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As SQUATTERTOWN enters slowly the pre-production phase here a small example from where the film is being inspired: The Kowloon Walled City

[click to enlarge]

UPDATE 21.07.2010: The fund raising trailer shoot has been lined up. We are going to shoot in beginning of next week in HK. Daily updates on the production will be tweeted on @MarcoSparmberg . First location photos are already online on Flickr. Stay tuned!

MILLIONAIRES EXPRESS – HK 1986

This weekend I just stumbled upon this small fine piece of a early DimSum Western from the 1980s , hiding deep in my DVD rack. When I bought the DVD some 5 years ago I did not realize its importance but now I consider it as one of the few existing HK film Western attempts that bears an own unique local signature while riding on traditional Western elements.

MILLIONAIRES EXPRESS (HK) aka SHANGHAI EXPRESS (US) aka SHANGHAI POLICE (Gemany) incorporates a tremendous star power for its time. It almost appears like the entire who-is-who of local filmmaking is united in this production and everyone seemed to had huge fun while shooting. The good chemistry between its actors translates upon the screen and creates a huge fun ride through a wild compilation of genres. The extremely fast paced plot combines 3 storylines that eventually merge in the final showdown.

Now the story does not really matter in this action and slapstick packed wannabe-Western and is simply exploited as an excuse to run fast to the next scene for another absurd situation which the infantile character tabloid has to master. The entire film is an enormous mix out of everything available. It starts off as a Snow Western deep in the mountains and ends in a desert like scenario with the traditional shanty town. Every single detail appears to have undergone a fusion of East and West. We can spot traditional Western elements like the saloon, the gambling tables, Americans in Civil War time’s uniforms. But wait a minute! What do US soldiers do in a scenario set in China?   What are Russian Red Army soldiers doing in the snowy mountains of Canada? And what are Japanese Samurai doing in the shanty town that clearly looks like being located within the HK territory?

Sammo Hung throws everything into one big pot, stirs it heavy and cooks a hyper inter-cultural dish. One can clearly spot glimpses of US Westerns as mentioned above, However, the element of Samurais being in China´s Wild West could be read as a political statement but I rather think a deliberate reminiscence on Terence Young´s RED SUN is a safer bet. The more the film takes on speed the more Hung orientates it towards the classic adventure genre. Films like INDIANA JONES were definitely its blueprint, also considering the coarse espionage and intelligence approach of the story.

However, since this film was produced during a time where the ‘97-Syndrom already seized the artistic minds of HK filmmakers, this film definitely reflects the sentiments of its time. The exploitive use of action and nonsense comedy (some Moleitau) clearly reflects the confusion and situation of a HK society in the mid 80s while facing an unpredictable future full of radical changes. The most direct evidence of this inner social conflict can be found on one of the prisoners´ clothing’s, bearing the number “1997”.

With all this confusion among the characters, story, locations and props the visual style is kept straight forward as usual for this decades films. Hung rather focuses on physical action extravaganza like Kung Fu fights, stunts, slapstick that is shot very traditional, most in wide shots with large number group compositions. He needs to convey and communicate this special and only advantage of his film: reality in stunts and action. When people jump off a three storey building you will see it in one wide angle take, no cuts! Yuen Biao jumps off a roof set on fire, hits the ground, jumps up and runs along as it is the easiest thing in the world (watch out for this scene in the trailer below). This is basically the essence of action cinema made in HK during the early 80s. It´s real and everyone can see it. Hence, this does explain the relative low amount of violence as guns are barely in use here. But it also holds the reason for almost no use of sophisticated camera movements or even special designed compositions or camera tracks that would serve a storytelling purpose.

Finally, Hung grounds his film another time, in the end credits sequence while showing off making of shots revealing how the crew created the film. Now this is similar practice to Jackie Chan and is supposed to give the film a link into reality by, again, highlighting the fact that things are being hand-made without any tricks or special effects. It takes away the illusion, deliberately, displaying that it all is not just magic. It is hard work and needs a lot of crafts to pull off.

