Hong Kong cinema is more than martial arts and action.  The second part of the course examines dramas of love, fantasy, journey, search, and self-discovery in Hong Kong cinema.  Characters in these films seem to harbor a big dream: a “Hong Kong dream,” a “California dream,” or a “New York dream.”  With the passage of time, they attempt to create a new identity, be a different person, go to a new place, enter a relationship, or feel nostalgic for the past.  Discuss the ways in which these characters change, pursue dreams, cherish old relationships, or search for new identities.  Please feel free to consult relevant discussions in Planet Hong Kong by Professor David Bordwell, the anthology A Companion to Hong Kong Cinema, and the special section “China and China Diaspora Film” in the online journal Jump Cut. (See the syllabus for details.)


In your analysis, you should discuss the films of at least three different directors.  You may focus on one film from each of the three directors.  You should analyze at least three films altogether.  Please also briefly comment on the stylistic characteristics of each of the directors and films.  Once again, like the midterm, both what you write and how you write are important.  Avoid simple generalization.  You need to refer to specific elements in the films.  Coherence, organization, and elegance are important criteria for good writing.


Sample Answer

Sample Answer


Transformation and Dreams in Hong Kong Cinema: A Character Analysis

Hong Kong cinema has long been celebrated for its martial arts and action genres, but the realm of dramas exploring themes of love, fantasy, self-discovery, and dreams is equally compelling. Characters in these films often embark on journeys of personal growth, seeking to redefine their identities, pursue dreams, and navigate relationships. Drawing insights from Professor David Bordwell’s “Planet Hong Kong” and the anthology “A Companion to Hong Kong Cinema,” this analysis will delve into the transformative journeys of characters in films by three distinct directors, examining their pursuit of dreams, nostalgia for the past, and quest for new identities.

Director 1: Wong Kar-wai

Film: “In the Mood for Love” (2000)

Wong Kar-wai is renowned for his visually stunning cinematography and poignant storytelling. In “In the Mood for Love,” the characters Chow Mo-wan and Su Li-zhen find solace in each other’s company as they grapple with unfulfilled desires and societal expectations. Through subtle glances and restrained emotions, Wong Kar-wai captures the nuances of forbidden love and longing. The characters’ transformation lies in their ability to confront societal constraints and embrace fleeting moments of connection, ultimately cherishing the memories of what could have been.

Director 2: Ann Hui

Film: “Summer Snow” (1995)

Ann Hui’s directorial style often delves into intimate family dynamics and emotional journeys. In “Summer Snow,” the protagonist, Mrs. Lo, navigates the challenges of caregiving for her father-in-law while contending with her own desires for independence. Hui portrays Mrs. Lo’s transformation from a dutiful wife to a woman asserting her agency and seeking fulfillment outside traditional roles. The film explores themes of sacrifice, resilience, and the quest for personal identity amidst familial obligations.

Director 3: Johnnie To

Film: “Election” (2005)

Johnnie To is known for his gritty crime dramas that delve into themes of power, loyalty, and ambition. In “Election,” To explores the intricacies of power struggles within a triad society, where characters vie for control and authority. The characters’ pursuit of dominance and their ruthless actions reflect a quest for identity and recognition within a hierarchical underworld. To’s stylistic approach, characterized by dynamic camerawork and tense pacing, enhances the narrative tension as characters navigate moral dilemmas and confront their inner ambitions.

In conclusion, the films of Wong Kar-wai, Ann Hui, and Johnnie To offer profound insights into the transformative journeys of characters seeking to fulfill their dreams, redefine their identities, and navigate complex relationships. Through nuanced storytelling and stylistic choices, these directors capture the essence of personal growth, nostalgia for the past, and the pursuit of new horizons in the vibrant tapestry of Hong Kong cinema. The characters’ evolution serves as a reflection of the human experience, resonating with audiences through their universal themes of hope, resilience, and self-discovery.

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