Books in English on Hong Kong film

Discussions about Hong Kong Movies

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Fri Mar 02, 2007 9:46 pm

Oops! I was referring to her CITY ON FIRE book, which cost nowhere near $100 when it was published, and can now be had for under $10 on Amazon marketplace. ;)

This new one, I wouldn't touch for that price, and thanks to the paltry information available on it, we may never know if she's adopted a different political filter since CITY ON FIRE.

There are a couple of books on Korean film that I've had wishlisted over the years as well, but because they're university press editions, the prices are shamefully high. :(
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Postby ewaffle » Thu Jun 14, 2007 7:30 am

pjshimmer wrote: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



New Chinese cinema: challenging representations is part of the "Short Cuts--Introductions to Film Studies" series. Not written for academics it is very accessible--possibly too much so for many of the members here who may have already assimiliated much of the information the author presents. On the other hand it isn't necessary to wade through yet another set of discussions of semiotics, structuralism, neo-Marxism and pre-post-modernism (I just made that one up) for those who find that insalubrious.

It has a chapter on cultural history topics or influences and a discussion of movies that illustrate the response to them. The chapter on Confucius and Patriarchy, for example, covers the tenets of Confucionist thought--I don't know how accurately but it isn't very different from other short accounts I have read--and how they have affected the view of women in China. She presents some films from very early days of the industry, from post-revolutionary China but spends most her time on more recent works, concentrating on Gong Li movies in this case.

It is a short book, almost an outline, but I thought it was a pretty good introduction to how Chinese movies reflected culture, politics and society. Sheila Cornelius, the author, doesn't grind many axes or at least isn't obvious when she does. In the Confucious chapter, for example, she quotes from an author who says that if "women are to achieve equality in China they must challenge the simplistic reductionism of Marxism itself".

It is quite short and for some reason doesn't have an index which I found to be a major drawback. "New Chinese Cinema" is decently written, basic, balanced and jargon free.
User avatar
ewaffle
 
Posts: 737
Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2004 1:53 am
Location: Motown, Michigan, USA

Postby ewaffle » Fri Jun 15, 2007 8:47 pm

A few further notes on pjshimmer’s list

Brian recommends At Full Speed: Hong Kong Cinema in a Borderless World edited by Esther C. M. Yau, a recommendation which I second. It is a compilation of articles by scholars of Hong Kong film which creates automatic limitations: one has to ignore, translate or otherwise deal with some academic jargon—these works were done by academics and it is the language they use. It doesn’t bother me but it can seem (and often is) pretentious and affected; the selection of articles will reflect the views of the editor—this is not a problem here since Yau is a true scholar with very wide ranging interest. In this case the subtitle epithet “borderless world” might have been the basis in the call for papers for this volume because the themes of transnationality and assimilation of culture are central to many of them.

Much of the same is true of The Cinema of Hong Kong: History, Arts, Identity edited by Poshek Fu and David Desser although in keeping with its subtitle it has a different approach, more historical than transnational, more how movies are a part of culture and than how culture affects movies.

I have read most of Yau’s book and about half of Fu’s. In both cases they round up some of the usual suspects as contributors which is part of their strength, especially the inclusion of Stephen Teo, Law Kar and David Bordwell. I am currently reading Teo’s book King Hu’s A Touch of Zen which as beautifully and cogently written as anything I have read in a long time on any subject. He is simply a wonderful writer (and a meticulous researcher) and has been studying the Hong Kong film world for years. Law Kar (Lau Yiu-Kuen) is not on the same level stylistically as Teo (very few are) but writes well in English which is his second or third language. He has been part of the HK movie world for years—according to the bio blurbs in these books has been with the HKIFF since 1990. His grasp of the history of HK, Mainland and Taiwan films is both broad and deep.

Bordwell is a different animal altogether. He is one of the most respected and quoted film scholars in the United States, has written a couple of standard textbooks in wide use, has published books on Eisenstein and Ozu, on film theory and audience reception, on Hollywood—he really covers the waterfront. And he is a stone fan of Hong Kong movies. Brian has mentioned Borwell’s book Planet Hong Kong which is a delight to read. Part of his method is to use standard film theory/criticism tools in discussing various movies but without bogging things down with discussion of theory itself. He simply does it—shot analysis, narratology, diegetic time-space analysis, blah, blah, blah—allowing the reader to deal with the work on whatever level best suits him.

Bordwell’s love for HK movies is on the same level as many of us here. This is from his article Aesthetics in Action: Kungfu, Gunplay and Cinematic Expressivity in Yau’s book:

“..my love for martial arts films goes back to the 1974 double feature of Fist of Fury and Five Fingers of Death in the Majestic Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin. As a film studies professor I find myself asking questions. How, for instance is it possible for Hong Kong actin movies to trigger such unbridled passion? How are they put together? What is the craft behind them? After you walk out of the best Hong Kong action movies you are charged up, you feel you can do anything. How can mere movies create such feelings?”

