Gertrude in white

Feng Xiaogang also cleverly plays on the cultural double-voicedness of the colour white, if you’ll excuse the synaesthesia, in the opening image of his 2008 film The Banquet (Ye Yan).  It opens with a shot of a woman, dressed in a long, white silk robe, its train trailing behind her as she walks away from the camera into an ebony black set, which evokes a Chinese temple or palace.  Again, the colour connotations are switching meaning, depending on whose is the eye of the beholder.  Yet in this case, the colour-code switching is central, and carefully premeditated, as the film is aimed at a global audience.  My Western eye reads death in the set but marriage in the dress.  Furthermore, the woman appears to be walking down an aisle, and the camera is angled above her as it was above Princess Diana, or any other televised royal bride. Yet she is in fact in mourning, which is evidenced when she reaches her destination, the empty armour of her dead husband.  It is only when she robes herself in red that she becomes a Chinese bride, but also reveals herself as the scarlet woman.

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