Saturday, January 14, 2012

hong kong cinema

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Assignment ------ topic 4

As a very important part of worldwide popular art, Hong Kong action movies achieved both the high reputation and successful box-office. For the entertainment functions, Hong Kong action movies give the audiences strong stimulation regardless to an impulse from the physical characters on the screen transferring to the emotional senses. More crucially, the visual dynamism determines the real fascination of Hong Kong action movies. There is a term called ¡° expressive amplification¡± by David Bordwell to show how a fight is giving different emotional quality such as ferocity. There are some elements, involving stylish performance, creative cinematography and editing.

For an action movie, audiences¡¯ first gaze to the screen must be the main character. They draw out attentions to those stunts, chases or leaps. And there always exist certain purposes for their actions, either for hate, revenge, pain, or for lost love, loyalty to some organizations. Character such as lawyer Hsia presented by Yuen Biao in Righting Wrongs, he often creates several postures and facial expressions before he releasing his great power. For instance, the prick-up-eyebrow and large-eyed face portrays a hotheaded hero who will take immediate action to villain once he faces the injustice. These expressive styles suggest an overacting within Hong Kong action movies. Soundtrack is also an important element of rhythm and expressivity. On the first level of soundtrack, it offer the fighting a tempo, on the secondary level, it indicates the emotional changes of characters.

Film emerges enrichment of cinematography to exhibit a strong visual feeling to spectators. Different kinds of camera movements, high and low angles, framing work together to construct the unrealistic illusion. For example, Hong Kong directors prefer using zooming or shot scale to present the body moving. Moreover, Hong Kong directors use a lot of editing techniques to amplify forces in combat. Felicitously giving either fast or slow motion of one action will create distinctive effects to audiences.

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The first action sequence is from one earlier part of Righting Wrongs. After the key witness was murdered, lawyer Hsia decides to take the law into his own hands, then the killing images come out. Firstly a long shot generating for offering us a preview of the office that the following actions will take place, the bad boss with glasses looking upwards through the window to find out some strange sounds. The next shot quickly cuts to an impetuous burst of glazing, then the camera changes to another position which is on the left side of boss, to show how the glass pieces pounce at the his face. And the fourth shot switches to the front, appearing to us a medium close up of boss¡¯s leaning back. Nearly the same time, Hsia jumps into the office by a thick rope. the blowing is purposely slowing down in order to emphasize the power from Hsia¡¯s kicking. Also, it extends the suspenseful moment for us. In Hong Kong movie, slow motion will only allocated for specific stunts. It helps us to realize how dangerous the situation is in an expressive way. Thus the amplifying works efficiently for the action¡¯s physical strength by playing with speed of motion. The energy communicated to audiences is palpable. In later sequence, we have a shot by showing Hsia wanting to chase the boss, here the excessive legs of boss are amplified which dominates / parts of the frame. Then Hsia leaps up and kicks the boss by his right leg, to demonstrate the great impacts. The director sets four different cameras in right-side, foreground, middle back and right back, so as to exaggerate the length of Hsia¡¯s legs. Further more, several times of Hsia¡¯s close ups suggest us the protagonist¡¯s tenacity---his particular expression only occurs before the action. An extreme close up gives further magnified delineation of his angry eyes. And the director conveys the pause-burst-pause pattern by cutting within one action. For example, before attacking, Hsia¡¯s face appearing in the frame(pause), then a fist bounces the villain (burst), lastly close up of boss¡¯s bloody face proving the force of fist( pause). On the other hand, the overfull close ups of the boss¡¯s bloody face reflect a high degree of violence, his grimaces accompanied with out of screen groan are considered to be one of the expressive elements because audience will not accept the fake as their same feelings. Equally important, in terms of cinematography, there is no any employments of repetitive camera position. A particular action must ask for a relative place, even for one fist, there still are several aspects to illustrate it. Consequently a close view for a specific object or a gesture allow us to pay attention to the being amplified action.