Emphasis added in last paragraph.
User avatar
ewaffle
 
Posts: 737
Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2004 1:53 am
Location: Motown, Michigan, USA

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Fri Jun 15, 2007 9:43 pm

Bordwell is a different animal altogether. He is one of the most respected and quoted film scholars in the United States, has written a couple of standard textbooks in wide use, has published books on Eisenstein and Ozu, on film theory and audience reception, on Hollywood—he really covers the waterfront. And he is a stone fan of Hong Kong movies. Brian has mentioned Borwell’s book Planet Hong Kong which is a delight to read. Part of his method is to use standard film theory/criticism tools in discussing various movies but without bogging things down with discussion of theory itself. He simply does it—shot analysis, narratology, diegetic time-space analysis, blah, blah, blah—allowing the reader to deal with the work on whatever level best suits him.


Bordwell's a guy who should really, REALLY be doing commentary for some of these films. As should Teo and some of the others. I realize Bey Logan has a vested interest to protect in being the go-to guy for these things, but what I wouldn't give to see "Commentary by Hong Kong film historian David Bordwell" or "Commentary by Hong Kong film scholar Stephen Teo" or "Commentary by noted Hong Kong film professor Esther Yau" on the back of a DVD rerelease of some old chestnut (and notice I never used the catch-all "expert" to characterize these people). I seem to be alone in this thinking, unfortunately, and at various other forums, Logan's defenders will inevitably position him against Wade Major or Ric Meyers, which is hardly a fair fight. Of course he's better informed than those guys, although their love for the form is nonetheless evident.

I also realize that commentaries are one-time things for a lot of DVD users, if they listen to them at all, which for me means it shouldn't really matter which "expert' is called in to do the job. Logan's built up a fair bit of celebrity for himself by being the English "voice" of Hong Kong cinema on the vast majority of tracks for these films, and more power to him as he's done a lot of good for western fans, but I've yet to hear him come anywhere near analysing the films the way Bordwell and Teo do, and that's something I'd give my right arm to hear. Thankfully, I'm left-handed.

Anyone who's read Planet Hong Kong knows about Bordwell's knack for breaking down sequences into individual shots (often with illustrative photos) to tease out the structure that makes Hong Kong editing styles considerably different from those in, say, Hollywood. How cool would it be for him to do that on an audio commentary (and trust me, despite the speed of many of these films, it would still be possible to discuss the pause-burst-pause effect as it unfolds on screen), or Teo looking at the broader cultural implications that these films represent in ways that Logan hasn't quite been able to do on a particularly scholarly level as of yet. No matter what, he's still an outsider, albeit a very hardworking one.
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Postby KMGor » Fri Jun 22, 2007 9:12 pm

Bordwell is a different animal altogether. He is one of the most respected and quoted film scholars in the United States, has written a couple of standard textbooks in wide use, has published books on Eisenstein and Ozu, on film theory and audience reception, on Hollywood—he really covers the waterfront. And he is a stone fan of Hong Kong movies. Brian has mentioned Borwell’s book Planet Hong Kong which is a delight to read. Part of his method is to use standard film theory/criticism tools in discussing various movies but without bogging things down with discussion of theory itself. He simply does it—shot analysis, narratology, diegetic time-space analysis, blah, blah, blah—allowing the reader to deal with the work on whatever level best suits him.


Thanks to your suggestion, I just checked this out from the library. I might actually end up buying it - it is definitely the best book I've read on Hong Kong film in general at this point in my reading(not that I've read a whole lot, but still). He does use film theory and shot breakdowns, but most of the time does it in a way a layman wouldn't have much trouble understanding it. At least, I think a layman wouldn't have much trouble - I'm not one, heh.

I'm less than 1/3 through it, but so far I did quite enjoy the comparison of the Untouchables and Gun Men. I particularly liked his summation of the father-daughter sequence at the end of Gun Men, he phrased it as something like "father-daughter reconciliation through homicide". He mentions this treatment as very unhollywood, which is certainly true.

BTW, Brian, I'd be interested in a commentary from Bordwell too. Ideally, Bordwell or Teo paired with someone with insider knowledge (like a director) though this is clearly often not possible. Bordwell, by his own admission, isn't particularly "in" the Hong Kong cinema scenes - he could break down the films and compare them, etc, but one of my favorite things on commentary tracks are stories from production, why things were done a certain way, etc. Which is one reason why the John Woo and Tsui Hark commentaries are so good.

Of course, I've already heard commentaries from people who neither have insider knowledge nor a lot of ideas on how to break down the film. The commentary on Master of the Flying Guillotine (which was interesting and had some good information, but also had errors - the most blatant of which was referring to the film as a Hong Kong movie) springs to mind.

I am curious if HK director's are even approached to do commentaries? I wouldn't care if they were in Cantonese with subtitles, it would still be very interesting. Of course, in all likelihood, a Cantonese commentary track wouldn't get subtitles... I have a couple Japanese films that have Japanese commentary without translation, which is sad, but understandable.
KMGor
 
Posts: 74
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:42 am

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Fri Jun 22, 2007 11:58 pm

At least, I think a layman wouldn't have much trouble - I'm not one, heh.