After Zach Hines´ article “How to make a Indie Hong Kong Flick” at HK Mag´s March 2010 issues I was quite shocked how the issue of independent filmmaking gets degraded and squeezed into a 11 bullet point listing that simply makes no sense at all from a filmmakers POV. Is this a joke?! Maybe, but it is one thing for sure: offensive, down grading and appalling. In short, it is misleading to people not involved in this business and simply not true.

As the HK Mag is quite an institution in this city and gets taken serious by the majority of foreigners living here, it is a shame how filmmaking gets portrayed here. Filmmaking in HK is a mere local industry with almost no foreigners participating in. I could read some vilifying undertone between those lines towards the local film culture that really fights for each dollar to keep especially independent productions running.

I live and work in this industry for 2 years by now. I am a foreigner and I have been on so many shoots that I stopped counting after 4 month being in town. Having been on all kinds of productions like professional big, medium and low budget films, commercials, TV and mostly, of course, independent as well as student projects, I feel the need to stand up and comment on this impropriety. Also, I am personally specialized as interactive filmmaker taking use of social media tools on a regular basis for my work.

First of all we have to define the term “Indie Flick”. Unlike most European countries HK has a very marginal governmental funding structure. Filmmakers can apply for funding at the HK Film Development Council (FDC) and subsidies of CreakHK if the project involves some fine art approach. The FDC was established in 2007 and 14 film production were granted funding so far. Since this fund is aimed on medium budget films from HK$8-12 million independent low budget films barely meet the requirements.  After the shutdown of Hong Kong´s two big studios (Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest) local films were facing harsh time in the 1990s. Private investors and of course the liquid money from the Mainland became the way to go. With those two financial sources backing projects filmmakers were back in the game but had to trade-off in content and story in order to meet investors expectations. This situation still exists today and hardly one director really has entire freedom on his/her project. Thus, no matter who we are talking about, none is a real independent filmmaker in a Western sense as long as they not pay all bills out of their own pocket. But who can afford that? The only filmmakers in town I saw with entire control over their vision are film students who really fund each film with their own money. I was one of them too, till last year.

So let´s go step by step through this inferior 11 point system:

1. First and foremost, tell all your friends that you’re now making a movie about Hong Kong. Bask in their encouragement. You are talented, and loved.

If you want to have 100 people on the set that have no idea about filmmaking and don’t even know what a camera looks like than this is definitely the way to go. But each minute on set costs money for the director/producer and a bunch of clumsy film-retards is simply a no-go and fundamental obstacle. Therefore, select your crew handpicked and wise. Think about WHO is the most asset to the respective project and ask them directly in person. Most people are willing in the industry to work for 1 day without payment if they are convinced on the ingenuity of your project and trust in your cinematic spirit as well as organizational talent. However, this requires a personal network of industry contacts and a constant private market research. If you haven´t done this before, start ASAP. Also, throw off the set everyone who is bored, has no task or just wants to have a look in order to kill some free time – those people are bothersome and useless!
2. Write approximately 10 pages of meandering dialogue over three weeks with no wider plot in mind. There’s a guy who just arrived, a mysterious hot Asian girl, and someone has been murdered…

Tons of dialogs are the weakest part of every no-budget production. Inexperienced filmmakers seek refuge in total unnecessary dialog, sometimes even copied from popular films and subsequently sell it as homage. Be honest to yourself. Filming talking heads is like watching a radio show on TV. Who on earth wants to see that?! A director who cannot use the tools of visual storytelling (camera movements, light, locations, …) is not worth staying in this industry. Get another job, you will be no Tarantino or Wong Kar Wai – NEVER! The hardest thing in filmmaking is to create an entire film without any line of dialog but still telling an amazingly gripping story, blowing the audience out of their seats. Can you do that?
3. Begin inquiring with friends about their interest in portraying either A) drug-addicted prostitute with heart of gold; B) evil Asian guy with unspecified martial arts skills and heart of gold or C) gweilo zombie with heart of gold (Tim would be perfect for this!)

I never met a person in my entire life that was either A, B or even C. those are all stereotypes, cliché characters drawn from some sleazy recent Steven Seagal East-Europe farce. Real life characters are never that superficial and especially in HK no one has a “heart of gold”. How long have you lived here? Get yourself out of Lan Kwai Fung for one moment and get off the booze for one day, then count the gold-hearted people around you are doing business with…
4. After no friends audition, spend a month crafting a Facebook page to advertise auditions. Re-spam the link to all your friends again.

