Books in English on Hong Kong film

Discussions about Hong Kong Movies

Books in English on Hong Kong film

Postby ewaffle » Sun Sep 18, 2005 4:45 am

In a thread on a different subject, “Asian Cult Cinema” by Thomas Weisser was discussed. The consensus seems that it is full of factual errors. Since the book is almost all facts—260 pages of short reviews, 52 pages of filmographies—this is a severe shortcoming. I would like some recommendations for good sources in English regarding Hong Kong films. I have the following, in addition to Weisser’s book: “Sex and Zen and a Bullet in the Head” by Stefan Hammond and Mike Wilkins; “Hollywood East” by Hammond; “Once Upon a Time in China” by Jeff Yang; “Hong Kong Action Cinema” by Bey Logan; “Planet Hong Kong” by David Bordwell; Spooky Encounters, A Gwailo’s Guide to Hong Kong Horror” by Daniel O’Brien.

Bordwell, a professor of film studies at the University of Wisconsin says that Logan’s book is “authoritative”. Bordwell himself, I am told by people who know him well, is a personally a jerk but an excellent scholar. He does write well, as does Dan O’Brien. Jeff Yang’s decade by decade summaries of movie production in Hong Kong, mainland China and Tiawan are very useful although brief but his reviews are a bit annoying, since he quotes lots of other reviews with no attribution. Hammond and Williams are a lot of fun and obviously know and love their subject.

Another source is the magazine “Video Watchdog”. It covers DVD releases of genre films—mainly horror but also martial arts, suspense and other. John Charles reviews East Asian releases and does an excellent job with what he is assigned. He is also the author of “The Hong Kong Filmography, 1977-1997” which covers over 1,000 films in detail. While I haven’t invested in this one yet, I may.

What else should be in my HK film library?
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Postby pjshimmer » Sun Sep 18, 2005 5:49 am

Hi, if you are intrigued by Wong Kar Wai, there is a new book on him titled "Wong Kar-wai" by Stephen Teo with in-depth analysis of each of his films including 2046, from a HIGHLY academic perspective. The writing is too academically forced for my taste, but if you don't mind that kind of writing style, the book is worth tracking down.
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Postby Gaijin84 » Sun Sep 18, 2005 1:32 pm

Another book by Stephen Teo is "Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions." I agree with pjshimmer in the opinion that his writing is too high-brow, but there is some interesting information, especially about the early years of Hong Kong cinema. One book that I found indispensable before this site got up and running again was "The Hong Kong Filmography, 1977-1997: A Complete Reference to 1,100 Films Produced by British Hong Kong Studios." It is quite expensive, but it gives short, informative reviews of tons of films as well as cast and crew lists, DVD info and more. Granted, getting access to HKMDB pretty much makes this book obsolete, but it is well done.
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Postby odresel » Tue Sep 20, 2005 12:49 pm

To these I would add "Paul Fonoroff at the Hong Kong Movies: 600 Reviews from 1988 till the Handover" (Hong Kong, Film BiWeekly Publishing House, 1998).

This is a massive reprint of his weekly film reviews in the South China Morning Post over a decade. There are three indicies: chronological, by English title, and by Chinese title, but the weird thing is that the Chinese index is by the first character of the Chinese title of the film in pinyin. This makes no sense, except politically...I guess! Anyway, most Westerners will not need this index.
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Postby dleedlee » Tue Sep 20, 2005 1:54 pm

Also invaluable are the Hong Kong Film Archives and HKIFF publications. They cover a variety of topics for both the casual and more serious readers, broad and specialized areas both.

http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalServi ... ation.html
http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publications/highlight.html
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Postby Brian Thibodeau » Tue Sep 20, 2005 3:37 pm

I have Fonoroff's book and have found it to be a reasonably useful resource, although it's difficult to find a film in it that the man truly likes. And his condescension toward modern Hong Kong cinema is palpable, particularly his odd habit of comparing films and trends unfavourably to the American counterparts from which they're often appropriated as if such an act can ONLY be detrimental (which I've found is hardly ever the case). Thankfully, he reviews films from across the spectrum - from girls-with-guns B-movies to A-list event pictures - and there's plenty of interesting geographical data and gossipy tidbits that many of us outside the former colony simply don't have access to. That said, though, it's clear that he finds "classic" Chinese cinema preferable to virtually anything he's written about in the last 20 years, as is evidenced by most of his work outside of reviewing current releases.

I'm on chapter three of Bordwell's book PLANET HONG KONG right now and am fascinated by his approach to breaking down sequences to discover what sets Hong Kong stylists apart from the rest of the world. His historical and cultural appreciation of the form is excellent, at least so far.