I ain't no yoonivarsity type, but I couldn't agree more about Bordwell's ability to get across the structuring of a scene. Many authors have tried to put the craft into prose, but I've yet to find one amongst the circle of HK-cinema related authors who can streamline the deconstruction of a scene in such an easy-to-grasp way.

And Bordwell's not necessarily dealing with easy or famous sequences in this book either, as he smokes out the little cutting rhythms and frame compositions of even the most seemingly mundane segments of some movies. Many of the non-Hong Kong directors (American, European, Australian, even other Asian) who've tried to emulate the "style" of Hong Kong action cinema without understanding the altogether unique mechanics of construction really, really need to stop posing and read Bordwell's book. And even then, I doubt many of them, schooled in a more westernized style of scene construction, could deviate from what they know to even attempt to build a sequence the way they did (and sometimes still do) in Hong Kong.



BTW, Brian, I'd be interested in a commentary from Bordwell too. Ideally, Bordwell or Teo paired with someone with insider knowledge (like a director) though this is clearly often not possible. Bordwell, by his own admission, isn't particularly "in" the Hong Kong cinema scenes - he could break down the films and compare them, etc, but one of my favorite things on commentary tracks are stories from production, why things were done a certain way, etc. Which is one reason why the John Woo and Tsui Hark commentaries are so good.


Your mention of his not being "in" the Hong Kong scene is precisely why I would damned near pay the man to do a commentary. Teo as well. In lieu of director's who seem disinterested in revisiting old works, some of these scholars would be ideal. Outside of directors and (maybe) producers, both of whom oversee enough of their productions to be reasonably authoritative on a commentrary track, being involved with a film "scene" too often results in little more than name-dropping and location-spotting on audio commentaries, and not just by the self-anointed "expert(s)" who get the plum commentary gigs for Asian films right now. Think of some actor commentaries on DVDs. There are some good ones, I'll admit, but most of 'em are about as enjoyable as pissing razor blades. Many actors, too many in fact, are "scenesters" who can't really bring much depth to the tracks they record because, quite frankly, they often don't seem to "get" the movies they star in. Of course, my bias is that I'm a bit of a junkie for commentaries, especially on older titles for which there has been some time, preferably years or decades, between the production of the film and the recording of the commentary. I listen to the tracks on virtually every disc I buy that has one while I'm plugging away at the office. The movie's already in my head, so no need to freak out the bosses by watching movies on company time! :lol:


The commentary on Master of the Flying Guillotine....springs to mind.


I seem to recall those guys re-recorded a track for the special edition re-release of that film, so perhaps they corrected their errors (I remember one of them owning up to the boo-boos online, which was cool). Unfortunately, I also recall that the special edition re-issue was a much crummier transfer, which made it unworthy of an upgrade! :lol:


I am curious if HK director's are even approached to do commentaries? I wouldn't care if they were in Cantonese with subtitles, it would still be very interesting. Of course, in all likelihood, a Cantonese commentary track wouldn't get subtitles... I have a couple Japanese films that have Japanese commentary without translation, which is sad, but understandable.


I doubt HK director's get asked very often, especially by British and American distribs who would find it much easier to keep throwing gigs at the same guy, but even if they were, I wonder how many of them would give it a shot. :(

Gotta give credit to Tartan USA, though, and their line of Korean horror DVDs. Where possible, they almost always port over the Korean commentary tracks and add subtitles. Unfortunately, they also seem to release every Korean horror movie that comes along, and their catalogue is plagued with a lot of mediocre films. But still, their efforts with the commentaries are commendable.

I suppose when it comes to the more disposable nature of Hong Kong cinema—even amongst its makers—the likelihood of commentaries will continue to be rare (and treasured!). Who knows, maybe HK industry folks just don't have the time! Or maybe, keeping with the theme of disposability, they don't consider a lot of their own films as particularly worth disecting after the fact...????
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Sat Jun 23, 2007 12:16 am

Brian Thibodeau wrote:
The commentary on Master of the Flying Guillotine....springs to mind.


I seem to recall those guys re-recorded a track for the special edition re-release of that film, so perhaps they corrected their errors (I remember one of them owning up to the boo-boos online, which was cool). Unfortunately, I also recall that the special edition re-issue was a much crummier transfer, which made it unworthy of an upgrade! :lol:


From my review hee hee hawking (http://hkmdb.com/db/reviews/show_review.mhtml?id=12331):

There are a couple of good Master of the Flying Guillotine R1 DVDs out there by Pathfinder. Pathfinder has a 2002 (Ultimate Edition) and 2004 (2-disc Anniversary Edition) release. The latest release is preferable because of the anamorphic video transfer, additional interviews with Jimmy Wang Yu and an insert booklet with a several goods articles including the history of the Flying Guillotine, the movie itself and one on Wang Yu. It is important to mention to extreme collectors that the commentaries are different on both disks. The first one has Wade Major and Andy Klein, the second adds Alex Luu to the mix. I was not particularly impressed by the second commentary. While they acknowledged their mistakes in the first one (such as calling this a Hong Kong film) they still did not add as much factual information as they could (name the music that was lifted instead of saying a German band) and they digressed a few too many times. While this film could use a better transfer (this is still a decent transfer and both Pathfinder versions seem to have the same quality, I just wish Criterion would pick this up; wishful bizarre thinking I know) it is great to see in a good-enough widescreen version with Mandarin dialogue.
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Fri Aug 24, 2007 12:33 am

Just got notification from Amazon about this upcoming book called Blazing Passions: Contemporary Hong Kong Cinema. Way too expensive for my budget. The subject matter may seem old hat to veteran HK cinema buffs, but those less familiar might enjoy Julian Stringer's prose. For those who are interested, here's the link:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1905674309/


.
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Paul Fonoroff again

Postby ewaffle » Thu Oct 11, 2007 4:35 am

Based on Brian's discussion of Paul Fonoroff's reviews earlier in this thread I picked up a copy of it.

