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Hong Kong Film, Hollywood and the New Global Cinema: No Film Is an Island.

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Hong Kong Film, Hollywood and the New Global Cinema: No Film is an Island


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Martial artist and movie star Bruce Lee’s sculpture


Hong Kong Film, Hollywood and the New Global Cinema: No Film is an Island

Wenqi Guo, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University



Movies play a significant role in people’s leisure life even with the rapid development of Internet. No industry could succeed without a long period of development. The book, Hong Kong Film, Hollywood and the New Global Cinema: No Film is an Island, discusses the development of Hong Kong film industry in the last few decades. Taking advantage of global information that the colonial history has brought, Hong Kong film industry has experienced a long but fruitful process to grow and established itself as a filmmaking hub for the Chinese-speaking world. All of these would not have been realized without the tremendous contribution of filmmaking elites such as Tsui Hark and John Woo’s during the challenging time. The Hong Kong styled Kong-fu movies as well as horror movies, however, are also an indispensable element to carry the industry through and make a fine figure in the world. This book examines the Hong Kong film industry from different professional perspectives, giving readers a critical view of Hong Kong film industry.

Keywords: Genres of film, history, Hong Kong film, Hollywood production


Hong Kong Film, Hollywood and the New Global Cinema: No Film is an Island. Edited by Gina Marchetti and Tan See Kam. London: Routledge. 2007. ISBN: 9780415380683. 304 pp.


Hong Kong film has played an important role in the development of Hong Kong. Scrutinizing the film history of Hong Kong could help one develop a better understanding of the history of Hong Kong. Hong Kong Film, Hollywood and the New Global Cinema is a book written by more than one writer, most of whom are professors of film and cinema from famous universities, such as the University of Hong Kong and Griffith University. They all have their professional ideas and understandings of the history of Hong Kong cinema.

This book is different from an ordinary history book which just has some important events and some important people. It really covers a wide range of characteristics of Hong Kong cinema, and discusses what an important role it has played in changing global film markets. As the introduction of this book states:

It explores Hong Kong cinema’s inextricable links with China, Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia, the United States, and the Chinese diaspora. It considers Hong Kong’s connection with Hollywood, which involves ties that bring together art cinema and popular transnational genres, and demonstrates how Hong Kong film, throughout its history, has challenged, redefined, expanded, and exceeded its borders. (Marchetti & Tan, 2007, p. 1)

So this book not only keeps an eye on the development of Hong Kong cinema, but also discusses Hong Kong film in the context of globally interconnected filmmaking practices and film scholarship.

There is a large difference in the style of writing between this book and other historical books, though it also covers the history of Hong Kong cinema from the late colonial era of 1980s to now. Instead of using time sequence, the editors divide it into three parts to provide a clearer analysis of the industry from different angles. These are ‘Hongkongers’ abroad’, ‘To-ing and fro-ing: transnational genres’ and ‘International players and a global niche’. There are fifteen chapters in total written by different writers.

In the first two chapters of part one, Professor Tan (the writer of chapter one) mainly uses the movie Shanghai Blues (Shanghai Zhi Ye; dir. Tsui Hark [Xu Ke], 1984) as an example to explain what New Hong Kong cinema is elaborating mainly with John Woo and Hong Kong’s kung fu films. What the two articles have in common is that they both focus on the background and the contribution the directors have made to the development of Hong Kong’s film industry. There are a great deal of sources to help readers better understand the development of Hong Kong cinema and the important role of Hong Kong films in the new global cinema.

Tsui Hark, a director of international stature with a transnational following, is regarded as Hong Kong’s Steven Spielberg and pioneer of Hong Kong Cinema. When Hong Kong’s film industry has just started to develop, however, there were many groundless allegations that Hong Kong films had plagiarised from Hollywood to some extent, just like Bordwell’s (2000) words here:

From the start Hong Kong film was indebted to America … Today Hollywood remains the reference point [for Hong Kong cinema]… As Hong Kong became part of world film culture [since the 1980s], America filmmakers returned the compliment of plagiarism…signal[ing] the Hongkongfication of American cinema. (pp. 139-41)

It is a mistake just “taking the Planet Hollywood tree for the forest of Hong Kong cinema” (Marchetti & Tan, 2007, p. 16), which indicates that Hong Kong and Hollywood cinemas both intersect and diverge in part, and we can see both similarity and differences between them. It is what Professor Tan stresses in the words ‘no film is an island’.

John Woo is the third Chinese star who went to Hollywood for further development right after Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. He had changed Chang Cheh’s signature ‘yanggang (staunch masculinity)’ approach to cinematic action and heroics, and focused on the friendship of brotherhood. He also obtained a hefty profit by consistently directing action films and also made a complete contribution to Hong Kong heroic bloodshed films. This is what the writer of this chapter says in the conclusion of this chapter: “The Pacific Passage is not a one-way street” (Marchetti & Tan, 2007, p. 49).

However, as a book to tell readers the history of Hong Kong cinema, the two chapters discussed above are special as they describe in detail the story of the movies mentioned in the articles. For example in the first chapter, Professor Tan uses almost four pages to describe the story of Shanghai Blues in chapter two. There are also many descriptions about John Woo’s six American films. On the one hand it makes people feel that it may not be necessary to do so in a book which focuses on the history of Hong Kong cinema. On the other hand, these descriptions do help readers have a close look at Hong Kong people’s lives in the past. So these descriptions are necessary.



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