I was also going to mention the Hong Kong Film Archives books, but it looks like dleedlee beat me to it. The only problem with those, short of unreliable availability, is the shipping charges to get those babies out of Hong Kong. The shipping fees are far higher than it actually costs to send books from the city to overseas destinations via other dealers, so I suspect they're making a pretty profit in that area. I don't actually have any of those books, but I've come across a couple of them in used book stores here in Canada and have been mighty impressed by the content. In fact, if one could put together a complete set of these, there'd be no need for the the books I'm about to discuss below.

I'd also recommend the following:

AT FULL SPEED: HONG CINEMA IN A BORDERLESS WORLD. Edited by Esther Yau and featuring enlightening articles by Law Kar, Stephen Teo, Rey Chow, Steve Fore, Elaine Yee and several other scholars, 2001. It reads like a university text on the subject, and indeed most of the contributors are university professors, but it covers an impressive array of topics and themes, both populist and arthouse.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0816632359

CITY ON FIRE: HONG KONG CINEMA, by Lisa Oldham Stokes and Michael Hoover, 1999. This book might reasonably be considered the black sheep of the Hong Kong film book family, as it takes an approach found in none of the others in the field. By applying Marxist-Socialist readings to the texts of Hong Kong films, and filtering virtually everything through the spectre of the 1997 handover (the book was published in 1999), Stokes and Hoover come up wih some interesting new ways to read many Hong Kong movies, while occasionally providing ways to MISread them by sometimes creating analogies where none actually exist. Still, it provides yet another interesting way to read these fantastic movies.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1859842038

I also happened across HONG KONG CINEMA: A CROSS-CULTURAL VIEW by Law Kar and Frank Bren while surfing Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0810849860). It came out last year and sounds like an exhaustive, if expensive, read. And BETWEEN SHANGHAI AND HONG KONG; THE POLITICS OF CHINESE CINEMAS by Poshek Fu (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0804745188)

A few thoughts on the other Hong Kong cinema books currently occupying my shelves:

HONG KONG ACTION CINEMA by Bey Logan, 1996. This is probably the best work with which a newcomer with an interest in Hong Kong cinema could broach the subject, although the fact that it predates the handover obviously means much has happened in the years since. The title, however, is a good indication that a deeper understanding of the city's myriad film styles and genres is best found elsewhere. But since Hong Kong cinema IS known primarily for its action cinema, this is as good a place as any to start. Despite my personal issues with Logan's real-world attitude, the book is evidence that he at least knows and cares about this particular segment of Hong Kong cinema, and as such, provides an easily digested overview of the beter known films of the genre, from the Venoms to the Yuens to Jackie, Sammo and Yuen to the various gals with their guns.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0879516631

SEX & ZEN AND A BULLET IN THE HEAD by Stefan Hammond and Mike Wilkins, 1996. This is probably the book that did the most to convince me that Hong Kong movies were what I wanted to spend the rest of my life watching (barring holding down a job to pay for it all and trying to date once in a while!), even though I'd been watching them for about eight years when it came out. The aggressive, hyper-agitated prose style is an excellent way to convey the heightened emotions a true convert inevitably experiences while watching many of these dizzying films. As with Bey Logan's book, though, the emphasis is on genre cinema with the main focus on action and fantasy pictures, with hefty doses of Category III coverage thrown in for good measure. This book can be found for ridiculously good prices from the used dealers on Amazon.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0684803410

HOLLYWOOD EAST: HONG KONG MOVIES AND THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE THEM, edited by Stefan Hammond, 2000. This lesser-known followup to Sex & Zen expands the infectious grip of that book by taking a look at the "real" Hong Kong and following up with a series of essayistic appreciations of Jackie Chan, John Woo, Hong Kong stuntmen (Bruce Law features prominently), Shaw Brothers, girls with guns, shock cinema, triad and police procedurals, Milkyway productions, Wong Kar-wai, and Jet Li. Fewer reviews this time around, but the group does examine movies not covered in the earlier book, and the prose style is thankfully more serious in tone. And of course, the cover features that now-iconic poster shot of Almen Wong in the blue metal bikini from HER NAME IS CAT, which makes it a great display piece!
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0809225816

HONG KONG CINEMA; THE EXTRA DIMENSIONS, by Stephen Teo. I found this to be the best work by a single scholar I've yet read. The political and cultural readings Teo applies to the works are very sensible and understandable, and I often find myself re-reading certain portions of it after watching a film I haven't seen before. This would be the best book to move up to after reading the books by Stefan Hammond and Bey Logan, provided you're ready to move beyond the genres they cover.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0851705146

