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John Woo's A Better Tomorrow

John Woo's A Better Tomorrow

Karen Fang
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 156
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  • Book Info
    John Woo's A Better Tomorrow
    Book Description:

    A Better Tomorrow has always been hailed as a milestone in Hong Kong cinema. This book describes the different responses to the movie in Hong Kong and later in its reception worldwide, which paved the way for the promotion of John Woo and Chow Yun-fat to their current prominence in Hollywood. Fang examines the different notions of the genre of action cinema in Asian and Western film industries. She tracks the connections between ying shung pian, or "hero" movie, the term by which Woo's film became famous in Hong Kong, and the spectacle of violence emphasized in the term "heroic bloodshed," the category in which the film was known in the West. Finally, she concludes with a discussion of the status of the film and its huge success in the current globalized industry.

    eISBN: 978-988-8053-37-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    In 1985, John Woo was a journeyman director working hard in romantic comedies and other modest projects, a respected but relatively unremarkable figure still largely on the sidelines of a burgeoning revolution in Hong Kong cinema.¹ Only slightly better known, Chow Yun-fat was known in the movie industry as an occasional romantic lead whose most successful work had been the television soap operas in which he had debuted. By 1986, however, with the release of A Better Tomorrow — in Mandarin, “Yingxiong bense,” or, in Cantonese, “Yinghuhng bunsik” — which Woo directed and in which Chow starred, the two were household names,...

  6. 2 The Film
    (pp. 7-36)

    A Better Tomorrow portrays the tragedies of three men, all on different sides of the law. At the beginning of the film Sung Ji-ho (Ti Lung) is a successful criminal involved in counterfeiting; Mark Lee, “Mark Gor,” or “Brother Mark” (Chow Yun-fat), is Ho’s suave and loyal partner; and Kit (Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing), Ho’s younger brother, is an aspiring police cadet who is unaware of Ho’s criminal activities. Mark’s honorific “Gor,” the Cantonese word for “older brother,” highlights the fraternal concerns that underlie this otherwise generic crime film. The term is in common usage among Hong Kong’s criminal underground to...

  7. 3 Hong Kong Reception, 1986
    (pp. 37-64)

    A Better Tomorrow caused a sensation immediately upon its opening in August 1986. Chow Yun-fat recounts that “at the premiere of the movie you can feel it in the atmosphere that the crowd was very excited by the movie. There was shouting and clapping of hands, which is not something that usually happens in Hong Kong movies.”¹ The impact apparent at the first public screening was followed by rave reviews which heralded the film as “explosive but sentimental” and “full of masculinity,” appreciating precisely those attributes that Woo had sought to bring out in the story.² Hong Kong moviegoers were...

  8. 4 Global Reception, ca. 1997
    (pp. 65-94)

    After 1986, John Woo and Chow Yun-fat were box office phenomena in Hong Kong, but abroad they had no more prominence than they had enjoyed at home, before the juggernaut of fame set in motion by A Better Tomorrow. The reasons for this neglect were structural: in the mid-1980s Hong Kong film, despite its innovation and local popularity, still remained largely below the global radar, visible overseas only in Chinatown theaters, occasional cult festivals, and in the videocassettes that fans — mostly Asian immigrant viewers — circulated among themselves.¹ In 1989, however, Woo’s subsequent hero film, The Killer, managed to escape these...

  9. 5 Afterword: A Better Tomorrow, Today?
    (pp. 95-110)

    Nearly two decades after the first release of A Better Tomorrow, John Woo and Chow Yun-fat find themselves atop the world movie industry, living legends who are globally renowned. Chow, like Bruce Lee before him, has transcended the Hong Kong market to become a male icon to youth throughout America and, unlike Lee, has done so outside an ethnically-specific category such as martial arts. Global superstardom has brought Chow a variety of usual and unusual honors, including serving as an Ambassador for the World Wildlife Federation — and, in 2001, becoming the subject of a valuable set of postage stamps issued...

  10. Appendix: Interview With John Woo
    (pp. 111-124)
    John Woo
  11. Notes
    (pp. 125-138)
  12. Filmography
    (pp. 139-144)