Within this month´s period one could have finished 2 short films already and you are still spamming around on Facebook.  Creating a Facebook page about the film project is a good thing to do and it provides a lot of support. One of my films worked very well that way last year. But then the concept needs to have interactive elements where Facebook users can actively participate in your production, in real time. This needs a solid pre-production planning and conception phase. Spend the time rather on your idea development then on senseless communication rubbish.


5. Every project needs a working title: “The Flower Box”—that’s artistic, and it captures the prostitute element.

“Flower Box”, “artistic” and “prostitute element” are three words that simply don’t want to fit, especially not on film. Are we in the florist’s business or what?  Also, working titles do not make any sense on this production scale. Do you need to hide your wannabe-Oscar-winning story behind a misleading working title in order to protect your and your financier’s investments at the box office and the piracy battle front? Indie films are never secret and need every bit of attention they can get. Run it open, run it honest!
6. Oh crap—you have a camera right? Wait, I think Tim recently got a FlipCam…

Production value is always a big issue in this town. Barely anyone can afford working with professional equipment and a FlipCam does not appear as a wise choice at all. However, I had the pleasure to work on a very well organized 3-days independent short film shoot that spend HK$ 30K on the entire equipment (incl. crane, Chapman dolly, RED camera, a great deal of lights and so on). This is a more than reasonable price for a huge technical effort. The result looked accordingly – decent, professional and simply marvelous. Thus, renting out some equipment is not as expensive as expected in Hong Kong. My second advice would be a shoot with DSLR. Hong Kong people are totally addicted to photography and almost everyone spends its money on a big DSLR camera to produce high resolution pictures of their babies. Ask around and you will find at least two friends who can borrow you a D5 for a couple of days. DSLR´s doing a very good job but it needs practice and experience to handle the HD footage well.
7. Film an hour of an old lap sap lady pushing recyclables around Sheung Wan from dozens of angles.

There is so much more to Hong Kong than an old lap slap lady. Get yourself outside the Gwailo hoods and discover this amazing city by foot. Each corner holds a new setting and at least a dozen untold stories. Be creative and go where they don’t speak English, maybe not even Cantonese. I hardly experienced a place that is cinematic as versatile as Hong Kong.
8. Pay $4,500 to attend a one-day seminar on screenplay writing hosted by a real former screenplay writer from LA who now goes around Asia hosting one-day screenplay seminars instead of actually writing screenplays.

Totally useless, especially at this stage of production. What do you want to change after having completed the shoot already? If you need script advice, read the scripts from the masters. Sidney Lumet wrote amazing story structures, Coppola, Mamet for instance too. But please not those self-declared script writing gods who wrote one produced script in their professional life and went straight into worldwide seminar teaching. Ask locals who work since years, selling a script every day. HK is a small film business. Everybody knows everybody. If you don’t know anyone after 1 year it might be time to move on. I heard LA is supposed to be nice in the summer…
9. Review tapes, break down in self-loathing. Weeping (1.5-2 hours).

Well, that´s pretty close to reality but can be avoided by detailed production planning and artistic flexibility. When you are surprised to see what´s on the tape, than you made something fundamental wrong in the first place!
10. Save face by editing your 3 hours of random footage into a 2-minute trailer. Add in that Gorillaz song about Hong Kong in the background, and voila.

Not even an addicted brain-dead YouTube-zombie would go for that. You failed at this staged already for the 10th time.
11. Wrap party!! Hey, how come no one has confirmed for the Wrap Party!! Facebook Event…

Well, well, parties are essential, especially crew dinners. Show your appreciation for your crews work by giving something back. When no one showed up, then there was probably showing up on the set either. Ultimately, filmmaking is a team achievement and as a director you should know how to communicate with people and how to communicate your vision. Facebook helps to organize but cannot replace the personal contact each team member expects from you. Show appreciation and respect!