Paul Fonoroff loves Hong Kong cinema although during the ten years leading up to July 1, 1997 it was a rarely requited love, at least based on the evidence in “At the Hong Kong Movies: 600 Reviews from 1988 till the Handover”. The reviews are no longer than the space available in his weekly column in the “South China Morning Post”, they were written under deadline pressure and with the Anglophone residents of the then Crown Colony in mind. I have read them all over the past few months, a few at a time, and have found some interesting patterns.

He is very tough on screenwriters and directors but the writers get the brunt of his scorn. Almost invariably when he doesn’t like a movie (which seems but isn’t really the case, all the time) he faults the script, something that in general is difficult to disagree with. Fonoroff loves actors, though and none more than Chow Yun Fat and Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk, but he is generally at least supportive of the efforts of most of those in front of the camera. He knows good action scenes when he sees them and describes them well. Apparently a civil libertarian, he is very critical of movies in which the police show “a sneering attitude toward human rights” (review of Organized Crime and Triad Bureau) and “Human rights in Hong Kong would be all but extinct if life ever imitated the ‘art’ in Twist (review of Twist). One can only imagine his feelings about the justice system of the PRC.

His reviews are full of short and wonderfully descriptive allusions. When discussing True Love he mentions Sandra Ng’s “special brand of inelegance” which is as good a characterization of her as I have read. He writes that “Robotrix looks like a Chinese Robocop invested with the spirit of Russ Meyer” and that Missing Man is a “mystery thriller whose major mystery is how it ever got produced.” I realize that last one isn't very original but it is pretty funny.

With undergraduate studies in Chinese and a Master’s degree in cinema, knowledge of both Mandarin and Cantonese and long residence in Hong Kong, Fonoroff has the local lore, theoretical background and linguistic ability to cover Hong Kong movies in great depth. Most importantly he really loves the cinematic output of the former Crown Colony. This shines through in many reviews, not least in the on Fox Hunter in which he writes “The finale, set in a Guangdong department store, is deftly choreographed. It’s unlike anything seen outside the Cantonese screen, as realistic as a Fred Astaire dance number and nearly as much fun.

I don’t know if this book is still in print but it is widely available from online sources
User avatar
ewaffle
 
Posts: 737
Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2004 1:53 am
Location: Motown, Michigan, USA

Postby KMGor » Sat Oct 20, 2007 4:57 am

I finished Planet Hong Kong a while ago, but forgot to post again on it. Simply excellent reading, cover to cover. It filled in quite a few gaps in my knowledge of HK film history (though I'd like to learn more, in particular the mid 60s and earlier), as well as showing quite effectively what makes HK movies work. While, of course, I was familiar with much of this, I've rarely seen them dissected so well.

And, of course, the prose is clear and has just the right tone - never dry, but not too light. And hey, it also helped me add a bunch more HK DVDs to look for next time I visit Chinatown. Highly reccomended for anyone with casual or serious interest.

Oh yeah, and on a final sidenote.... I think Above the Law/Righting Wrongs (which Bordwell spends a good deal of time discussing) isn't all some people crack it up to be. Some great stuntwork and some good fighting, but didn't really seem to have much to reccomend it over many other 80s police kung fu flicks.
KMGor
 
Posts: 74
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:42 am

Postby Gaijin84 » Sun Oct 21, 2007 12:56 pm

Brian wrote:
Just got notification from Amazon about this upcoming book called Blazing Passions: Contemporary Hong Kong Cinema. Way too expensive for my budget. The subject matter may seem old hat to veteran HK cinema buffs, but those less familiar might enjoy Julian Stringer's prose.


They have a softcover version now that is 1/3 the price. Looks interesting!
For those interested:
Blazing Passions (Paperback)
User avatar
Gaijin84
 
Posts: 2445
Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2004 11:03 pm
Location: New York City

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Sun Oct 21, 2007 5:48 pm

Gaijin84 wrote:They have a softcover version now that is 1/3 the price. Looks interesting!


Thanks for the link. That's a little bit more in my budget range, and I'm sure there will be cheaper ones through the Amazon Marketplace after it's released. The fact that it has reprinted material is mainly what put me off the hardcover price, but this seems a bit more reasonable.

ewaffle wrote:Based on Brian's discussion of Paul Fonoroff's reviews earlier in this thread I picked up a copy of it.


