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At Full Speed: Hong Kong Cinema in a Borderless World

Esther C. M. Yau Editor
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    At Full Speed
    Book Description:

    Breathtaking swordplay and nostalgic love, Peking opera and Chow Yun-Fat’s cult followers-these are some of the elements of the vivid and diverse urban imagination that find form and expression in the thriving Hong Kong cinema. All receive their due in At Full Speed, a volume that captures the remarkable range and energy of a cinema that borrows, invents, and reinvents across the boundaries of time, culture, and conventions. Contributors: Jinsoo An, David Bordwell, Rey Chow, Steve Fore, Elaine Yee-Lin Ho, Law Kar (Lau Yiu-kuen), Kwai-cheung Lo, Linda Lai Chiu-han, Gina Marchetti, Hector Rodriguez, Bhaskar Sarkar, Marc Siegel, Stephen Teo.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8969-9
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Hong Kong Cinema in a Borderless World
    (pp. 1-28)
    Esther C. M. Yau

    Transactions across the terrain of a borderless world have become an economic prerogative in the new millennium. Increasingly, they shape the making of world styles in metropolitan centers. Along with migrant communities, media images, and imported music and arts, Hong Kong movies have become a highly visible component of changing world styles. The products of a world city and a colony lately transformed into Chinas Special Administrative Region, many Hong Kong movies circulate widely throughout the global cultural marketplace. Through video outlets, cable television, and digital networks, along with theatrical distribution and select festivals, these films have reached locations as...

  5. Part I. Hong Kong’s New Wave Cinema

    • CHAPTER ONE An Overview of Hong Kong’s New Wave Cinema
      (pp. 31-52)
      Law Kar

      In the early 1980s, some young directors and screenwriters who came to film through television began to address the city’s tensions in several Hong Kong films that conveyed a strong sense of the city’s contemporary rhythms. Beginning in 1979, the impact of these young people on Hong Kong’s Cantonese cinema was powerful. Young critics used a borrowed label and began debating the existence of a New Wave cinema in Hong Kong. There was no doubt that the films and their makers were forging a new cinema at the time. Even though this new cinema has changed its contours, the directors...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Emergence of the Hong Kong New Wave
      (pp. 53-70)
      Hector Rodriguez

      Writing in the Hong Kong periodicalFilm Biweeklyin October 1979, the editor, Law Wai-ming, heralded “the beginning of a new era” in local cinema, an artistic revolution presumably ushered in by the films of the young directors Tsui Hark, Ronnie Yu, Alex Cheung, Ann Hui, and Patrick Tarn. This rhetoric of rupture and transformation crystallized around the concept of a “Hong Kong New Wave”; Law described the emerging filmmakers as “a collective symbol of all that is new in the industry,” whose presence marked the birth of a genuine art cinema movement.¹ Employing similar terms, many Hong Kong film...

  6. Part II. In Action:: Entertainment, Aesthetics, and Reinventions

    • CHAPTER THREE Aesthetics in Action: Kungfu, Gunplay, and Cinematic Expressivity
      (pp. 73-94)
      David Bordwell

      In 1996 a major American publisher issuedSex and Zen and a Bullet in the Head,a guide to what the authors consider the most headbanging, let-’er-rip filmmaking on the planet. “Gone are the flying pigtails and contrived fistthuds of your father’s favorite chopsockies,” the blurb on the back tells us.Sex and Zen and a Bullet in the Headis a hilarious read, and the peppy plot synopses play up the films as seedy, sexy, bloody, and nutty. But the authors’ introduction warns that “film school polemics,” dosed with “pointy-headed, white-wine-and-baked-brie philosophizing,” cannot adequately describe the “scalding propulsion” of...

    • CHAPTER FOUR The Killer: Cult Film and Transcultural (Mis)Reading
      (pp. 95-114)
      Jinsoo An

      Critical attention to John Woo’s Hong Kong action films in the West has engendered inquiries about the relationship between his exuberant cinematic style and the social anxiety driven by the historical situation of Hong Kong.¹ According to some views, these films are preoccupied with the rapidly changing geopolitics of Hong Kong and its uncertain future after the 1997 takeover. Such contextual readings locate Woo’s action films ambiguously in the tropes of national cinema, which are concerned particularly with the ways in which the social anxiety attendant on impending takeover is configured in crisis and apocalyptic visions. By reading the films...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Life Imitates Entertainment: Home and Dislocation in the Films of Jackie Chan
      (pp. 115-142)
      Steve Fore

      Especially in the 1980s and 1990s, Hong Kong filmmakers have been highprofile participants in the trend toward what Ackbar Abbas describes as a “new localism” in the territory that “investigates the dislocations of the local, where the local is something unstable that mutates right in front of our eyes.”¹ The films of directors such as John Woo, Clara Law, Tsui Hark, Ann Hui, Wong Kar-wai, and others have been recognized by Chinese and Western critics alike as genre-based articulations of the parameters of this new localism. More recently, though, a handful of Hong Kong directors (including Woo, Tsui, Ringo Lam,...

