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Planet Hong Kong: popular cinema and the art of entertainment
by David Bordwell
Harvard University Press, 2000
Paper: 978-0-674-00214-2 | Cloth: 978-0-674-00213-5
Library of Congress Classification PN1993.5.H6B63 2000
Dewey Decimal Classification 791.43095125

ABOUT THIS BOOK
ABOUT THIS BOOK
In Planet Hong Kong David Bordwell trains virtually every critical weapon in the cinema studies arsenal on a film industry that has, ironically, been marginalized by its own popular success. Film scholars will be grateful for its theoretical breadth and acuity; film fans will be happy with the graceful way Bordwell weaves into his chapters an extraordinary amount of telling anecdote; and filmmakers will be thrilled with his wonderfully revealing frame-by-frame analyses of Hong Kong cinema's most exemplary moments.

Table of Contents:

Preface

1. All Too Extravagant, Too Gratuitously Wild
Hong Kong and/as/or Hollywood
2. Local Heroes
Two Dragons: Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan
3. The Chinese Connections
4. Once upon a Time in the West
Enough to Make Strong Men Weep: John Woo
5. Made in Hong Kong
A Chinese Feast: Tsui Hark
6. Formula, Form, and Norm
Whatever You Want: Wong Jing
7. Plots, Slack and Stretched
8. Motion Emotion: The Art of the Action Movie
Three Martial Masters: Zhang Che, Lau Kar-Leung, King Hu
9. Avant-Pop Cinema
Romance On Your Menu: Chungking Express

Further Reading
Notes
Acknowledgments
Index



Reviews of this book:
One of our most inventive film scholars, Bordwell takes on one of the most over-the-top cinemas. For 20 years, the Hong Kong film industry was one of the world's most commercially successful and prolific. Recently Western critics have begun to recognize it as possessing a level of creativity almost equal to its financial success--despite its deep roots in genre traditions aimed at a mass audience, Bordwell examines how these elements interact in Hong Kong films to produce an art that is at the same time both popular and significant. He outlines the history, economics, and production techniques of the Hong Kong studios, particularly focussing on the genres that are most closely associated with their success (the kung-fu film, the swordplay epic, the gangster film, and the urban comedy)...By rooting his analyses in detailed readings of the film texts, he is able to convey--as much as mere words can--how this audaciously visceral cinema works...Bordwell is not well known outside academic film circles, but he should be; perhaps this volume will give him the exposure he deserves.
--Kirkus Reviews

"Bordwell's volume is the most comprehensive Western work on its topic to date. Bordwell first considers how the Hong Kong industry has functioned in its local context, then examines how it captured the East Asian market and achieved cult status in the West...[Bordwell] demonstrates that academic film scholarship can itself be fun, spirited, and of interest to a broad audience."

--Neal Baker, Library Journal

"The wildly popular Hong Kong cinema at last inspires an informed analysis. David Bordwell is the most valuable and readable film scholar in America. He makes a persuasive case for Hong Kong movies as great entertainment and sometimes great art."

--Roger Ebert, Pulitzer-prize winning film critic, Chicago Sun-Times

"Planet Hong Kong offers an exuberant appreciation of the life and times of Hong Kong's highly commercial--and rapidly-cut--cinema."

--Alissa Quart, Lingua Franca

"David Bordwell unpacks the shameless delights of Hong Kong cinema with one eye on the vitality of pop culture and the other on surprises and discoveries which redraw the map of film form and grammar. Here, the road of excess really does lead to the palace of wisdom."

--Tony Rayns, film critic, Sight and Sound

"In Planet Hong Kong David Bordwell trains virtually every critical weapon in the cinema studies arsenal on a film industry that has, ironically, been marginalized by its own popular success. Film scholars will be grateful for its theoretical breadth and acuity; film fans will be happy with the graceful way Bordwell weaves into his chapters an extraordinary amount of telling anecdote; and filmmakers will be thrilled with his wonderfully revealing frame-by-frame analyses of Hong Kong cinema's most exemplary moments."

--James Schamus, producer and writer, The Ice Storm, The Wedding Banquet, Eat Drink Man Woman, Ride with the Devil and the forthcoming Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

"This is the first serious attempt by a distinguished American film academic in dissecting the popular aesthetics and entertainment precepts of the Hong Kong film industry. Planet Hong Kong will certainly be an important work in the growing literature on Hong Kong cinema."