Hope that shed some real professional light into this matter and young filmmaker become more engaged in kicking off their own productions. Hong Kong is a very nice and beholden place to shoot. Millions of stories just unfold in front of your eyes every day and the production circumstances are comparatively liberal, yes I would even say free. Go for it! But keep up a decent production quality & value. Always start an idea with your audience in mind!

—feel free to comment!

I started to develop my upcoming 2nd DimSum short Western. The basic idea of an urban Western is set. Now I am scouting for locations all over Hong Kong (To Kwa Wan, Kwun Tong, Sham Shui Po).  My focus is on old squatter housing structures on top of tall buildings.

First production design drawings will be available soon.

Shooting is scheduled for November 2010 and release in January 2011.

Continuous short breakdown on Asian Western films stylistic elements towards the definition of DimSum Westerns.

Hong Kong

As this subject is focused on Hong Kong I start with Johnnie To’s EXILED (2006) which is actually set in Macau.

This choice of location gives the film an interesting Mediterranean touch and flair, far away from the vibrating metropolis of Hong Kong. To, known for constantly applying Western elements to his own style, creates already in the opening scene a typical Leone-like suspense layout. With slow and elegiac camera tracks he moves along the narrow streets and within a small apartment above. The four main protagonists position themselves in front of the house where a scared woman with baby observes the scenery down below. All smoking cigars, no one talks. Now the scenery slowly escalates as a man pulls up the street in a small truck. Entering the house he is being followed by two men from the street, the other two remain in position at the doorstep. Still no dialog! The three men inside the apartment are getting nervous. Each is looking for a good position within the unfurnished room, a shootout is imminent. Next door, the woman is holding on to her baby, not taking cover but watching the scenery. On the street, a police car with the dump corrupt “sheriff” appears. Upstairs the expected wild shooting breaks loose and the two men on the street try to scare the “sheriff” off by demonstrating their shooting skills on an unarmed Red Bull can. This scene of course, as hilarious and typical it might appear for a Hong Kong action film, is a direct homage to Leone´s FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965) hat shooting scene between Eastwood and Van Cleef. This can-shooting scene becomes a regular running gag throughout EXILED, whenever the cop needs to be kept at bay. However, after all the shooting in the first ten minutes no casualties can be claimed, except a shot can and perforated stone pot. The indoor shoot out is visually quite spectacular solved by To but in the end it turns out all opponents and rivals are old friends, a youth gang from childhood days. Thus, the four dark shooters strip off their trench coats and help hauling up furniture into the empty apartment. Ultimately all having dinner like old pals, as if nothing ever happened, an almost heart-warming scenery.  Until this point we had barley dialog between the protagonists.

To undergoes within this first 15 minutes the transition from a classic Italian Western pattern to a classic Hong Kong Jiang-Hu movie. Even though those motives and elements are very strong throughout EXILED, the film does not drift into an awkward homosexual tone as most similar themed films tend to do. However, traditional 1960s Italian Western elements are still strong represented all over the film. The harmonica music played by one of the main protagonists on the ship, the “over-red” blood splatters, the gold transporter ambush on a rural road. Also, the hotel scenes, which recall the so memorable setting of King Hu´s classic DRAGON INN (1967), does not only display To is ranging within his own cinematic roots but also finding direct links between Hu´s classic swords play tales and the wild west colt tales of his Italian colleagues. Both genres do not seem that much apart from each other at the end of the 1960s when it comes to visual storytelling, interior choreography as well as atmospheric density.

Speaking of interiors, EXILED draws a very bleak picture of indoor settings. Most apartments are dirty, decaying, barely furnished and more than simple designed. One can often see behind walls, that are obvious thin wooden stage walls, usually only set into the room to give one protagonist some cover prior to shootouts. Hence, one could interpret those scarce wooden interiors as reminiscence to the shanty towns in Westerns. But one could also read it as symbolic embodiment of the hollow and superficial inner life of most characters. Finally, one might argue the interiors simply represent the absence of private belongings in life of the four main protagonists, except their black bags. They are lonely travelers, constantly on the move with no real home or origin. The latter one would mark, once more, one major element of Italian Western.

