Archive for the ‘Aesthetics’ Category

🙂 Im presenting next week, so i went to the library and did some research in advance. This is the stuff i extracted, and probably will present (in addition to other stuff)

The Cinema of Hong Kong: History Arts Identity
Edited by Poshek Fu, David Desser
Cambridge University Press 2000
Selected  history of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Cinema

-1840 signing of Treaty of Nanjing which cedes Hong Kong to the British as a result of China’s defeat in the Opium War

-1930 Founding of Lian hua (united china) production and printing company funded by several Hong Kong business men

-1941 Japan occupies Hong Kong in December, Hong Kong film production ceases completely during the entire Japanese occupation

-1945 British occupy Hong Kong following Japanese surrender ending the Pacific War

-1949 Founding of People Republic of China (PRC). First film of the long running Wong Fei Hung series

-1950 Nanyang Studio renamed Shaws Father and Sons Film Company, hundreds and thousands of Chinese including shanghai film makers come to Hong Kong to escape communist rule

-1953 Massive fire in Shek Kip Mei leaves thousands homeless

-1965 Shaw Brothers release King Hu’s first martil arts film Da Zui Xia (Come drink with Me)

-1968 King Hu’s Longmen Kezhan (Dragon Inn) breaks Hong Kong box office record grossing 2.2million

-1970 Former Shaw Brothers executive Raymond Chow forms Golden Harvest Studio

 -1988 New censorship ordinance passed leading to a ratings system (cateogories I, II, III) a new form of censorship on politically sensitive films.

-1991 Success of Tsui Harks’s Naner Dang Ziqiang (Once Upon A Time In China) starts a new Wong Fei Hung series

-1994 Chunking Express brings Wong Kar Wai to international attention

-1997 “return” to China on July 1st

The cinema of Hong Kong
Has until recently been a neglected area of scholarly attention in the west.
Except of pioneering works by Leo Lee and Rey Chow.

Always marginalized both within and without China, the Hong Kong cinema, like Hong Kong itself seemed to suffer from the same malaise what PoShek Fu termed “the Central plains syndrome”.

The 1970s was a crucial decade for the Hong Kong cinema as it achieved an international recognition that was unknown to it before while it experienced something like a boom, a bust and a renaissance.

The 1997 handover and the transnational appeal of filmmakers like

Jackie Chan, John Woo, and Wong Kar Wai however, has combined to propel Hong Kong cinema into a significant field of research.

Hong Kong cinema aesthetics are often constrained by the relatively low budgets mandated for its productions, a factor influenced by the small market for its cinema. Hong Kong films are distributed only within the Cantonese speaking community, a tiny market compared with the Mandarin speaking cinema.

Perhaps the need to churn out films rather quickly to capitalize on the latest trend or fad or the generic nature of Hong Kong production itself largely influences the particular characteristics of Hong Kong’s cinematic imagery or perhaps it has something to do with the landscape of Hong Kong’s itself, resolutely urban, crowded.

Tsui Hark, one of the later directors, would go to great lengths to show the impossible, he seemed always concerned with making his fights however fantastic, seem probable it not possible.

Michael Hui and Cantonese comedy with his 2 other brothers,

explore the connection between Hong Kong and the mainland and breaks free from the predominant focus of the Western critics on Hong Kong’s kung fu and gangster films.

(this is quite a good link : http://us.yesasia.com/en/Emagazine/ArticlePage.aspx/section-videos/code-c/articleId-69/ if you want a quick write up on Michael, Sam and Ricky Hui)

Wong Kar Wai’s flims especially Chung King Express, the characters represent the perfect paradigm of HongKong’s “bricolage of American pop culture, British culture and Asian Commerce”. A close reading of the film reveals its focus on the commodity, shifting identity and keen concern with time as allegories of the 1997.

 The Kung Fu Craze  
In 1973 American audiences were thrilled to the exploits of Bruce Lee, and years on, in 1996 Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx opened and became the top box-office draw of the month.

Kung fu – invented as a genre in Shanghai in the 19200s, martial arts cinema has a long pedigree. It grows out of the historical existence of the martial arts literature. Possessing two main strands:
Kung Fu and Swordplay.



The latter almost without expectation are period films, historical epics, mythological tales of magic, action spectaculars with colorful costunmes.

In 1938 due to emigration of film makers and the different situation in Hong Kong, the Cantonese industry took up martial arts movies. It outshone every Cantonese genre from 1938 to 1970.

A burgeoning overseas market in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and United States (in Chinatown theaters) led to almost risk free production with preproduction budgets often supplied by overseas buyers.

The Wong Fei Hung dominated the Cantonese cinema of the 1950s and 1960s and was something of a golden age for Cantonese sword films.

As the 1970s wore on, the Hollywood studios began adapting the martial arts genre for American movies, such as Black Belt Jones.