    • CHAPTER SIX Tsui Hark: National Style and Polemic
      (pp. 143-158)
      Stephen Teo

      Like his great compatriot, erstwhile collaborator, and current rival, John Woo, Tsui Hark has gone Hollywood. Having secured a place for himself as a commercially dependable director in the Hong Kong cinema and gained cult status in the West with films such asPeking Opera Blues [Dao Ma Dan]andOnce Upon a Time in China [Huang Feihong],Tsui Harks place in the pantheon of outstanding directors is guaranteed. His credentials as both a commercial director and a cult filmmaker with a New Wave upbringing paved his way to Hollywood. Critics at home may flinch at Tsui’s unnerving ability to...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Hong Kong Hysteria: Martial Arts Tales from a Mutating World
      (pp. 159-176)
      Bhaskar Sarkar

      I have never been to Hong Kong. Yet the so-called capital of Asian capitalism glistens like a pearl in my sense of the emergent transnational imaginary. The city has become a signifier of dynamism and growth. It is the ideal to which other megalopolises like Kuala Lumpur and Bombay are compared.¹ For many Asians, upward mobility is coterminous with a one-way ticket to Hong Kong. Deepa Mehta's filmFire(1997), an Indo-Canadian coproduction, dramatizes this tendency in the figure of a video-store owner from Delhi who loves martial arts films, has a Chinese girlfriend, and dreams of migrating to Hong...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Women on the Edges of Hong Kong Modernity: The Films of Ann Hui
      (pp. 177-206)
      Elaine Yee-lin Ho

      The career and films of Ann On-wah Hui over the past three decades have inscribed the transitional history of Hong Kong cinema from domination by imported English-language and Mandarin films to the production of a corpus of indigenous-language films of artistic quality and merit. Hui herself has, in turn, acted to bring this history into being. In significant ways, this cinematic history bears witness to a critical juncture in Hong Kong’s recent history: a rapid urbanization that radically redrew the physical and sociocultural contours of the territory; the emergence of an indigenous middleclass elite, newly aware and confident of itself...

  7. Part III. A Culture of Disappearance:: Nostalgia, Nonsense, and Dislocation

    • CHAPTER NINE A Souvenir of Love
      (pp. 209-230)
      Rey Chow

      Any visit to Hong Kong in recent years tells one that strong feelings of nostalgia are at work in the general consumer culture. Aswaigau/huaijiu¹—the most commonly used Chinese term for nostalgia—becomes a trend, the city culture of Hong Kong takes on the appeal of an ethnographic field. Landmarks such as the Repulse Bay Hotel, the Peak Restaurant, and the Western Market have been rebuilt or renovated in such ways as to resurrect their former colonial “flavor.” Exhibitions were held in 1992 of Hong Kong postcards from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, of Hong Kong...

    • CHAPTER TEN Film and Enigmatization: Nostalgia, Nonsense, and Remembering
      (pp. 231-250)
      Linda Chiu-han Lai

      The ruthlessly beautiful evening skyline during the handover week leading to 1 July 1997 harbored all yearnings to remember—once and for all—the end of the territory’s colonial history, as if those intense, concentrated moments of festivity would allow the people of Hong Kong to let go from then on, finally to free themselves from the burden of coloniality. The neon lights along the shores of the harbor promised a bright, rosy future. The grand ceremonies, headed by the two sovereigns of China and Great Britain, strummed with unprecedentedly dignified civility. And the alternative handover “ceremony” put up by...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Transnational Exchanges, Questions of Culture, and Global Cinema: Defining the Dynamics of Changing Relationships
      (pp. 251-260)
      Gina Marchetti

      In recent years, the terms “nation” and “culture” have provided the fuel for countless discussions involving borders, border crossings, transnationalism, and globalization in media studies. There seems to be general agreement that changing economic, political, social, and other relationships precipitated by new technologies have dramatically changed the cultural landscape. However, moving down from the theoretical plane to the level of scholarly practice, established categories tend to dominate research. In the case of motion picture studies, for example, books on “national” cinemas abound, and the idea of “culture” as self-evident, self-contained, bordered, and monolingual is still taken for granted.

      Scholarship coming...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Transnationalization of the Local in Hong Kong Cinema of the 1990s
      (pp. 261-276)
      Kwai-cheung Lo

      The notion of transnationality opens up a new possibility of studying the social and cultural conditions of Hong Kong cinema in the 1990s and poses a daunting challenge for us to rethink the concept of the local. Hong Kong, the second largest source of film exports in the world, is undergoing an unprecedented process of decolonization and at the same time is engaged in forming a newly unified national identity under the regime of Communist China in the name of “one country, two systems.” It is understandable that films produced in Hong Kong would be harnessed with a more distinctive...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN The Intimate Spaces of Wong Kar-wai
      (pp. 277-294)
      Marc Siegel

      Happy Together [Chunguang Zhaxie](1997), Wong Kar-wai’s first film to focus on a homosexual relationship, is also the directors first film to take place outside of Asia. The interrelatedness of these two “firsts” — homosexuality and flight from Hong Kong — is articulated right from the start of the film. The first images, which appear even before the title, are two jerky closeups of the passports of the protagonists, Ho Po-wing (Leslie Cheung) and Lai Yiu-fai (Tony Chiu-wai Leung), as they are stamped for entry into Argentina. Immediately following the title, we are treated to a grainy black-and-white sequence in which the...

  8. Glossary
    (pp. 295-310)
  9. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 311-322)
    Esther C. M. Yau
  10. Contributors
    (pp. 323-326)
  11. Index
    (pp. 327-342)