Bodies in crisis: Sensuality and the cinematic reconfiguration of the spy genre in contemporary Chinese cinema | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 1, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 2051-7084
  • E-ISSN: 2051-7092



Spy films produced during the Cold War and the immediate post-Cold War era in Mainland China reflect a heightened anxiety of national security and serve primarily as political propaganda. This article examines the changing cultural context of post-socialist China and the transformation of the spy film genre in contemporary Chinese cinema in the age of globalization and transnationalism. Looking specifically at three recently released films, Ang Lee’s Se jie/Lust, Caution (2007), Chen Guofu and Gao Qunshu’s Fengsheng/The Message (2009) and Alan Mak and Felix Chong’s Ting feng zhe/The Silent War (2012), this article examines the centrality of body narrative to the cinematic reconfiguration of the spy genre in contemporary Chinese cinema. It argues that the recently emerged spy films demonstrate special interests in the body’s dual role in cinema – as both an image that invites the embodied spectator to engage with it and a site where multiple discourses of nationhood, sexuality and individual identity intersect to reveal the transnational imagination and reconfiguration of the spy figure, whose identity can no longer be defined by an absolute dichotomy between mind and body, between exteriority and interiority, but by the constant tension generated from the inseparability between the mind’s rationality and the body’s corporeality.


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