If nothing else, the genre managed to maintain a hold, however slight, on the youth audience, for it always was the youth audience that had been the heart of  Kung Fu’s fandom , white working class, middle class boys, side by side with black urban and rural audiences.

Many Kung Fu films portrayed a rather anarchic world view, routinely a nihilist one with violent death a way of life and continued and continual trial by combat the typical narrative drive. Such filmic values and motifs clearly mirror the psychosociological states of young people. And the sheer kinetics of the films – rapid fire editing trick photography and the unbridled athleticism of young stars.

The meteoric rise of the martial arts madness is a classic example of ‘total propaganda’ concept for it was not film alone that caused the boom. It was capitalist opportunism and marketing.King Husjff_02_img0720.jpg
Hu wanted to avoid making martial feats look artificial, he was proud of not employing trick photography. Instead of trying to put the feats on the same plane as ordinary sequences as special effects ad orthodox constructive cutting tend to do, he sought a stylization that set these extraordinary feats apart from mundane reality. Not that he wanted to glorify the warriors as super human.The powers they display are not supernatural they spring from the mastery of chi or essential energy. Hu’s task was to difnfy and beautify these feats without tipping them into implausibility and sheer fantasy. He makes his actions faster then the eyes. Even it seems the camera can follow. His combat scenes were obliged to present near fantastic feats of martial prowess. By editing, the “imperfections” makes Hu’s action scenes so distinctive. The dynamic between stability and momentary indiscernibility that yields his most original effects.

David Bordwell “Aesthetics in action: Kungfu Gunplay and Cinematic Expressivity” IN At Full Speed, HongKong Cinema in a Borderless World University of Minnesota Press 2001 


Hong Kong films employ death defying stunts that is not news. What is important is that the stunts are staged, shot, and cut for readability. The Hong Kong norm aims to maximize the actions legibility. From the 1960s swordplay films and 1970s kungfu movies to the cop movies and revived wuxia pian of the 1980s and 1990s this filmmaking tradition  has put the graceful body at the centre. In order to follow the plot, one must be constantly apprised of the actor’s behavior down to the minute changes of posture, stance or regard. Hong Kong cinema has emphasized the concreteness and clarity of each gesture. Doubtless traditions of marital arts and Peking opera- cultural factors different from those governing Hollywood style have been central to aesthetic.

Very likely the marital arts tradition with its repertory of forms and combinations cultivated a belief that combat involved a balance between poised stillness and swift attack or defences.

The Hong Kong cinema manages to go beyond the performance and uses other film techniques to amplify the expressive dimensions of the action. The rapid zoom itself often manifest the pause-burst pattern from at the level of the performance as pose strike pose. The expressive force of running jumping, punching or kicking can also be strengthened by overlapping editing. In Hong Kong, overlapping serves to clarify key gestures by distending the time they take onscreen. Slow motion can intensify the fury or effort or danger of blow while also stressing its grace.

For example: Tsui Hark’s willingness to intercut shorts displaying different rates of slow motion to the stuttering pause-burst-pause printing. With the tradition of amplifying actions, emotional overtones by playing with speed of motion. However, Tsui hark never loses the context of “locality” embedding his vision in a dense depiction of background and foreground with a keen eye to realistic detail as underscored by the scenes in his movies.


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Okay, yes it is rather evident that i am a Korean drama and movie fan:)
(wait till we get to Hong Kong and Thailand) hehe

The following movies are not so much political or religious, some are  love stories, some are side stabbing hilarious and yea, i think (to justify this entry) Think Korean Aesthetics 🙂 Also some of them are heavily influenced my American movies too… and there have been American movies made based on Korean movies too!


My Sassy Girl (엽기적인 그녀; literally, That Bizarre Girl) is a 2001 South Korean romantic comedy film. It is partially based on the true story told in a series of love letters by a man who posted them online. The film is directed by Kwak Jae-yong. The film was extremely successful in South Korea and was an international hit to the point where it was drawing comparisons to Titanic. It is amazing how the director manages to get you to sit up and go OH NO, he cleverly manages to trick the viewer into thinking something is happening when it actually really isn’t. Watch it!! There is NO OTHER romantic comedy like it!

It gives you an insight to Korean “match making” “blind date”system as well. It plays around with the idea of time and fate through out.


Il Mare (시월애, Siworae) also a South Korean film made in 2000, starring Jun Ji-hyun and Lee Jung-Jae. The title, Il Mare, means ‘The Sea’ in Italian, and is the name of the seaside house which is the setting of the story. The Korean title, siworae is the Korean pronunciation of Hanja “時越愛,” meaning “time-transcending love.” The two protagonists both live there two years apart in time, but are able to communicate through a mysterious post box. The film was remade by Warner Brothers starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves and released in 2006 as The Lake House, which was co-produced by Sonny Mallhi and Chris Krapek. NO WAY was the american remake any good! LOST THE WHOLE FEELING WAS LOST!!! The korean actress really managed to capture the “feel” Sandra Bullock was just…flat…(she and Keanu Reeves were better in Speed)…anyways….

