American Masters (2008)

American Masters



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Filmmaker Arthur Dong's documentary Hollywood Chinese pays homage to the first century of the American film industry, as specifically colored and influenced by the Chinese immigrants to whom Hollywood owes an inestimable debt. Dong touches on everyone from actress Anna May Wong, of Limehouse Blues (1934) and Lady from Chungking (1943), to the late cameraman James Wong Howe, responsible for giving the Rock Hudson thriller Seconds (1966) such a creepy and inventive look. Dong also explores the … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Documentary, Television, Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By: Arthur Dong
In Theaters:
Louise Rosen Ltd. - Official Site

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Critic Reviews for American Masters

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (5)

Hollywood Chinese is both a history of the Chinese presence in American films and a meditation on the difficulties Chinese Americans have had in being seen as individuals and in putting the reality of their experience on screen.

Full Review… | May 30, 2008
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Surprisingly entertaining, Hollywood Chinese, a fast-paced survey of how the Chinese have been portrayed in American films from the silent era to the present, is packed with unexpected delights.

Full Review… | May 2, 2008
New York Post
Top Critic

A welcome entry in the constituency-cinema canon, Hollywood Chinese surveys a century‚(TM)s worth of Chinese-American actors and filmmakers, visionaries and dragon ladies, kung fu excellence and Fu Manchu insult, Oscar winners and clich√ (C) mongers.

Full Review… | May 2, 2008
New York Times
Top Critic

Half of the running time is devoted to clips both expected (The Good Earth) and refreshing (Marion Wong's undiscovered The Curse of Quon Gwon), the other to the musings of politely enraged talking heads.

Full Review… | April 30, 2008
Village Voice
Top Critic

Full Review… | November 17, 2011
Time Out
Top Critic

The film is primarily a more astute-than-average combination of vintage footage and talking heads.

Full Review… | May 30, 2008
Los Angeles Daily News

Audience Reviews for American Masters

[font=Century Gothic]"Hollywood Chinese" is a fascinating and informative documentary about the portrayal and roles of Chinese Americans in Hollywood films, as told through a plethora of clips and talking heads that include Nancy Kwan, Amy Tan, B.D. Wong, David Henry Hwang, Ang Lee, Wayne Wang, James Shigeta, James Hong, and Joan Chen.(Joan Chen did not just disappear after "The Last Emperor." At the very least, she was also a regular on "Twin Peaks.") What the documentary in general is interested in is the power of images and how they influence the viewer. This is then applied to a specific community, one that is simultaneously viewed as both exotic and repeatedly anglicized by Hollywood.[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]At the beginning of film, there were Chinese Americans who were pioneers in the field who tried to combat the stereotypes of the day.(I am always amazed whenever I come across any unfamiliar film history and there is plenty here.) With the advent of sound, the stereotypes softened somewhat but the roles of Chinese were played mostly by Caucasians, especially in "The Good Earth" and Charlie Chan films.(This is where Luise Rainer and Christopher Lee come into play.) But even there, there were young Chinese American actors who were finding work. Admittedly, some of it was for playing Japanese characters which is a practice that has been inexplicably continued to the recent day for "Memoirs of a Geisha."(No matter how far we have come, there is still work to be done.) Even after this, there were breakthroughs, even with the issue of stereotypes continuing.(The film makes no judgment about the work done by actors. Everybody's got to eat, right?) It is not until recently when Chinese Americans started directing movies that they were able to give a complete portrait of themselves to the wider world.[/font]

Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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