Nice overview of Fonoroff's book by the way, Ed. I must admit, I do reference it fairly regularly, even if I continue to cringe at the sheer amount of movies he dismisses. Fonoroff's right in assailing the scripts on many of these things, but if it occurs, as he seems to suggest it does, in a majority of Hong Kong movies, then for me it almost has to be looked at in a different light than one would use to examine American screenwriting, European screenwriting and others to which Fonoroff continuallly makes comparisons. In the larger scheme of things, I've rarely found that a "weak" screenplay truly compromises all measure of enjoyment of a particular Hong Kong movie the way it seems to for Fonoroff (and I stress "rarely" because I have come across glaring examples) until I get down into the direct-to-video/shot-on-video arena, and even then I'm more likely to forgive: considering the microscopic budgets those are often made on, a dodgy screenplay is often the least of a production's (sometimes enjoyable) problems!

One thing's for certain about his book: I rarely doubt the "real" information he puts forth, like production details, current events that influence plots, off-screen antics of performers, etc. (although I've come across some odd spellings of performer names).


KMGor wrote:And, of course, the prose is clear and has just the right tone - never dry, but not too light. And hey, it also helped me add a bunch more HK DVDs to look for next time I visit Chinatown. Highly reccomended for anyone with casual or serious interest.


Good to read from another fan of this excellent book. One of the best things about it is that Bordwell often selects films that few if any have actually written about, including most of the other authors of books on Hong Kong cinema as well as pretty much every web denizen who claims to have been there, done that. When you come across a gem that Bordwell has dissected in his unique style, there's suddenly an urgency to see it in a moving format! I've sought out a few movies from his book in large part because I could find no information or reviews for them in any of my other books, or at any websites—and still can't.
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Tue Jan 29, 2008 12:41 am

Brian Thibodeau wrote: 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


A quick write-up I have on this recent read:

Asian Pop Cinema (1999) by Lee Server

More than time has passed since Asian Pop Cinema was published in 1999; the knowledge of Asian Cinema has become more ubiquitous with an abundant amount of DVDs and books that have been released since. For example, when writing about Thai movies he completely ignores Panna Rittikrai B action films that were plentiful and popular during the 80s and 90s, but it is hard to fault because they were not well known outside of Thailand until the popularity of Tony Jaa. Only five pages (and one of them a picture) are dedicated to Korean films. This would not happen if this book was written today with the brilliant, disturbing and unique cinema that comes out of South Korea.

Lee Server seems to favor filling too much information on erotica films (such as Japanese pinku or Philippine bomba films) while interesting are a bit disproportionate when considering the thesis of his book is “pop.”

Several interviews with John Woo, Tomoaki Hosoyama, Jose Lacaba are the highlights of this book and a good reason to get it if you are an Asian movie fan as long as this book remains inexpensive.

The books works well as a primer glossing over cinema from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Southeast Asia and India. It is weird that he has two specific chapters on Seijun Suzuki and Takeshi Kitano while ignoring most other directors or just barely mentioning them. Though even if you have a good knowledge of Asian cinema you are bound to get some idea of a future cinematic purchase (or rental) and this is where the book succeeds.
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Tue Jan 29, 2008 2:41 am

Glad to see someone still found this at least partially useful, in spite of it's limitations and age. As far as Korean cinema goes, when I read it in 1999, it was literally weeks before I found SHIRI and then, very intrigued, waited for more Korean cinema to make its way to my neck of the woods, knowing that Server's timing denied him coverage of Korea's imminent cinema renaissance. Mind you, it didn't take long for "the wave" to become the glut of derivative, homogenous product that's stifling the country's industry right even now. Server was lucky he wrote when he did. If he tried to cover it now, he'd might have a more difficult time of it. I'll give him this. It took me years to finally get a good, subtitled Korean DVD of 301/302, and Server's book was always the sole motivation behind that purchase.

Server's book is best taken as a primer, as you say. Even today, the book contains movies that still haven't found much recognition outside of their own countries, but with the world being much "flatter" than it was in 1999, we've got a much better chance of tracking them down now and furthering the cause. :D

And just be thankful he didn't take the Thomas Weisser approach to the erotic films he covered! :lol:
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Tue Jan 29, 2008 6:42 pm

Brian Thibodeau wrote:Glad to see someone still found this at least partially useful, in spite of it's limitations and age. As far as Korean cinema goes, when I read it in 1999, it was literally weeks before I found SHIRI and then, very intrigued, waited for more Korean cinema to make its way to my neck of the woods, knowing that Server's timing denied him coverage of Korea's imminent cinema renaissance. Mind you, it didn't take long for "the wave" to become the glut of derivative, homogenous product that's stifling the country's industry right even now. Server was lucky he wrote when he did. If he tried to cover it now, he'd might have a more difficult time of it. I'll give him this. It took me years to finally get a good, subtitled Korean DVD of 301/302, and Server's book was always the sole motivation behind that purchase.