HONG KONG BABYLON: AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO THE HOLLYWOOD OF THE EAST, by Barry Long and Frederic Dannen, 1997. I've heard conflicting stories about the late Barry Long's accuracy in the years since I purchased this book, but I don't know if they were in explicit reference to this work or other material he's done. Dannen provides most of the text here anyway, and his opening overview of Hong Kong cinema and culture is a great read (although I'm told you could probably find it for free on the internet), and is supplemented by several informative but woefully short interviews with insiders such as Wong Jing, Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun-fat and Jackie Chan. The 300 synopses of fairly well-known films written by Long are helpful and steer clear of overt opinion, which actually might have been nice. The worst part of the book is without a doubt the last 90-some pages, in which "a round table of twelve exceptional critics" lists and, in some cases defends their top Hong Kong films. The duplication here is tiresome, the contributions uneven, and the whole exercise is little more than needless padding. Overall, a dry resourse, but it can be had so cheaply as to make it worth adding to your collection.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0786883596

MONDO MACABRO: WEIRD AND WONDERFUL CINEMA AROUND THE WORLD, by Pete Tombs, 1998. That Tomb's parlayed this book into the successful DVD line of the same name is one of the more enviable success stories of the DVD era. The book is an overview that touches on the wild and wonderful cinemas of Japan, India, the Phillipines, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Turkey and Hong Kong. Obviously, you're not going to get much depth in the Hong Kong section, but he typically illuminates some of the city's stranger fare, including the Chinese Superman played by Lo Lieh that graces the book's cover! Unfortunately, this book is now out of print and rather expensive if you can find it.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0312187483

ASIAN POP CINEMA: BOMBAY TO TOKYO, by Lee Server, 1999. Probably the most underrated beginners guide to the cinemas of the east, and probably one of the best designed books of the bunch, Server's thin tome takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Phillipines, India and Taiwan, digging up all sorts of movies I'm still trying to see all these years later! The Hong Kong section will cover nothing new for anyone who's read even one of the other books mentioned here. John Woo, Ringo Lam, Tsui Hark and then the usual exploitation suspects come under the spotlight, but the overall effect of the book is not so much seasoned scholarship as a one-stop guide in which your host is often as stunned as you are at the material he's uncovered.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0312187483

PROFOUNDLY DISTURBING: SHOCKING MOVIES THAT CHANGED HISTORY, by Joe Bob Briggs, 2003. One doesn't automatically think of legendary American drive-in critic Joe Bob Briggs when one thinks of Chinese cinema, but the man HAS lent his satirical talents to reviews of several important Hong Kong movies over the years. His review of The Killer is an absolute classic (http://www.joebobbriggs.com/drivein/1993/killer.htm). PROFOUNDLY DISTURBING covers some of the great exploitation classics of all time: MOM & DAD, ILSA SHE WOLF OF THE SS, BLOOD FEAST, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE EXORCIST, DEEP THROAT, SHAFT (you'll pardon me putting those two together) and several others, including, oddly enough, Yuen Wo-ping's DRUNKEN MASTER starring Jackie Chan. Though Briggs' name is on the book, it's written in the less known, but far more scholarly, style of John Bloom, the man who is Joe Bob to the outside world. Thus, the whole book is eminently readable because Bloom reigns in his need to be funny (though he seems to have ditched the Joe Bob character years ago, he still manages small giggles here and there) and tempers it with some passable research, although cinephiles and movie geeks will spot the missteps fairly easily. The odd slip here or there, though, is forgivable in light of the hazy production history of many of the films included in the book, but the DRUNKEN MASTER essay does at least provide information not easily found in other books on Hong Kong cinema, and takes us back to a time when the industry was on the cusp of truly great things.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0789308444

And finally, my favourite:

ASIAN CULT CINEMA by Thomas Weisser and Yuko Mihara Weisser, 1997. At a mere 41 cents used on Amazon, this is one of the cheapest Hong Kong movie books out there, and for good reason. I'll post more on this wretched drivel soon, so look for another thread here expressly devoted to it's many errors. Interesting reviews of it at Amazon, too (ahem, ahem!):
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1572972289
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Postby bkasten » Tue Sep 20, 2005 7:53 pm

odresel wrote:This is a massive reprint of his weekly film reviews in the South China Morning Post over a decade. There are three indicies: chronological, by English title, and by Chinese title, but the weird thing is that the Chinese index is by the first character of the Chinese title of the film in pinyin.


