositions help formulate a strong subjectivity in the scenario of a young individual with modern and artistic propensity fighting against the old generation which adheres to social traditions and embraces wealth. The two sets of oppositions propel the Qiong Yao narrative to the climax of the conflict between an individual and society. Not escaping from the social reality, Qiong Yao films sentimentally present social conflicts disguised within a romantic context for the target audiences: young women who were thoroughly engaged in Taiwan economic upheaval and found the exaltation of individualism highly appealing.
Chapter three further examines the romanticized individualism in Qiong Yao films. It analyzes how Qiong Yao films use nature and art/literature to highlight the value of individuality, the spirit of freedom, and the virtue of innocence. The chapter demonstrates that Qiong Yao films are by no means “santing dianying” (films shot in three rooms). It is in fact a generic convention for Qiong Yao films to include location shots with beautiful natural landscapes and characters with poetic names and artistic profession or inclination. The chapter argues that rather than depicting an unrealistic dreamland for the audience, Qiong Yao films create an ideal subjectivity for female audiences to identify with. Locations shots of spacious landscapes free protagonists' bodies while art and literature free their minds. Watching Qiong Yao films is not to passively dream for an otherworldly romance but to reassure the value and spirit of individuality. The chapter argues that it is this romanticized individualism that attracted the young female audience whose subjectivity was denied by the patriarchal and urbanizing society of Taiwan in the 70s.