Ziyi/Icon – Graham Fuller

From the Village Voice:

ZhangziyiBefore ’s 2046 opened here last month, it was heralded by a still of Zhang Ziyi espousing the kind of tantalizing erotic mystery that themselves seldom project these days. It might prove the most iconic image to have appeared since Marlene Dietrich was photographed leaning back on a beer barrel”to display a meaty thigh and her dreamy detachment from the febrile desire she elicits”during the winter 1929‚Äì30 UFA production of Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel.

Though it offers an invitation that cannot be fulfilled, the great Dietrich shot is, if anything, friendlier and more forgiving than that of Zhang’s nightclub escort Bai Ling, who aims her scornful stare at anyone with the gall to ogle or proposition her. Taken out of context, Bai’s defiance, its power enhanced by the low angle, could be invoked as a contemptuous post-feminist dismissal of the “controlling male gaze” identified by Laura Mulvey 30 years ago, though the movie itself reveals that Bai unconsciously desires to be trapped by her sadomasochistic longings for embittered playboy Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung).

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