Server's book is best taken as a primer, as you say. Even today, the book contains movies that still haven't found much recognition outside of their own countries, but with the world being much "flatter" than it was in 1999, we've got a much better chance of tracking them down now and furthering the cause. :D

And just be thankful he didn't take the Thomas Weisser approach to the erotic films he covered! :lol:


I feel that book is probably a good start for a newbie though it is probably time for another one (unless there is a good one that has been written since). I've avoided the Weisser book(s) because of your writings here (and others) so not quite familar with his approach.

"Even today, the book contains movies that still haven't found much recognition outside of their own countries" -- I definitely agree, I dissagreed with some of the reviews I read that stated if you had a good understanding of Asian cinema then you would not find much new in this book (I read this type of statement in many reviews for "primer" type books but rarely find it the case when you actually read the book; I sometimes think that people just write that to make themselves look better).

Server's knowledge of Indian movies is good too.

HONG KONG CINEMA; THE EXTRA DIMENSIONS: I've been reading this and so far finding it absolutely excellent read. I don't quite understand the 4star reviews on Amazon (2).

"Flatter" :D; I'm familar with your review on Amazon for "The World is Flat". I read your review after reading the 3rd version of that book a few months ago (though discussion of that probably doesn't belong in this thread :)).
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Tue Jan 29, 2008 8:46 pm

(I read this type of statement in many reviews for "primer" type books but rarely find it the case when you actually read the book; I sometimes think that people just write that to make themselves look better)


I wonder if some of the people who make comments or write reviews like that forget they were beginners once as well! :D Or, as you say, they want to position themselves as being superior to a particular author, which isn't really fair pool in a review unless, of course, the reviewer has their own book or other more tangible evidence that the book they're reviewing is flawed. Thus my list of Weisser's mistakes! I can make no claims to being a better writer than he or his contributors, and doing so really has no place in a review of someone else's labour of love when I know I can't back it up, but when there's that many glaring, unmended flaws in a single volume, a list-style 'review' is practically all you need to make the point.

(silly aside: my own 'review' of Weisser's book was pulled from Amazon when they caught wind that I was updating it with huge blocks of his errors taken from my original list. I knew I couldn't post the whole list right off the bat, so I included a handful in the first one to get it accepted, then gradually "lengthened" it as time went on. But I guess I went too far! :lol: :lol: )

In all seriousness, I'm certain there's not a book—new OR old—on Hong Kong (or Asian) cinema out there that won't offer some nugget of info to even the most hardened expert (perhaps even the ones who write other books!). Whether some of these experts (including the online ones) can admit it or not is another thing! :D Of course, I can understand someone being let down if they pay full cover price for a book but only glean a nugget or two of new wisdom from it. But who pays full price nowadays anyway?


HONG KONG CINEMA; THE EXTRA DIMENSIONS: I've been reading this and so far finding it absolutely excellent read. I don't quite understand the 4star reviews on Amazon (2).


Maybe they don't like the cover? :lol:


I'm familar with your review on Amazon for "The World is Flat".


:lol: More of an op-ed piece really, and not much of one at that! Can't even remember which review pissed me off enough to write it, but it was one of those nights, I guess. :?

I recently read the updated portions of the third version of The World Is Flat (my favourite book of the century so far!) while loafing around a big bookstore here and was very impressed with the way he improved upon the "no two countries with McDonalds have ever fought a war since they got McDonalds" concept that he crafted in the first two books. Apparently, some journo called him on it with proof that two countries with McDonalds had fought a war (though her argument was still a bit dodgy, as I recall), so he re-formatted (and enlarged) the theory to withstand such quibbling. The new concept essentiallly states that no two countries that are part of the Dell Computer supply chain—which is massive, and includes Taiwan and China—have ever fought a war since becoming part of the chain. So far, so true. ;)

.
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Tue Feb 19, 2008 7:13 pm

Looking forward to:
China Forever: The Shaw Brothers and Diasporic Cinema (Pop Culture and Politics Asia PA)

It won't be out for awhile though :(

http://www.amazon.com/dp/025203273X/

As I go through the HK and Asian books (slowly but surely) I always notice a few errors here and there (more as my knowledge increases), since Amazon took off your review, I was thinking that it would be nice for a singular area to print errata for books that relate to HK. Just an idea, but it would be nice for scholastic reasons to learn and promulgate the errors in these books so they will not be repeated over and over (I love the HONG KONG CINEMA book, but even that I have found a few errors here and there, mostly with Jackie Chan).
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Tue Feb 19, 2008 8:44 pm

Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:I was thinking that it would be nice for a singular area to print errata for books that relate to HK.


You mean here? That might be worthwile. Perhaps a sticky thread of some kind. I've certainly been adding to my list of errors in Thomas Weisser's book and will likely update the thread here about it from time to time (most recent gem: Tsui Hark directed HAPPY GHOST 3!). That's one list that can never be long enough! And as long as that book is still in print, well . . .
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Tue Feb 19, 2008 10:18 pm

Brian Thibodeau wrote:
Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:I was thinking that it would be nice for a singular area to print errata for books that relate to HK.


You mean here? That might be worthwile. Perhaps a sticky thread of some kind. I've certainly been adding to my list of errors in Thomas Weisser's book and will likely update the thread here about it from time to time (most recent gem: Tsui Hark directed HAPPY GHOST 3!). That's one list that can never be long enough! And as long as that book is still in print, well . . .