I don't have a copy of this book, but that pinyin index could be VERY useful for us in correcting the HKMDB errors with transliteration and poyinzi. I agree it may not make much sense, but thanks for pointing that out!
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Postby odresel » Wed Sep 21, 2005 8:48 am

OK, glad to know that could be of use to you, but the index is very, very weird. I'll try to explain: it works by transliterating the title into pinyin, which is the official Mainland romanization system for Mandarin. Why is this weird? Because these are Hong Kong movies, and were shot and produced in Cantonese! So to find ngoi yan tung shi (Stars and Roses) you have to look under letter A -- because in Mandarin, it is pronounced ai ren tong zhi. Unless you can read the title, and figure how it's pronounced in Mandarin...you're in for a tough time. At any rate, a "normal" Chinese-language index would be by the number of strokes in the character, not by how they sound in different dialects.

The advantage for you guys is that Fonoroff puts the Chinese title of the film, and the Chinese names of the principal actors in Chinese characters at the title of each movie reviewed, something which I think was done for the book, as I don't see this in his biweekly reviews in the paper here.
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Postby PAUL MARTINEZ » Tue Oct 04, 2005 1:53 am

There's also The Encyclopedia Of Martial Arts Movies Don't remeber the writer off the top of my head I will post it later.
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Postby Brian Thibodeau » Tue Oct 04, 2005 2:13 am

That's probably this one:

The Encyclopedia of Martial Arts Movies, by Bill and Karen Palmer and, -aherm-, the aforementioned Ric Meyers.

http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/0810841606

I've only heard of this one, but never actually seen a copy in any store (including some phenomenal Toronto shops that carry nearly everything). The price alone probably explains why a book written ten years ago has only two reviews at amazon (one of them suspicious). Granted, as mentioned somewhere in these forums, Meyers love for the form is not in doubt, only his research on occasion.

Speaking of overpriced, no list of english-language Hong Kong cinema resource books would be complete without mentioning THE HONG KONG FILMOGRAPHY, by Video Watchdog contributor John Charles. Another book that I've not once seen in an actual bookstore, I believe this is generally only available from the publisher through online resources (though I could be wrong). One of the amazon reviewers (one "Gaijin84," as a matter of fact) calls it "the Leonard Maltin Film Guide of Hong Kong Cinema, and while I can't verify that since it's virtually impossible to find a reproduction of even ONE of its pages to aid my purchase decision, I've yet to own a Maltin guide that weighs nearly three pounds! If the book's as good as many have claimed over the years, it desperately deserves a paperback reprint (and an attractive cover!) to make it more affordable to fans.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0786408421
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Postby Libretio » Tue Oct 11, 2005 11:23 pm

I used to rate John Charles very highly as a commentator on the HK movie scene. His Video Watchdog reviews were always a highlight of the magazine for me, and I bought a copy of The Hong Kong Filmography for that very reason. But here's what I wrote about the book in a review over at Amazon:

"For all its virtues and noble ambitions, the book is a disappointment. Many of the reviews are heavy on plot description and light on critical assessment, which is both a curse and a blessing, given that few of these films have been covered in detail anywhere else, though it's difficult to comprehend the benefits of a lengthy plot outline followed by a brief analysis (often no more than a couple of sentences) in which the movie is summarily dismissed out of hand. Concision is one thing, abruptness is quite another. And if many of the titles under fire correspond with the reader's own preferences, it can seem more than a little galling, especially since publishers McFarland & Company are charging a small fortune for the privilege.

"Charles' brand of informed opinion is always welcome, of course, and the book will probably work best for casual readers seeking information on individual films rather than those who opt to plough through the entire volume from start to finish, but too many entries here are trashed for being 'ludicrous', 'derivative', 'badly plotted' and/or 'weakly constructed', and there's an excess of withering scorn which may alienate more readers than it impresses. While any given movie industry will always produce its fair share of turkeys, the book seems less a celebration of HK cinema than a catalog of complaint. In fact, the text only really comes to life when Charles indulges his own personal favorites (his appraisals of ASHES OF TIME, THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR and PEKING OPERA BLUES, for example, are insightful and entertaining), and the author makes a number of salient observations regarding the prejudices inherent in HK cinema (homophobia, racism and misogyny are prevalent in many highly-regarded movies), whilst also taking care to warn readers about scenes of animal cruelty, but these are minor points in an otherwise cheerless work.

"Overall, though intended as a definitive text on this particular subject, The Hong Kong Filmographyfalls short of the mark, a labor of love undermined by an accumulation of biting criticisms which serve only to diminish the very industry Charles' book seeks to honor."

Like Paul Fonoroff, Charles has virtually nothing good to say about today's HK output, and he rarely covers such movies anymore in VW or online at his own website (where most recent reviews are simply derived from entries in The HK Filmography). Having ploughed his way through hundreds of movies, he appears to have reached the conclusion that HK cinema has nothing new to say, and he has shown little interest in writing about anything produced since 1997. He complains that the movies aren't 'as good' as they used to be, and that they're dominated by 'vapid' pop stars.

