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The "Shanghai Factor" in Hong Kong Cinema: A Tale of Two Cities in Historical Perspectives

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One of the major components of the public discourse and imagination in the decade leading to the recent handover of Hong Kong was the incessant parallel drawn between Hong Kong and Shanghai, the two most prominent Chinese metropolises of this and perhaps the next century. While the colonial history of Hong Kong was reaching its end, the mixture of nostalgia for the vanishing "present" and the anxiety over an uncertain future frequently manifested itself in many Hong Kong films. Hong Kong and Shanghai are uniquely similar in terms of urban history, being the two most important trading ports and commercial centers in modern Chinese and global geo-political history. Both cities are also made up largely of migrants, and thus boast of a hybrid of languages (not least of which is pidgin English) amid a distinctly local dialect--Cantonese and Shanghainese, respectively. The strong dual local-cosmopolitian identity felt by the people of both cities has contributed to the making of two particular urban cultures (including mass media, of course) and the cultural sensibility they have fostered.

Keywords: Hong Kong cinema; Shanghai; cinematic traditions; historicity; kinship; national cinema

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 1998

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  • Asian Cinema is a seminal journal, which has been published since 1995 by the Asian Cinema Studies Society under the stewardship of Professor John Lent. From 2012 Asian Cinema will be published by Intellect as part of our Film Studies journal portfolio. The journal currently publishes a variety of scholarly material - including research articles, interviews, book and film reviews and bibliographies - on all forms and aspects of Asian cinema. The journal's broad aim is to advance understanding and knowledge of the rich traditions of the various Asian cinemas, thereby making an invaluable contribution to the field of Film Studies in general.
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