Yes, I think this is a good place, plus I have not seen this anywhere else. It is one of those ideas that would probably work better as a Twiki type entry (or something similar), but I've seen that done as a thread for a variety of topics (like at Criterion.org uses that to keep track of short films on the Criterion releases, rumors for new releases etc...)

Anyone interested in the Shaw Brother's book mentioned earlier? Is there another resource that is good for detailed Shaw information?
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Postby ewaffle » Wed Feb 20, 2008 1:09 am

Looking forward to:
China Forever: The Shaw Brothers and Diasporic Cinema (Pop Culture and Politics Asia PA)


This is good news--Poshek Fu was one of the editors of "The Cinema of Hong Kong: History, Arts, Identity", one of the best collections of essays on HK movies from the 1990s. His current interests which involve capital flow and film finance, business and movies, is intriguing. From his University of Illinois page:

"Publication: My current book project combines cinema studies and business history to examine the little-studied political economy of pan-Chinese commercial cinemas from 1900 to 2000. My edited volume, China Forever: The Diasporic Cinema of Shaw Brothers is forthcoming from University of Illinois Press and Hong Kong University Press."

So he will have a big book coming out after the edited volume due this year.

Here is a link to an article that covers some of the material he mentions:

http://www.ejumpcut.org/currentissue/Poshek/index.html

I didn't know this journal existed until I followed a link on google. It look very interesting although unless someone has invented a time-stretcher I may not be looking at it that often. :cry:
User avatar
ewaffle
 
Posts: 737
Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2004 1:53 am
Location: Motown, Michigan, USA

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:38 am

ewaffle wrote:I didn't know this journal existed until I followed a link on google. It look very interesting although unless someone has invented a time-stretcher I may not be looking at it that often. :cry:


Great find. But you're right about needing a time-stretcher. Plenty of good stuff in their archives, but it doesn't seem to be accessible other than by a search box (which requires typing in titles/names until you find something related). But geez, a post-feminist examination of DOWN WITH LOVE, one of my favorite guilty pleasures? Never thought I'd see that! :lol:
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Postby ewaffle » Wed Mar 19, 2008 6:50 am

“Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's Infernal Affairs - the Trilogy” by Gina Marchetti is a book that only a talented academic could write. She shows how the movies are situated in the economic, social and cultural past and present of Hong Kong, and how they reflect many of the desires and fears that citizens of the SAR have for the future. A most talented critic, Marchetti seems to have every frame of each of the movies at her fingertips, relating different shots to the economics of film production and distribution, the history of Triads, psychoanalytic views of male bonding, questions of identity and an astonishing array of other movies from China, France, the USA and bunch of other countries.

As an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong, Marchetti has had her tenure ticket punched and is free to write books with a broader appeal than the more narrowly specialized works that are necessary to get tenured. “Infernal Affairs—the Trilogy” has a few of the seeming always necessary genuflections to Frederic Jameson, Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida that pepper every work of film criticism but they are unobtrusive and easily ignored unless one is interested in such things (which this one is). The book is an example of why it makes sense for societies to invest/allocate/grant some capital to what may be seen as unproductive areas like film study programs at universities. It is a terrific book, one in which the author shows an astonishing breadth and depth of knowledge. She writes clearly and well although with the academic reserve one would expect—this is not a book for fanboys. One of the few quibbles I have is with the layout/design. It features some very small (but very sharp) stills from the movies. I found them more annoying than helpful.

Includes a synopsis and extensive cast list for each film plus an interview with Lau and Mak by Marchetti that initially ran at hkcinemagic.com.

It is part of “The New Hong Kong Cinema Series” which includes “John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow” by Karen Fang which will be next on my list—or at least pretty soon.
User avatar
ewaffle
 
Posts: 737
Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2004 1:53 am
Location: Motown, Michigan, USA

Postby KMGor » Thu Mar 20, 2008 10:01 pm

HONG KONG CINEMA: A CROSS-CULTURAL VIEW

I have this book, and I haven't read a whole lot of it. There's far less content than you would think, and much of it is not particularly interesting. I dunno, I was quite disappointed. It's also a bit hard to follow at times, and barely covers anything in the modern era in Hong Kong.

I'm going to give another crack at it later, but as is, I can't reccomend it.
KMGor
 
Posts: 74
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:42 am

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Mon Apr 28, 2008 5:41 am

Found a new one tonight. EAST ASIAN CINEMA by David Carter. Didn't buy it as it's definitely for beginners, but a good project nonetheless. Nothing in it would surprise any regulars here, but newbies might find it an easy overview. If I'd had a couple of hours, I probably could've read the whole thing in-store, but a few minutes perusing it suggests Carter covers largely the best-known names you'd expect in Hong Kong, Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese and Chinese cinema, so he's not particularly adventurous, but again, as a starter guide, it's pretty good. Personally, I think he's a bit prone to glossing over important artists with a line or two just so he can say he included them, but hopefully that might still inspire newbies to take things further.

http://www.kamerabooks.co.uk/eastasiancinema/index.php

The book also comes with a DVD stitched in back called Cinema on the Road - A Personal Essay on Cinema in Korea by Jang Sun-woo, which I've read is "a 1995 production that charts the development of Korean filmmaking both socially and politically" Haven't heard of this before, but it might be interesting as it pre-dates the Korean renaissance.