In truth, HK filmmakers have been forced to adapt to changing circumstances. Fewer movies are being produced, which means there's less room for diversity and experimentation, and those movies which do reach theater screens must compete with an aggressive Hollywood marketing machine, forcing directors to adopt many of the stylistic tropes associated with American movies. That doesn't mean the films are any less Chinese, or that they've become slaves to the influences of another culture. Audiences seem to enjoy this kind of cross-pollination, hardly a new or unique concept. Most Hollywood action movies were pretty anemic before moviemakers began to copy that recognizable HK 'style' in the 1990's, leading to a wider recognition of Asian filmmakers and the defection of many Chinese superstars to American shores (with only middling results, as we all know). Today, that 'style' has become so perfectly integrated into Hollywood's oeuvre, most audiences seem to have forgotten where it originated. As for HK cinema itself: Numbers may be down, but there's still much to enjoy in today's marketplace. Personally, I rate the likes of NEW POLICE STORY and ONE NITE IN MONGKOK very highly, and there is much more from the former colony which I've yet to see, but which sounds very intriguing, just like the movies of yesteryear which Charles seems to rate so highly.

What I'm saying is that Charles' currency as a commentator on HK cinema is outdated. There's plenty of good stuff being produced today, regardless of how it compares with output from the 'golden age'. We all pine for the days when John Woo, Ringo Lam and Chow Yun-fat strutted their stuff across the jade screen, and we all have our opinions as to which of today's actors and filmmakers compare favorably (or not) to the personalities who dominated the industry's heyday. Frankly, as much as I love Andy Lau and Leslie Cheung movies, I'm no less happy watching the latest Daniel Wu picture, or Nicholas Tse, or any of the 'vapid' stars Charles (and others) seem to dislike so much. I respect the past, and I have so many movies to catch up on (I'm looking forward to every single one of them, believe me!), but I also appreciate the new, the current, the up-to-date. And I guess it just annoys me when someone like Charles - regarded as a standard-bearer for HK cinema - has almost nothing positive to say about the industry as it currently stands. That's his prerogative, of course, but I disagree with his contention that so much of what is currently produced is so bad that it's not worth his time.

NB. Don't get me wrong: I think Charles has written some excellent stuff on 'golden age' movies, and he's clearly knowledgeable about HK films. It's his attitude to current material which rubs me up the wrong way.
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Postby Brian Thibodeau » Wed Oct 12, 2005 12:36 am

So that was you that wrote that review at Amazon? Nice work. It's one of the major factors in my decision to hold off on getting the book until I can really take a peek at what's inside.

I read some of Charles' complaints about new HK cinema back when he posted at the old Mobius, and it frankly made me leery of buying such an expensive book. I had to wonder if he simply became bored with it once the fanbase grew beyond the "I found it first I own it" fanboys and their near-daily trudges down to the nearest Chinatown to score the latest VHS imports from the rental stores. Once the internet, and more importantly DVD, and even more importantly steep price drops on imported Chinese DVDs made this stuff readily available, a lot of people seemed to adopt an attitude of "been there, done that, it'll never be the same," to cover the fact that they were really just running out of steam. I could be wrong, but I even have friends who seemed to care less and less about it with every passing year.

Meanwhile, I order more and more DVDs with each passing week, and score even more when I'm in the big city. What I once thought I might tire of has become the consuming passion on which I really don't think I'd mind spending the rest of my days as a cinema lover and would-be hack - so long as even a handful of Hong Kong filmmakers continue to produce anything worth taking a chance on - the contining refinement of the form alone makes it worth the journey. For me, there's few forms of satisfaction greater than firing up the latest import from the former colony - be it trash or treasure, epic or sleaze. I suppose people could say the same about Bollywood, or European art films or giallo, or Thai cinema, or even American movies, really. But I've found my niche, and I hope to stay comfortably ensconced there for many years to come.

As for HK cinema itself: Numbers may be down, but there's still much to enjoy in today's marketplace...There's plenty of good stuff being produced today, regardless of how it compares with output from the 'golden age'.


Exactly. And if nothing else, less output just makes it a little easier to keep up with the new releases!

So I'll definitely put the Charles book on the backburner until I can see what's inside, or perhaps find one used. If you say his website reprints some of it, I guess that's as good a place as any to start.
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Postby graeme » Thu Oct 13, 2005 1:15 am

[quote="Brian Thibodeau"]I have Fonoroff's book and have found it to be a reasonably useful resource, although it's difficult to find a film in it that the man truly likes.