Just the scenery of the location where this film was shot is good enough reason to watch and i will be the first to admit that the love story was a bit draggy but the music and the scenery…aaah……


Friend (친구 Chin-gu) 2001, directed by Kwak Kyung-taek, was based on the director’s own experience about his friends, a semi-autobiography set in his hometown, Busan, and the actors speak with a strongly accented Busan dialect.

There is a lot of action and this movie and the color of the poster is a lot like the scenes in the movie, sepia in color its a very good way to understand like the little town kind of mentality, loyalty, brotherhood, where everyone knows everyone’s business.


The Way Home (Korean title: 집으로 – Jibeuro) 2002 film, was written and directed by Lee Jeong-hyang.  A 7-year-old urban boy, is forced to live with his 77-year-old deaf-mute grandmother in a rural village while his mother looks for a job in Seoul. Not used to the village life where he can’t even get batteries for his hand held games, he rejects his grandmother and at some point you feel like giving him a tight slap. Communication is a problem between the two, not to mention 70 year generation gap!! But it is really a heart warming film that though Korean, transcends international borders 🙂

Director: Park Chan Wook “vengeance trilogy”

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)
Oldboy (2003)
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)

All three of them promise extreme violence and blood! BUT if you have to watch ONE,
watch Old Boy! There is this bit  in the movie where he goes on a hunt for the restaurant “Blue Dragon” based only on the taste of the dumplings that he ate 15 years ago. The way he stuffs himself sick, it is really hard to stomach.

The first and third films have pretty concrete endings but for Old Boy, in an interview director Park Chan-Wook says that the ambiguous ending was intended to generate discussion; it is completely up to what each individual viewer interprets it as. I guess thats the great part of the film!

Windstruck (내 여자친구를 소개합니다 Nae yeojachingureul sogae hamnida, literally “Let me introduce you to my girlfriend”) 2004 directed by Kwak Jae-yong.Windstruck shares the same leading actress and director as  My Sassy Girl. As a result, Windstruck contains several subtle references My Sassy Girls. There were speculations that it was a prequel to My Sassy Girl, however,there is too much discontinuity to be similar.

Rather, the path set out in the story line is similar to that by the American film Ghost when the characters Myung-woo and Kyung-jin communicate and share one final gesture of love before he moves on to the afterlife.

Mmm…i think that Globalization has def affected not just Korea but even China, HongKong, Taiwan, Japan…This is the way i see it :

Technology -> Connection -> Mobility -> Globalization ->Interchange of ideas -> Various cultural changes within the country -> People change in needs and wants -> Reflected on society.

Simplified, yes but thats the best way i can put it for now…

Ah yes, to see more on the effects of Globalisation on Korean Aesthetics, watch the film (below)!

It reflects, consumption in todays material world, influence of the english language on korea, fashion, jet setting, (there is a small bit on Hong Kong in the beginning)power, money, ugly side to coporate businesses and so much more (like love, and family). mrrobinpk0.png

Seducing Mr. Perfect, alternatively known as Seducing Mr. Robin is a South Korean film, released on December 7, 2006. It is written and directed by Sang-woo Kim and stars Uhm Jung-hwa as Min Joon and Daniel Henney as Robin Heiden.

I think they also cashed in on the lead model/actor, Daniel Henney who is an American expatriate actor in South Korea and the film was probably banking on his popularity, riding on the moment of fame. (Tibit: Daniel Henney’s father is an American of British descent and his mother is an American who was an adoptee from Korea)

Warning: Dont expect a conclusive ending though (unlike fairy tales in books, or most movies, its not really a typical korean movie ending…in a way…)

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In aesthetics, the sublime is the quality of greatness or vast magnitude, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical or artistic. The term especially refers to a greatness with which nothing else can be compared to and which is beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation. This greatness is often used when referring to nature and its vastness.

Jean-Luc Godard and Notre Musique, to me was heavily sublime…

Found this site http://www.wellspring.com/movies/text.html?movie_id=59 pretty interesting in summing up the film…


In the chapter “Analytic of the Beautiful” of the Critique of Judgment, Kant states that beauty is not a property of an artwork or natural phenomenon, but is instead a consciousness of the pleasure which attends the ‘free-play’ of the imagination and the understanding. Even though it appears that we are using reason to decide that which is beautiful, the judgment is not a cognitive judgment “and is consequently not logical, but aesthetical.

