So I'm researching camera angles for an article I'm writing, and so I break out the trusty Susan Sontag, On Photography, and I finally get to the last essay/chapter, which I guess I've never read.
It's the one where she talks about Michelangelo Antonioni's Chung Kuo - Cina, his 1972 documentary gift from Italy to the PRC--which promptly got caught up in China's internal party battle between Mao's wife and Zhou Enlai, and was massively denounced as a vicious pack of anti-China propaganda. [The Party had approved and supervised/surveilled the 8-week shooting, and Antonioni deployed secret cameras at various points to shoot un-preapproved crowd shots.]
As evidence, the Communist-controlled news media published an analysis/critique of Antonioni's editing techniques, his subjects--and his camera placement:
And he was accused of denigrating the right subjects by his way of photographing them: by using "dim and dreary colors" and hiding people in "dark shadows"; by treating the same subject with a variety of shots -- "there are sometimes long-shots, sometimes close-ups, sometimes from the front, and sometimes from behind" -- that is, for not showing things from the point of view of a single, ideally placed observer; by using high and low angles -- "The camera was intentionally turned on this magnificent modern bridge from very bad angles in order to make it appear crooked and tottering"; and by not taking enough full shots -- "He racked his brain to get such close-ups in an attempt to distort the people's image and uglify their spiritual outlook."Now I'm fascinated. The film--and subsequently, all Antonioni's work--was banned in China, and was only shown for the first time in 2004. It caused a diplomatic scene at the Venice Film Festival in 1974 when it was set to be screened at La Fenice.
I'm trying to download a torrent of it right now, but otherwise, it's so hard to find, you might as well be in China. The only thing on the YouTube, appropriately enough, is a five-min segment of comrades lining up to have their photos taken in Tianenmen Square.
ESWN has excerpts of Umberto Eco and Sontag discussing the film's Chinese reaction [via archive.org, found via supernaut]
Google trans. of clip's narration/subtitles [fuluzhenxiang]