COMPARING CHINESE CINEMA AND HONG KONG CINEMA 7
ComparingChinese Cinema and Hong Kong Cinema
ComparingChinese Cinema and Hong Kong Cinema
Theentertainment industry has undergone fundamental changes from theconventional human society to the contemporary times. This is notonly with regard to the types or forms of entertainment that areavailable but also the kind of content that is incorporated in thesame. Perhaps the component of the entertainment industry that takethe lion’s share of the growth is the cinema and film industry,with numerous players getting into the field and introducing diverseforms of movies and films. It goes without saying that there arenumerous business entities that are considered powerhouses in theglobal powerhouses as far as the film industry is concerned. However,it is noteworthy that the locations where the entities are locateddetermines the kind of content that they produce, as well as thequality of the production and, consequently, the level of advancementor rather the progress that the sector experiences. As much as theHollywood is considered a key player in the film industry, otherregions are attracting interest. This is particularly the case forAsian countries, whose mere populations have increased theirimportance in the globe not only as potential markets but alsosources of cinematic films. More often than not, it is assumed thatthe Asian countries have similar cinemas, usually characterized by orespoused by the Chinese cinema which is arguably the most conspicuousand dominant. As much as they may have their similaritiesparticularly as a result of the distinctive and unique cultures ofthese areas, a close examination of their specific features revealdistinctive aspects for every regions cinema. This is, essentially,the case for the Chinese and Hong Kong cinema, which haveparticularly dominated the Asian region.
Perhapswhat is most telling of the relationship between these two countriescinema is the fact that they have a tied history. Indeed, Hong Kong has, since time immemorial, identified itself with China, which isnot surprising considering that the Hong Kong people have always hadfar-reaching ancestral links with their Chinese motherland. This doesnot undermine the fact that the distinctive colonial history of HongKong, coupled with the global achievements that it has had haveestablished a unique national identity. Scholars note that themainland Chinese have conventionally seen Hong Kong as a land withnumerous opportunities for growth and economic freedom (Zhang,2012).In the contemporary times, the achievements of Hong Kong havepersistently cemented its reputation pertaining to success asdemonstrated by its film industry. Scholars note that the Hong Kongcinema comes with a global identity particularly with regard to thefact that it incorporates a global market of its own. This should notbe surprising considering the influence of the western audience andfilmmakers with whom Hong Kong have increasingly been working. Ofparticular note is the fact that the Hong Kong cinema industry is notso much restricted as to the content that it can produce. This meansthat the industry still adopts movies from western and other foreigncountries without much hindrance from the government. This is unlikethe case of Chinese cinema which, even in these modern times, stillhas restrictions placed on it regarding the content that is allowedin the films, as well as the number of foreign films allowed on anannual basis. It is reported that the foreign films allowed per yearstand at 34, with the government closely scrutinizing the contentbefore deciding whether to allow the production of particular films(Zhang,2012).
Inaddition, cinemas from the two regions are similar in the fact thatthey are primarily action movies. Indeed, scholars have acknowledgedthat the main contribution that the Chinese-speaking world has madeto action cinema has been through martial arts films, a largeproportion of which were made in Hong Kong. It is worth noting thatthe genre initially emerged in Chinese popular literature in early20thcentury as shown by the wuxia novels that espoused and encouragedmartial chivalry (Lim&Ward,2011).These movies, like the novels, incorporated tales of sword-wieldingand heroic warriors and incorporated fantasy or mystical elements. Asmuch as these were initially made in Hong Kong, the Chinese filmstook the trend particularly in the 20s, with a large number of moviesbearing wuxia titles adapted from novels becoming increasinglypopular and dominating the Chinese film for years (Lim&Ward,2011).However, this content came to a temporary end in the late 30s as aresult of official opposition emanating from political and culturalelites particularly in the Kuomintang government who felt that thecontent promoted violent anarchy and superstition (Fu,2008).Essentially, the Hong Kong, which was a British colony that enjoyed ahighly liberal culture and economy took up the Wuxia filmmaking inits developing film industry. However, this form of film and cinemawas fully revived by the second half of the 60s, when one of thebiggest studies in the era inaugurated a new form of wuxia films suchas Temple of the Red Lotus (1965). These mandarin production were incolor and more lavish and may be distinguished from the earlier Wuxiafilms in the fact that their style was more intense and lessfanatical, as well as incorporating stronger and considerably moreacrobatic violence (Zhang,2002).It may be noted that the main influence for this form of Wuxia filmsis the Japanese cinema, where the imported samurai movies coupledwith the increasingly popular Wuxia novels of the 50s formed theframework for the content. Perhaps one of the most distinctivefeature of these films is the fact that the new Wuxia wave also camewith an increase of male-oriented action films that were propelled toboth the Chinese and Hong Kong Cinema. These had for a long time beendominated by female stars, as well as genres that targeted femaleaudiences such as musical and romances (Zhang,2002).This does not undermine the fact that a large proportion of femalestars still played and continues to play a crucial role in the cinemaof the two regions. However, the male-dominated films and movies thattargeted the male audience particularly with a view to imbuing newideas pertaining to male chivalry (Khoo&Metzger, 2009).Between the old and the new Wuxia film periods, there was acounter-tradition to wuxia films, with the movies laying emphasis formore authentic, unarmed and down-to-earth combat over the mysticismand swordplay of wuxia (Lim&Ward,2011).The famous heroes in these films were mainly real-life martialartists, who eventually became the avuncular hero figures to severalgenerations of Chinese and Hong Kongers through taking up roles ashistorical folk heroes. Scholars have noted that varied enduringelements were solidified or introduced by the films including theconcept of martial art heroes as the main characters or exponents ofConfucian ethics, the impact or influence of the Chinese opera withthe stylized acrobatics and martial arts (Fu,2008).