Just a quick comment in defense of Paul Fonoroff; I get the feeling that he likes a lot of the films he reviews but doesn't hesitate to point out their faults. I know that I tend to agree with an awful lot of his comments while loving the film he is commenting on.

cheers,
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Postby Brian Thibodeau » Thu Oct 13, 2005 2:07 pm

I agree with that sentiment in regards to probably half (or so) of the reviews in AT THE HONG KONG MOVIES, and Fonoroff in general deserves credit for at least offering constructive, thoughtful criticism for most of the movies he sees, especially in comparison to cut-rate boobs like Thomas Weisser, who seem to revel in the more salacious aspects of the form. One MAJOR problem I have is in his repeated comparisons of certain Hong Kong movies to Hollywood films.

If you've read David Bordwell's book CINEMA HONG KONG, which I'm nearly finished (and what an eye-opener!), you'll understand that it's one thing to point out the American or European or Japanese antecedent in a Hong Kong movie, but its another to then compare the two as though they were simply equals, and generally favour the Hollywood product, as Fonoroff often does. It's always seemed an easy form of critique to me, to say something like "Hong Kong Movie A is obviously ripped off of Hollywood Movie B, but can't hold a candle to Hollywood Movie B, or lacks it's finesse, substance, timing, etc." At some point down the road, I might try to provide some paraphrases from Bordwell's book to illustrate what I'm getting at here: despite it's apparent lifting of inspiration and ideas from Hollywood on a regular basis, Hong Kong cinema to this very day is a thoroughly different beast in terms of construction, storytelling approach, cultural readings, thematic underpinnings, and more. Just because viewer like us can spot a swipe from an American movie, and just because these movies feel like second-nature to many of us (while leaving others puzzled), the fact remains that most of the time, what westerners see as being copied from American movies is really little more than cosmetic tinkering when you apply a little scholarly examination.

But I digress. I certainly don't dislike Fonoroff or his book. He's a very good writer, and one willing to call a film's flaws as he sees them - even the films he likes), but there are many occasions where I think he misses the point of the exercise in the first place, particularly in reviews for low-budget genre pieces like horror, action and category III fare. My overall impression of the guy is that he enjoys the actual act of watching Hong Kong movies more than he does the films themselves, and that's gotta count for something, I suppose.
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Also

Postby magic-8 » Thu Oct 13, 2005 7:09 pm

Along with the Encyclopedia of MA Movies, there's the book by Toby Russell, the name escapes me at the mement, which is a blast, full of movie reviews of the popular titles in Sworddplay, Kung fu, Bloodshed and Cat III stuff.
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List of some titles available from HKIFF

Postby graeme » Tue Oct 18, 2005 11:15 pm

Someone mentioned the HK film festival publications above so I prepared a list of titles for anyone interested. I hope it is of interest.

Cheers,
Graeme


Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publications/
HKIFF Society Series 6: Actor in Focus: Andy Lau
In Memory of François Truffaut
Aki Kaurismaki Retrospective
William Chang, Art Director
Shimizu Hiroshi, 101st Anniversary
Ernst Lubitsch, A Touch of Paradise



Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publications/highlight.html
HKIFF Society Series 6: Actor in Focus: Andy Lau
“Fame Flame Frame - Jupiter Wong Foto Exhibition” Catalogue
William Chang, Art Director
Chang Cheh: A Memoir (English edition)
The Shaw Screen: A Preliminary Study (English Edition)
Ozu Yasujiro, 100th Anniversary Catalogue



Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publication ... ctive.html
Cantonese Opera Film Retrospective (Revised Edition, 2003)
A Study of Hong Kong Cinema in the Seventies (1970-1979)(Revised Edition, 2002)
Border Crossings in Hong Kong Cinema
Hong Kong New Wave- Twenty Years After
Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publication ... tive1.html
Hong Kong Cinema in the Eighties (Revised Edition, 1999)
Changes in Hong Kong Society Through Cinema(Revised Edition, 1998)
Transcending the Times: King Hu and Eileen Chang
Cantonese Melodrama 1950-1969 (Revised Edition, 1997)
Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publication ... tive2.html
The China Factor in Hong Kong Cinema (Revised Edition, 1997)
Fifty Years of Electric Shadows
Cantonese Cinema Retrospective (1960-1969) (Revised Edition, 1996)
The Restless Breed: Cantonese Stars of the Sixties
Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publication ... tive3.html
Early Images of Hong Kong & China
Cinema of Two Cities: Hong Kong- Shanghai
Mandarin Films and Popular Songs: 40's-60's
Overseas Chinese Figures in Cinema
Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publication ... tive4.html
Phantoms of the Hong Kong Cinema
The Traditions of Hong Kong Comedy
"A Comparative Study of Post-War Mandarin and Cantonese Cinema:
the Films of Zhu Shilin, Qin Jian and Other Directors"
A Study of the Hong Kong Swordplay Film (1945-1980) (Revised Edition, 1996)
Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publication ... tive5.html
Hong Kong Cinema Survey (1946-1968)
A Study of the Hong Kong Martial Arts Film
Cantonese Cinema Retrospective (1950-1959)



Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publications/archive.html
Hong Kong Filmography Volume V (1960-1964) (In Chinese Only)
The Hong Kong - Guangdong Film Connection
A Yam Kim-fai Reader (In Chinese)
The Cinema of Lee Sun-fung
Chang Cheh: A Memoir (English edition)
Cantonese Opera Film Retrospective (Revised Edition, 2003)
The Diary of Lai Man-wai
Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publications/archive1.html
'The Psychic Labyrinth of F.W. Murnau' Exhibition Catalogue
'Shaws Galaxy of Stars' Exhibition Catalogue
The Shaw Screen: A Preliminary Study (English Edition
Hong Kong Filmography Volume IV (1953–1959) (English Version)
Hong Kong Filmography Volume III (1950-1952
Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publications/archive2.html
Hong Kong Filmography Volume II (1942-1949)
The Cathay Story
Monographs of Hong Kong Film Vetreans(2)-An Age of Idealism
The Swordsman and His Jiang Hu: Tsui Hark and Hong Kong Film
Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publications/archive3.html
Monographs of Hong Kong Film Veterans 1 - Hong Kong Here I Come
i-GENERATIONs: Independent, Experimental and Alternative Creations from the 60s to Now
A Century of Chinese Cinema: Look Back in Glory
Hong Kong Cinema from Handicraft to High Tech
Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publications/archive4.html
Living in Hong Kong - the 50s and 60s (in Chinese)
Hong Kong on the Silver Screen (Catalogue & VCD)
The Making of Martial Arts Films - As Told by Filmmakers and Stars
Hong Kong Film Archive Treasures: An Exhibition



Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publications/panorama.html
Hong Kong Panorama 2002-2003
Hong Kong Panorama 2001-2002
Hong Kong Panorama 00-01
Hong Kong Panorama 1999-2000
Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publications/panorama1.html
Hong Kong Panorama 98-99
Hong Kong Panorama 97-98
Hong Kong Panorama 96-97



Source URL: http://www.hkiff.org.hk/eng/publications/special.html
Aki Kaurismaki Retrospective
Ozu Yasujiro, 100th Anniversary Catalogue
The 20th Anniversary of Hong Kong International Film Festiva
Hong Kong Cinema '79-'89(Combined Edition)
Last edited by graeme on Wed Oct 19, 2005 6:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Brian Thibodeau » Wed Oct 19, 2005 12:02 am

What I wouldn't give to own nearly every one of those, but the HKIFF's shipping rates would force me to sell my car. It's too bad, because their prices for the books seem really reasonable for what you get, but the shipping is way more than it would actually cost to ship books from Hong Kong.

By the way, there's an extra bracket at the end of each of your links, Graeme, that makes them not work. If you remove it, it works OK.
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Postby graeme » Wed Oct 19, 2005 6:52 am

Brian Thibodeau wrote:By the way, there's an extra bracket at the end of each of your links, Graeme, that makes them not work. If you remove it, it works OK.


Thanks Brian I had missed that & it's a personal bugbear when OTHER folks paste links that have other characters included.

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Postby graeme » Wed Oct 19, 2005 7:24 am

A quick aside to Brian,

Have you ever actually tried to lift a handful of these publications - they seem printed on lead. So I'm probably not surprised at the postage costs.

My real question to anyone who might know was there any edition of Hong Kong Panorama for 2003-2004?

Thanks
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Postby dleedlee » Wed Oct 19, 2005 11:21 am

graeme wrote:A quick aside to Brian,

Have you ever actually tried to lift a handful of these publications - they seem printed on lead. So I'm probably not surprised at the postage costs.

My real question to anyone who might know was there any edition of Hong Kong Panorama for 2003-2004?

Thanks
Graeme


Good question. I never noticed it was missing from the lineup. The main catalogue references it in its description but I have never bought any of the main catalogues. (Had to draw a line somewhere. How are they?)
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Postby graeme » Wed Oct 19, 2005 12:32 pm

Well dleedlee,

I do own a couple of the main catalogues but they are from my last visit some years ago. I've never yet come for the film festival. So I know of no reference to Hong Kong Panorama for 2003-2004; it just seemed odd that there was no listing.