--Stephen Teo, author of Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions

"Through rigorous and colorful analysis, Bordwell situates Hong Kong within the mainstream of world film history and, more specifically, as a parallel to a tradition most readers will already be familiar with: Hollywood. Planet Hong Kong will be extremely precious for film students and film scholars alike."

--Bérénice Reynaud, Live Action Faculty, School of Film/Video, California Institute of the Arts

Reviews of this book:
The wildly popular Hong Kong cinema at last inspires an informed analysis. David Bordwell is the most valuable and readable film scholar in America. He makes a persuasive case for Hong Kong movies as great entertainment and sometimes great art.
--Roger Ebert, Pulitzer Prize-winning flint critic, Chicago Sun-Times

Reviews of this book:
A must-read for film students as well as Hong Kong movie fans. And for Hong Kong's moviegoers quick to dismiss mass-market productions as too commercial, uninspired or just plain lowbrow, Planet Hong Kong offers inspiration for a rethink on Hong Kong's homegrown film industry.
--Tim Youngs, dotlove.com

Reviews of this book:
When new acolytes of Hong Kong cinema sit down to describe it, normally dry writers get juiced on the energy of the films...They want to convey in words the jolt of discovery, the ecstasy of cultdom...Even a relatively staid critic such as structuralist guru David Bordwell seems to be typing in his shorts, with a beer on his desk, in Planet Hong Kong...Combining the study of film form and movie economics, analysis and field work, [he] cogently evokes what separates Hong Kong's buccaneer directors from Hollywood's current storytellers.
--Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

Reviews of this book:
Rather than simply labeling Hong Kong action movies 'over-the-top,' [Bordwell] offers a close reading of the way they tend to use 'technical tricks'...calling attention to the use of the zoom lens and sound editing as rhythmic devices, rather than simple means of imparting information or telling a story...For all his emphasis on visual style, Bordwell also does justice to the important role of Hong Kong's stars.
--Steve Erickson, Senses of Cinema

Reviews of this book:
David Bordwell is a scholar who writes as a fan. He is in love with the crazy rip-roaring, vulgar confusion that is Hong Kong cinema, but he also knows how and why it works and explains it in words the layman can understand.
--The Economist

Reviews of this book:
[This book] is among the best of the recent batch of books on Hong Kong cinema. Much of this ground has been covered before, but Bordwell applies his formalist approach to a broad range of films while never losing sight of the crazy energy that makes them so likeable in the first place.
--Film Comment

Reviews of this book:
The most sober and thorough book yet on the topic.
--Paul F. Duke, Variety

Reviews of this book:
A valuable book...vividly written and set out in short, punchy chapters with handsome and well-used film stills...Never inclined to interpret films through a social, political or psychological lens, Bordwell prefers to get at the industry, the systems, craft and style that sustain Hong Kong filmmakers. In a sense, he is after the everydayness of an amazingly vital and driven film colony...What fuels Planet Hong Kong and makes it special is Bordwell's critical belief that any self-sustaining commercial cinema is a particular art in itself, and one astonishingly rare in the history of the medium. A film book this good is likewise almost as rare.
--Bart Testa, Globe & Mail

Reviews of this book:
Bordwell has written the first informed analysis of one of the greatest success stories in cinema history: Hong Kong, dominant force in Asian film making and an enormous influence on movies around the world...Bordwell loves Hong Kong movies and writes about them with enthusiasm and flair...[He] never loses sight of the fact that Hong Kong's movies, like Hollywood's, are an immensely successful transcultural, popular-culture art form--almost a contradiction in terms--epitomizing the mystery of the movies.
--R. D. Sears, Choice

Reviews of this book:
Beijing Opera meets hyper-Eisenstein in this sublime orchestration of rapid (constructive) editing, percussive rhythms and patterns of stasis and dynamic movement. This more than anything is Bordwell's great contribution to the study of Hong Kong cinema, and the reason why this is essential reading.
--Poshek Fu and David Desser, Scope

Reviews of this book:
Planet Hong Kong is...like a conversation with a good friend. Bordwell's voice is personable and intelligent, and he makes history and film more palatable than The Cinema of Hong Kong does for the novice. Bordwell focuses on the art of entertainment...In doing so, the effects are understood beyond language and cultural barriers.
--Okden Johnny, Pacific Reader

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