by Meaghan Morris, Siu Leung Li, Stephen Ching-Kiu Chan
Duke University Press, 2006, US, $23.95, ISBN13 978-1-932643-01-5
Part 1: History, Imagination and Hong Kong Popular Culture
-Moving Body: The Interactions Between Chinese Opera and Action Cinema / YUNG Sai-shing
-Interactions Between Japanese and Hong Kong Action Cinemas / Kinnia YAU Shuk-ting
-The Myth Continues: Cinematic Kung Fu in Modernity / Siu Leung LI
-The Fighting Condition in Hong Kong Cinema: Local Icons and Cultural Antidotes for the Global Popular / Stephen CHAN Ching-kiu
-Order/Anti-Order: Representation of Identity in Hong Kong Action Movies / DAI Jinhua
Part 2: Action Cinema as Contact Zone
-Genre as Contact Zone: Hong Kong Action and Korean Hwalkuk / KIM Soyoung
-Hong Kong Action Film and the Career of the Telugu Mass Hero / S. V. SRINIVAS
-Hong Kong-Hollywood-Bombay: On the Function of "Martial Art" in the Hindi Action Cinema / Valentina VITALI
-Let's Miscegenate: Jackie Chan and His African-American Connection / Laleen JAYAMANNE
-The Secrets of Movement: The Influence of Hong Kong Action Cinema upon the Contemporary French Avant-garde / Nicole BRENEZ
-At the Edge of the Cut: An Encounter with the Hong Kong Style in Contemporary Action Cinema / Adrian MARTIN
Part 3: Translation and Embodiment: Technologies of Globalisation
-Wuxia Redux: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as a Model of Late Transnational Production / Stephen TEO
-Hong Kong Film and the New Cinephilia / David DESSER
-Action Cinema, Labour Power and the Video Market / Paul WILLEMEN
-Spectral Critiques: Tracking "Uncanny" Filmic Paths Towards a Bio-Poetics of Trans-Pacific Globalization / Rob WILSON
-Technoscience Culture, Embodiment and Wuda pian / WONG Kin-yuen
Hong Kong Connections brings leading film scholars together to explore the circulation of Hong Kong cinema in Japan, Korea, India, Australia, France, and the United States, as well as its links with Taiwan, Singapore, and the Chinese mainland. In the process, this collection examines diverse cultural contexts for action cinema’s popularity and the problems involved in the transnational study of globally popular forms, suggesting that in order to grasp the history of Hong Kong action cinema’s influence we need to bring out the differences as well as the links that constitute popularity.
Contributors: Nicole Brenez, Stephen Chan Ching-kiu, Dai Jinhua, David Desser, Laleen Jayamanne, Kim Soyoung, Siu Leung Li, Adrian Martin, S. V. Srinivas, Stephen Teo, Valentina Vitali, Paul Willemen, Rob Wilson, Wong Kin-yuen, Kinnia Yau Shuk-ting, Yung Sai-shing
About the Authors
The editors all teach in the Department of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. Meaghan Morris is Chair Professor of Cultural Studies and Coordinator of the Kwan Fong Cultural Research and Development Programme. Siu Leung Li is an Associate Professor, and Stephen Chan Ching-kiu is a Professor and Director of the Master of Cultural Studies Programme.
Fact 1: Action cinema is the most popular form of cinematic entertainment.
Fact 2: It travels beyond borders and languages.
These facts have been repeatedly verified in the Eastern Hollywood since the 1960s with the churning out of kung fu, wu xia pian, and later with contempo gunfight-laden films. What’s more, HK filmmakers have brought their history and culture to the mix, shaping a distinctive action cinema in form and content. Their influence was, and still is, felt from Japan to Hollywood, from France to Bollywood. This ‘transnational Imagination in action cinema’ has made many scholars scratched their head.
Here, Meaghan Morris, Siu Leung Li and Stephen Ching-Kiu Chan have scratched a lot and probably lost some hair writing Hong Kong Connections. They deliver some remarkable essays on action cinema, with some though-provoking, original approaches involving this cinema genre’s origins as well as its influence and transnational nature.
Globalisation hasn’t been established overnight though. One of the writers shows that the action film culture in HK directly derived from the Chinese Opera culture – hardly an international art form. YUNG Sai-shing’s piece, Moving Body: The Interactions Between Chinese Opera and Action Cinema, explains the originality of local action films by drawing a valid and fascinating comparison. This is by far this reviewer’s personal favourite piece for the cultural and historical analysis of the HK action cinema roots it offers.
We need to delve into the HK action film history to see how it became popular with audiences in Asia since the 1960s and in the West with the emergence of Bruce Lee since the 1970s. These flicks have also captured the imaginations of filmmakers from any countries and cultures. This very popularity, border-crossing appeal and influence, in the East and in the West, have established HK as one of the most influential and copied film industry in the world.
Copied, digested and regurgitated: Nicole BRENEZ’ The Secrets of Movement: The Influence of Hong Kong Action Cinema upon the Contemporary French Avant-garde or Laleen JAYAMANNE’s Let's Miscegenate: Jackie Chan and His African-American Connection make some valid points although they highlight connections the mainstream audience would have never thought of.
Scholars, on the other hand, will be delighted by the innovative and bold essays on offer.
The volume is not so much for the novice but rather, the specialist who has already read hundreds of time any reviews, cultural and historical accounts on the HK cinema and who is looking for more original writings and film theory.
Note: Now that the influence of HK action films seems even stronger in every aspect of the globalised film-making process, from action choreography to editing and general pacing of action sequences, it is paradoxical to observe that the local HK film industry has been declining for a decade and has now stopped churning out action classics.
Thomas Podvin, Nov 30, 2008