Perhapsone of the main distinguishing factors between the Hong Kong andChinese cinema is the level of theatrical exhibitions that the moviesare subjected to, as well as the levels of piracy. In Hong Kong,scholars have persistently noted that the a large proportion offeature productions are never subjected to theatrical exhibitionsrather they are simply taken into the market and some marketing doneso as to increase their popularity. This is worsened by the rampantvideo piracy and the underreported ticket sales, deficiency ofratings system, exorbitant prices of tickets in relation to theincomes among others (Khoo&Metzger, 2009).The deficiency of ratings systems imbues an element ofunpredictability to issue of censorship. This is unlike the case ofChina whose strict stand on cinema piracy and the stringent measuresaimed at eliminating this vice has ensured the growth of its filmindustry to the extent of making enormous financial gains from thesame (Khoo&Metzger, 2009).Indeed, given the immensely impressive box office records indicatedby the recent blockbusters, a large number of scholars hold thebelief that the transnationalism has been extremely efficient andeffective for the Chinese cinema and cemented the notion that theChinese film industry would have to embrace globalization if it seeksto compete with other major players in the movie industryparticularly Hollywood.
Inconclusion, the film industry has been one of the most fundamentalsectors in the contemporary human society. Not only has it beenproviding an immense array of employment opportunities but alsoresulting in enormous financial gains for the stakeholders andplayers involved. Nevertheless, some film houses have been extremelypopular to the extent of churning earnings that run into billions ofdollars. Perhaps the most distinctive film houses are in the Asianregion particularly Chinese film houses. Of course, it has been wellacknowledged that it is a bit difficult to tell between the Chineseand Hong Kong cinema, which should not be surprising particularlyconsidering that they have had a more or less similar beginning ororigin. Indeed, it is noted that Hong Kong and China have more orless similar cultures, which form the basis of the movies and filmsthat they produce. However, the levels of interactions that the twohave had with the outside world are a bit different. The Chinese filmindustry still largely portrays the traditional elements, which maybe attributed to the fact that the government exerts a lot ofpressure and limits on the number of foreign films that may beadmitted into the country. Further, the production of any movienecessitates that its content is viewed and evaluated by thegovernment so as to determine whether it is appropriate (Khoo&Metzger, 2009).This is unlike the case of Hong Kong films, which have mainly beeninfluenced by the western cinemas as a result of early exposureduring the British colonial times. Nevertheless, they still havesimilarities in their incorporation of martial arts and the fact thatthey mostly target the male audience unlike in the past where theywere mostly dominated by female actors and female-targeting contentsuch as musicals and romance movies.
Fu,P. (2008). Chinaforever: The Shaw Brothers and diasporic cinema.Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Khoo,O., & Metzger, S. (2009). Futuresof Chinese cinema: Technologies and temporalities in Chinese screencultures.Bristol, UK: Intellect.
Lim,S. H., & Ward, J. (2011). TheChinese cinema book.Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
Zhang,Y. (2012). ACompanion to Chinese Cinema.Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.
Zhang,Y. (2002). ScreeningChina: Critical interventions, cinematic reconfigurations, and thetransnational imaginary in contemporary Chinese cinema.Ann Arbor, Mich: Center for Chinese Studies.