Sorry, I simply don't know & was hoping someone may know whether it was actually published.

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Postby Brian Thibodeau » Wed Oct 19, 2005 1:37 pm

Have you ever actually tried to lift a handful of these publications - they seem printed on lead. So I'm probably not surprised at the postage costs.


I've only ever seen some used copies in bookstores here, and those particular ones were only moderately heavy due to the glossy paper stock. Mind you, I don't think they were the biggest books on offer.

One thing that used to frustrate me was the seeming lack of reprints on many of the HKIFF books. The majority of the ones I would have shelled out for a couple years back were sold out. I haven't really looked in a while, but have they taken to doing reprints in the last couple years? I know there was one book on the history of the martial arts movies that was always sold out.
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Postby graeme » Wed Oct 19, 2005 10:35 pm

Brian Thibodeau wrote:
One thing that used to frustrate me was the seeming lack of reprints on many of the HKIFF books. The majority of the ones I would have shelled out for a couple years back were sold out. I haven't really looked in a while, but have they taken to doing reprints in the last couple years? I know there was one book on the history of the martial arts movies that was always sold out.


Well a number of HKIFF books seem to have title extensions that infer that reprinting does occur e.g.
A Study of the Hong Kong Swordplay Film (1945-1980) (Revised Edition, 1996)
A Study of Hong Kong Cinema in the Seventies (1970-1979)(Revised Edition, 2002)

I have no idea how regularly reprinting might occur or what missing titles might be scheduled. I certainly don't believe I have a complete list.

But I agree, over the years, there were titles that appealed to me but were unavailable. Like you I also seem to vaguely remember a Martial Arts title other than "A Study of the Hong Kong Martial Arts Film" which is also out of stock.

Cheers,
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Postby pjshimmer » Sun Jan 08, 2006 7:24 pm

In addition to the insightful discussions on several books, I wonder if anyone here has opinions of the following:

Multiple modernities

Chinese-language film

Island on the edge

cinema of Hong Kong

New Chinese cinema

New Chinese cinema: challenging representations

China into film

Figures traced in light (with a section about Hou Hsiou Hsien)

Chinese cinema : culture and politics since 1949
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Postby fartbubble » Mon Jan 09, 2006 5:52 am

I actually liked THE CINEMA OF TSUI HARK by Lisa Morton. There is a few errors and it is not worth full cover, but it is one of the better director books in english. She covers almost everything he had his hand in. If you can pick it up for $20-25, I think it is worth it.
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Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Tue Feb 27, 2007 11:15 pm

Another HK book by Lisa Stokes is coming out tomorrow. Rather expensive.

I wonder if this will be worth getting?

Brian, your description of her previous book "applying Marxist-Socialist readings to the texts of Hong Kong films" makes me think I will not get this (that and it is 99 dollars).

http://www.amazon.com/Historical-Dictio ... 0810855208
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Postby Brian Thibodeau » Wed Feb 28, 2007 1:57 am

The price of the new book is obscene, but the old book is probably worth a look now that it comes fairly cheaply at Amazon marketplace. While the socialist readings are indeed off-base in many circumstances, in others they kinda make sense. The book certainly has its detractors, and rightfully so in parts, but it's exceedingly well-researched and the authors are no strangers to the form.

This new book looks interesting, but there sure isn't much to go on at Amazon. I really wish some of these University Presses would farm these works out to independent publishers and make some of this stuff available to the layman at a decent price. Either way, they'd probably make about the same money, considering the limited audience. But $99? Forget it.
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Postby bkasten » Fri Mar 02, 2007 2:39 pm

Professor Lisa Stokes is definitely popular. I have had quite a few people request for access and membership saying that "Lisa Stokes is their professor." Or "The Great Lisa Stokes ... ".

They are all in Florida, so I suppose it is possible that they are distance learning classes...

I have never actually checked to see if The Great Lisa Stokes logs into HKMDB....
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Postby Brian Thibodeau » Fri Mar 02, 2007 3:14 pm

I have never actually checked to see if The Great Lisa Stokes logs into HKMDB....


It's my belief that no one is truly "Great" when it comes to Hong Kong cinema unless they've seen at least 75 movies starring Simon Loui.

Therefore, I would now like to be known as The Great Brian Thibodeau.

:lol: :lol: :lol:





(still, Stokes does have a unique approach to the material ;) )
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Postby bkasten » Fri Mar 02, 2007 7:45 pm

Brian Thibodeau wrote:(still, Stokes does have a unique approach to the material ;) )


And gets the publisher to charge $100 for her book.

Great indeed.
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