A pure judgement of taste is in fact subjective insofar as it refers to the emotional response of the subject and is based upon nothing but esteem for an object itself: it is a disinterested pleasure, and we feel that pure judgements of taste, i.e. judgements of beauty, lay claim to universal validity. It is important to note that this universal validity is not derived from a determinate concept of beauty but from common sense. Kant also believed that a judgement of taste shares characteristics engaged in a moral judgement: both are disinterested, and we hold them to be universal.

In the chapter “Analytic of the Sublime” Kant identifies the sublime as an aesthetic quality which, like beauty, is subjective, but unlike beauty refers to an indeterminate relationship between the faculties of the imagination and of reason, and shares the character of moral judgments in the use of reason.

Recognizing my own biasness, for me, at the end of a film, it should deliver what is in the head of the director, deliver the purpose of the film or have a message, something to ponder on and analyze.

I was watching La Petite Lili on SBS, they sure had lots of talk of aesthetics and generational conflict, and intellectual art vs. commercial pandering, lust being the primary motivator and so on but for all their intellectual bantering (perhaps well intentioned) all the characters (blame it on the actors/actresses perhaps) were flat, one dimensional.


Some may say it was a straight to the point, realistic, thought provoking film but to me it just fell flat on its face. However, my point being, for example, if you take a look at some of the comments, http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0335351/usercomments, i guess we are all at the end of the day only human and bound to make judgements based on our own experiences, upbringing, natural inclination towards certain issues….and it is so difficult to be fairly critical no matter how hard we may want to stay neutral…

(i tend to think that the time, mood we are in when we watch a film has a HUGE impact on how we feel, if you watch the film another time later on, you can really get different feelings, just like re reading a book…)

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Yes i promise this is the last reference to massumi (i cant help it, i just think the article is WOW)

“Dispossessed people like the Palestinians or the people in Irian Jaya just can’t argue their cases effectively through the mass media, which is why they’re driven to violent guerilla tactics or terrorism, out of desperation. And they’re basically theatrical or spectacular actions, they’re performative, because they don’t do much in themselves except to get people’s attention — and cause a lot of suffering in the process, which is why they spectacularly backfire as often as not. They also work by amplifying fear and converting it into group pride or resolve. The resolve is for an in-group and the fear is for everybody else. It’s as divisive as the oppression it’s responding to, and it feeds right into the dominant state mechanisms.”

“The September 11 terrorists made Bush president, they created President Bush, they fed the massive military and surveillance machine he’s now able to build. Before Bin Laden and Al-Qaïda, Bush wasn’t a president, he was an embarrassment. Bin Laden and Bush are affective partners, like Bush Senior and Saddam Hussein, or Reagan and the Soviet leaders. In a way, they’re in collusion or in symbiosis. They’re like evil twins who feed off of each other’s affective energies. It’s a kind of vampiric politics.”

The ending of No Man’s Land (side track, these 2 are links to interviews with the director)

*ending, was particularly heartbreaking as the man with the bomb under him was left alone, i was silently cursing. The unfairness of such situations where a human life is sacrificed and the pompus a*ses like the UN director in the film. Its frustrating to think of how things can escalate and render us helpless or really.. ARE WE?

i would like to think (when i am not busy being negative and cynical) that we can in our own way start with trying to be aware and spreading the awareness, and HOPE that some how the people with the power, money, to do something to make a difference will hear and make the necessary changes…

cliche as it may be , i still think it is true that in whatever way, big or small, every contribution, every piece of drawing, writing, expression may just create a miracle…

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Also from the Massumi Interview…

“No one emotional state can encompass all the depth and breadth of our experiencing of experiencing — all the ways our experience redoubles itself. That vague sense of potential, we call it our ‘freedom’, and defend it fiercely. No body can escape gravity. Laws are part of what we are, they’re intrinsic to our identities. No human can simply escape gender, for example. The cultural ‘laws’ of gender are part of what makes us who we are, they’re part of the process that produced us as individuals.”

A rather cynical view that i sometimes feel ones the feeling of euphoria fades is that, as much as we struggle to admit, we are all under rules regulations and governed by bodies, policies…

And then, there is Aesthetics, as written in “Free Particles” by Terry Eagleton,

Aesthetics is born as a discourse of the body, its all about perception and sensation.
(which kind of reminds me of the question, is the glass half full or half empty)

“Aesthetics is born of the recognition that the world of perception and experience cannot simply be derived from abstract universal laws, but demands its own appropriate discourse and display its own inner, if inferior logic.”

“At the root of social realtion lies the aesthetic, source of all human bonding”

To me, be it humans, ants, wombats, snakes even plants, we can never be free, we belong, to a certain classification, submitting to a higher order/power. Somehow we just have to find a way to stop hurting one another (not to mention the environment!)

Sadly when you have “boy and their toys” you get nuclear weapons, germ warfare, bombs, terrorism…

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