Recent Hong Kong Cinema
Our biennial catch-up of some of the latest from the traditional headquarters of Asian action cinema clearly shows signs of Mainland China’s looming power. The big question for every Hong Kong filmmaker seems 'to Beijing or not Beijing’ – to orientate away from local Hong Kong and Cantonese stories and source of finance, towards the mainland markets and Mandarin-speaking audiences. Most of the industry’s respected director/producers (Johnnie To, Tsui Hark, Peter Ho-Sun Chan) have forayed into Mandarin language, mainland co-productions.
But in all cases, there is a sense of the commercial and censorship constraints of Mainland co-production and their limited creative latitude. For the moment, the sly allegory of the mainland produced, but partially Hong Kong-funded Let the Bullets Fly seems to be about as risky as it gets. As new films from Dante Lam and Johnnie To show, when its leading filmmakers have a seriousness of intent and theme, their work is still intrinsically made in Hong Kong – especially in their still trend-setting, corruption-drenched action/policers, and in their allegories of the city’s winner-takes-all brand of capitalism.
Surprisingly, the crisis is actually producing some of the most self-consciously Hong Kong ‘nationalist’ films since the anxieties of the pre-handover 1990s. Never before has there been such a sense of the passing and loss of Hong Kong’s local heritage, from a society normally in a rush to pull down and rebuild everything. Ann Hui’s new film A Simple Life sees something deeper: a loss of human heritage, and an end of an era of particular Cantonese traditional social values and family loyalties.
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