The second sequence we are analyzing is an extract of Naked Killer. Injured Kitty is running away under sister Cindy¡¯s covertures, still they meet their male opponents and start fighting in the carpark. This is the first time in the film that Cindy shows her identification as a female professional assassinator, hence a number of wide-angle shots given to her. In fact the first image exhibits the impossible incline where Cindy is standing, as the director using some special techniques to make the frame to be as flamboyant as much. This, gives Cindy a time to fling off the coat and be ready for the following hit. Audiences would get a very strong visual sense about that. The coming medium close up of Cindy swinging out the dart provides a much closer view of her facial expression and the gesture. One man is killed immediately by Cindy¡¯s flying dart, it also leads a chain effect to other men. Next two comparable shots both use camera tracking, one shot shows Kitty is shooting while running on the cars to left direction, the camera tracks to left at a very quick speed. Another shot showing those men who would like to catch Kitty are running at a same rhythm with Kitty¡¯s pace. Thus the tendency is developed in this gun-playing which obtains a synchronization of running and leaping. Finally once again, we get an inclined frame at an extremely low angle representing that recumbent Kitty is long-shooting the man standing over the car at the background. Cindy¡¯s acrobatic fighting is enhanced in this sequence as well. She firstly jumped across the firelight, breaking the front window of car, and kicking the driver¡¯s head, she completes her action by tumbling around to avoid the back attacker, scrambling up the car and controlling the situation. The editing is essential to construct those fragments of action, which guides us audiences on the moving body of Cindy. Secondly a fast-motion cinematography also concentrates on the precision of each action. Hong Kong action movies pursue a high legibility in each shot and aiming to emit the maximum force. From this sequence, sister Cindy is portrayed to be one-piece-skirt which looks laconically agile. As what she does, she manages to capture all the men with her stunt and gets no hurts at all. Although the whole sequence only lasts about thirty seconds, it is long enough to show every single movement of the combat.

Turn to the third sequence, also from Righting Wrongs, the images shows a combat in mahjong parlor between woman cop Cindy and Buffalo¡¯s group. Woman cop takes out her CID card in front of Buffalo, the camera once goes to a low angle scene which comprises the digging action from Buffalo. The hand and the weapon get apparently symbolized. Cindy recognized that and lifts the mahjong table in order to use one table-leg to pin Buffalo¡¯s foot. Hence a more legible shot comes out, showing a high angle vision of repeating moment¡ÂȘthe foot getting pressed. The table-leg is embodied to be very thick and heavy. As the next shot showing a painful expression of Buffalo, his pals go into the camera. However, Cindy does not take it as a big deal, a close up with a key light from left highlight her facial gymnastic, a slight glance to her side intensifies her despising to them and confidence to win. While someone tries to attack her by holding a chair, Cindy quickly flips a spittoon to the attacker¡¯s face. Due to the fact that Hong Kong action movies in 180s would avoid the zooming, film techniques for amplifying the expressive dimensions of action suggest us that it is a tradition for Hong Kong cinema to set up a stylistic device, as a result, making the illusions we have seen from screen to be much larger than our real lives. Especially from these sequences, editing serves the film so well as it smoothes the action into a coherent storytelling. The director of the film links Cindy¡¯s reactions and the conflicts with those men in a such close way. Besides, the rapid editing strengthens the great force of blowing. Comparing to the classical Hollywood ¡° coverage¡±, instead, Hong Kong films would separate the whole scene into series of shots, giving audience impressive feeling. Because this segment shooting tends to break the action step to step, there is no chance for us to see the entire scene being played, it finally helps us to analyze the event simply, dramatically, and much clearly. For example, a pause is telling us to accentuate the result of a kick or a leap by the woman cop Cindy.

To sum up, the expressive amplification in Hong Kong action films creates visual pleasure to audiences. It brings dynamic plausibility for the physical action scenes in films that it could not occur in the realistic life. During the period of 180s to 10, fake stunts become conventional and more broadly the essence of martial arts get disseminated.


1 Esther C. M.Yau(ed) .¡°Aesthetics in Action Kungfu, Gunplay, and cinematic expressivity¡±, At full speed--- Hong Kong cinema in a borderless world . University of Minnesota Press. 001. Minneapolis London. Pg 8---

Bordwell, David, Planet Hong Kong popular cinema and the art of entertainment. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA/London. 000. pg 1-45

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