Anticipating action: The evolving grammar of action and montage in Hong Kong cinema
In his formalist reading, David Bordwell (2001: 73, 80) uses the term ‘pause-burst-pause’ pattern to refer to the ‘cinematic expressivity’ of Hong Kong action cinema. Although the ‘pause-burst-pause’ paradigm locates stasis and action that lie at the heart of the performance and cinematic representation of physical action, the ‘pause-burst-pause’ punctuation undergoes aesthetic transformation in the digital age. Through a comparative analysis of five representative films from the 1960s to the millennium, this article explores Hong Kong action cinema’s historical evolution from the display of physical combat (swordplay, kung fu and gunplay) to intense psychological mind game and heightened aestheticization in four stylistic turns – fantastic, realist, formalist and digital. Wong Kar-wai’s Yi dai zong shi/The Grandmaster (2013), following the box office success of transnational Chinese martial arts cinemas, serves as a prime example of the digital turn as postcolonial Hong Kong action cinema positions and articulates itself to an increasingly international film scene. Taking Lisa Purse’s (2005: 152) notion of ‘hypermediacy’ as a springboard, I argue that the combined use of computer-generated imagery (CGI) and aestheticized slow motion in The Grandmaster represents a new appreciation of slowness and softness, reinventing corporeal authenticity that the action genre is premised on.
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Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: University of Richmond
Publication date: September 1, 2015
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