Extending his film THE MISSION (1999) to a broader Western approach To shows us the roots of his own cinematic style and even goes further deep into. The suspense build-up and subsequent shootout within the illegal clinic clearly are one of To´s most complex and most delicate choreographed action sequences. Even thought, EXILED is clearly a contemporary film it bears all ingredients and character motives of classic Italian Western films. Hence, it can without doubt be considered as a DimSum Western, simultaneously displaying the wide variety and potential of this genre, which not only orientates itself towards one particular style.

Finally, the overall impression of EXILED remains dull, unfortunately. It appears like a finger exercise for its director and creative team but does not stick out in particular from his Œuvre. The film is a solid work, as usual, but bears a wafer-thin story stretched to long 104 minutes with no real twist or unpredictable move. Ultimately, the focus lies too much on the group of four and their relationship amongst each other, which is a regular theme in Chinese films, but surprisingly all characters within this particular group, just remain two-dimensional.

JAPAN

Before beginning on Takashi Miike´s SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO (2007) I have to admit the fact that I never was a big fan of Miike’s. Apparently his immense influence on contemporary Japanese filmmaking with all those new, up and coming directors trying to imitate and copy his style made me being widely absent from recent Nippon films and rather take refuge with all those 1950s Samurai classics , 60s Yakuza films and bold exploitation of the 70s. Hence, the WESTERN DJANDO did not had a good start with me. However, I was truly eager to see whether Miike could offer a new approach to the exploitive subgenre of Asian Westerns.

The SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO starts with an amazing Tarantino cameo opening sequence that is funny, refreshing and highly entertaining. Recalling the memories of an over-stylized stage play with the artificial set design, one might even briefly think back to Thailand´s great contribution to this genre, TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER (2000). But then people start talking, in awkward heavy Japanese accent English and things begin to spin out of control. The overall comic-like tone of the film does hold potential, the camera work is gorgeous and the color & light compositions marvelous but Miike´s way of storytelling makes it hard to follow –  yes, even hard to watch.  Everything is hasty, confusing and lost me after 10 minutes. Things start to get messy and the regular Japanese slapstick insert as well as over-the-top acting does make things even worse.

Thus, I rather concentrate on the visual elements than the story itself, if there ever was one at all. As mixture of Samurai and Western film one can find a whole hawker´s tray of direct references, quotations and own interpretations of famous Italian Westerns. Miike´s cinemascope compositions on the other hand follow widely the traditions of the Samurai classics, especially when it comes to interior arrangements of large groups of actors in a dialog situation.

Apart from that, there are some elements that just do not want to fit right in. All main actors are, typical for contemporary Asian mainstream films, young and good looking guys/girls who miss every character depth. Where are the strong Western-typical faces with deep scars or wrinkles? Faces like Eli Wallach or Lee Van Cleef told already entire stories just by entering the frame. Those faces lived a life of exploitation, violence, booze and to the core shaping traumatic experiences. Those Japanese lads just are hollow figures without any profile. No one is scary or even ambivalent, just too clean, glib and superficial. Miike traded the strongest visual point of Westerns against the favor and commercial market value of a bunch of squawking juvenile Japanese groupies. No one of those “hot” actors is able to portray an angry, deep inside disrupted hero who is on the brink to become a bad guy. Not even to speak of a bad, nasty hero who never was good in the first place.

Another point that seems to disturb the structure of the film is how Miike handles dramatic scenes in which the actual story is being told. He uses occasional flashbacks that are supposed to give the pseudo-story some depth but are just floating by as the river over which the small boy’s parents are being hanged. Those flashbacks are just getting squeezed into a bunch of spectacle outbursts of shooting action. Italian Westerns were building their stories around those flashbacks. This was what gave them literally flesh and blood to emerge from. Here, it is just a brief justification for explosions of violence during the respective following scene that should cover weak acting and low dramatic ability of its actors as well as some story holes. Now, one could argue the same exploitive cover-up of violence can be found at almost all Italian Westerns, which is probably true to a large extent. However, masters of the genre like Leone or Corbucci used right those scenes and sequences to shape their characters, giving them depth and inner disruption by not necessarily letting them play those feelings out but rather by becoming manifest within a complex universe of situations, locations, editing and overall atmosphere. The flashback story was what kept the film running by gradually revealing of motives and the subsequent hero´s destiny. Eventually, flashbacks in SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO appear simply awkward and disturbing for the general story flow. Thus, they do not serve the film but rather lead audience away.

