Performance enhancement: Identity, surface aesthetics and the direction of actors in 陽陽 Yang Yang (Cheng Yu-Chieh, 2009) | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 28, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1059-440X
  • E-ISSN: 2049-6710



Relating the story of a young Eurasian woman training to be an athlete and then an actress, Yang Yang (Cheng Yu-Chieh, 2009) focuses insistently on the act of performance. This article argues that the protagonist Yang-Yang is defined by her heterogeneity in relation to conventional markers of identity, occupying a fluid zone in which performativity meets performance. These dynamics are teased out by the film’s unusual cinematography, which utilizes extremely shallow focus and fixates relentlessly on surface and foreground. This aesthetic forces the audience into proximity with the actors, and arguably alludes to the protagonist’s repression, possibly the result of trauma, which is self-reflexively dramatized when Yang-Yang is asked by a director to release her ‘true self’. However, Cheng avoids essentialist notions of identity, and if his protagonist’s behaviour might be interpreted in terms of improvisatory tactics, then his own approach similarly creates a space for the spontaneous and unplanned.


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