And finally, unlike countless other books on Hong Kong cinema that you just KNOW got at least some of their information from this site, Carter actually lists the HKMDB as a resource in his notes. Very cool. 8)



.
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Mon Apr 28, 2008 4:47 pm

Brian Thibodeau wrote: ...And finally, unlike countless other books on Hong Kong cinema that you just KNOW got at least some of their information from this site, Carter actually lists the HKMDB as a resource in his notes. Very cool. 8)
.


Not to make it uncool, VideoHound's Dragon: Asian Action & Cult Flicks (Paperback) also references this site (I believe that is how I originally found this site).
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Mon Apr 28, 2008 5:19 pm

Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:Not to make it uncool, VideoHound's Dragon: Asian Action & Cult Flicks (Paperback) also references this site (I believe that is how I originally found this site).


True, indeed!

That's why I qualified my post with "countless" rather than "all." :lol: Perusing Carter's book made me take a quick peek at the resources listed in a bunch of my HK film books (though not all of them) when I got home that night, including the Video Hound guide, where I did indeed notice this site scrunched in with the million other web references they list, some of which, not surprisingly, are now gone. In Carter's book, there are only two Hong Kong film-related sites listed as resources, and this place is one of them.

I think I was more disappointed that people like Fonoroff (who actually provided reviews here once upon a time), Bordwell, Stokes et. al., couldn't at least give the site a little love. Of course, their books date to a time when this place wasn't such reliable font of information, so there is that . . . ;)
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Mon Apr 28, 2008 5:52 pm

Brian Thibodeau wrote: ...
I think I was more disappointed that people like Fonoroff (who actually provided reviews here once upon a time), Bordwell, Stokes et. al., couldn't at least give the site a little love. Of course, their books date to a time when this place wasn't such reliable font of information, so there is that . . . ;)


What in the world has happened to Fonoroff? :D

I try to give this site as much love as possible (especially since I use it for a lot of reference) and recommend it to other people interested in HK films.

I just started: China on Screen: Cinema and Nation (Film and Culture Series) by Christopher J. Berry (Author), Mary Ann Farquhar (Author)

and will later give opinions on that (as long as I remember :D).
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Postby cal42 » Mon Jun 02, 2008 8:53 pm

ewaffle wrote:I am currently reading Teo�s book King Hu�s A Touch of Zen which as beautifully and cogently written as anything I have read in a long time on any subject. He is simply a wonderful writer (and a meticulous researcher) and has been studying the Hong Kong film world for years.


I've just read this (I know, I've had for ages!) and I find Teo a bit tough going. Plus, there were a few opinions and conclusions he drew that I seriously disagree with. Can't fault the guy for the depth of his thought processes, but I wish he'd use plain English a little more!
Heroes of the East - the only blog in the world with the world famous Lam Suet-o-meter!
User avatar
cal42
 
Posts: 467
Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2005 9:45 am
Location: Birmingham, England

Re: Books in English on Hong Kong film

Postby KMGor » Mon Aug 18, 2008 8:42 pm

Hey, just thought I'd post in here asking for suggestions. It looks like I'll be doing my thesis on an analysis of American VS HK action films, mostly concentrating on the early 80s to the mid 90s. Considering the obscure nature of most of these books (even on intraschool loans, almost none are available from my university), I'm probably going to have to buy all my research material. Considering that, anyone have particular suggestions?

I'm going to definitely buy Planet Hong Kong, as Bordwell's technical discussions of editing and shot composition in action scenes are excellent.

I'm also looking at a number of books mentioned in this thread, and a compilation called Hong Kong Connections: Transnational Imagination in Action Cinema. I already own At Full Speed and Hong Kong Cineam: The Extra Dimension by Teo.

I also considered writing a thesis on the history of the Shaw Bros. studio, but believe it or not I couldn't find sufficient research material in English. There's that new book on the subject, and surprisingly little else.
KMGor
 
Posts: 74
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:42 am

Postby ewaffle » Mon Aug 18, 2008 11:39 pm

KMGor wrote:Hey, just thought I'd post in here asking for suggestions. It looks like I'll be doing my thesis on an analysis of American VS HK action films, mostly concentrating on the early 80s to the mid 90s. Considering the obscure nature of most of these books (even on intraschool loans, almost none are available from my university), I'm probably going to have to buy all my research material. Considering that, anyone have particular suggestions?


"John Woo's A Better Tomorrow" by Karen Fang, part of the New Hong Kong Cinema series published by Hong Kong University Press is both a reasonably close reading of the movie and also a survey of its popular and critical reception in Hong Kong and globally.
User avatar
ewaffle
 
Posts: 737
Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2004 1:53 am
Location: Motown, Michigan, USA

PreviousNext

Return to Hong Kong Movies

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Yahoo [Bot] and 2 guests

cron