Cui Zi’en’s Night Scene and
China’s Visual Queer Discourse

By Jie Zhang

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 24, no. 1 (Spring 2012), pp. 88-111

This essay seeks to explain how Cui Zi’en, one of China’s most renowned contributors to its visual queer discourse, manages to at once highlight and defy the construction of gay culture in contemporary China by evading official, Western, and academic manipulation and through strategic self-abandonment into marginal positions. Through an analysis of Cui’s Night Scene (2004), a docudrama in which the director comments on the construction of China’s queer discourse through the lens of male prostitution, the essay demonstrates that Cui’s works are not about one single story, political position, or way of filmmaking; instead, their layered and fragmented narratives are combined with diverse perspectives and polyphonic voices, and all of these representations are rendered into one highly conscious performance that needs to be put into context–that is, China’s visual queer discourse, which is constantly under construction and in need of self-critique.