“Yojimbo meets Django” one might self-title the film and indeed SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO is a stunning assimilation of both genres. It is worth watching and clearly shows how Asians can revive those old traditional ways of filmmaking, merging cultural differences by creating an entire new cinematic universe. Even though Miike does not make it easy for audiences to grasp his film it remains an entertaining ride through the past of the Western genre with a possible future light at the end.  However, the film remains a straight rip-off from real world cinema classics rather than an intelligent new interpretation. A director with a less distinct cinematic ego might have created a more lasting movie experience.

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My next analysis will move on to Korea and Thailand soon.  A nice Asian Western Round Up can be found at the Gutter.

First DimSum Western attempt as traditional short film shot in the heart of Hong Kong. Guns were replaced by knifes and the setting was brought upon a shore sight as it was typical for HK films in the late 60s (eg King H’s the Vigilant Ones). Here however, I tried to bring the story into present context. The city gradually revealing within the background the hero’s subsequent return to civilization during the ending are clear references to the urban metropolis action dramas of the HK cinema. Also some wide lens hand-held camera movements, especially the long shot following the villain should refer to this style. At the same time it was mixed by traditional Italian Western framing like the confrontation scene as well as the shootout.

The whole film is inspired and carried by Sergio Morricone’s iconic music. Currently HK based German composer Sebastian Seidel is working on a new music version which will attempt to create a new audio style brought to the genre in order to give it the same iconographic shaping as Morricone achieved with his works.

More on DPTB:
– Sprout micro web page
– Prezi

MS: What are the major changes and directions the HK film has made towards the past 10 years? What was the most crucial key event and how did it influence the industry? In short what does make today’s HK film define itself towards other international cinemas? How does it stick out? Any trademarks like in the 1980s?

KM: I think a major problem with Hong Kong films today is the lack of change. After John Woo, CHow Yun Fat, and other filmmakers left Hong Kong throughout the 90s, there has yet to be a new group of stars/directors that are solid enough to take over the reins. Of course, there are a few exceptions, but the biggest draws of HK cinema today are still the big names from the 90s – Andy Lau, Sammi Cheng, etc.

The biggest change today, sadly, is market-driven. The key event was in 2004, when the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement was signed with China. Part of that included allowing Hong Kong films co-produced by Mainland Chinese companies to enter China without any quota restriction. Local-based filmmakers have been softening up in order to get their films into the China market, which offers much, much larger economic rewards. Peter Chan, John Woo, Derek Yee, Andrew Lau, Stanley Kwan – all these directors that made their name in the 90s have now shifted to making films for the China market. The result are safe films that would try to pass the censors in China and even a dumbing down of films for the Chinese audience, who in general are not as film-savvy as people in Hong Kong. In turn, people in Hong Kong have turned out to the big blockbusters, but still avoid films that has too much “Mainland” flavor. As a result of that (and piracy, of course), attendance and the number of productions have gone down in a significant rate.

There has been hope for this past Lunar New Year, as the highest-grossing film is a local comedy inspired by the old Shaw Bros. film House of 72 Tenants. Even though the film has some Mainland flavor, almost all of the humor are locally-based language/pop culture humor. That, the cameo-filled cast, and the bombardment of advertising (It’s co-produced by HK’s largest TV station) helped propelled box office.

Also, for a while, Hong Kong cinema, like Korea, relied on getting their ideas good enough for Hollywood to remake. Infernal Affairs and Confession of Pain (interestingly, made by the same team of filmmakers) have already been sold, but there hasn’t actually been anything good enough lately to appeal to the international audience. Festivals are looking for another Wong Kar-Wai, and mass audiences want another John Woo-Chow Yun Fat. Neither exists anymore.

MS: Dialog seems to be a crucial point within the HK film. Either it is absolutely removeable like in the action films from the 1980s which rather rely on phisical action and slapstick storytelling (eg. Jackie Chan, John Woo, the Lucky Star series), what made those films internationally successful due to low dubbing costs and high visual impact on Western audiences. Or dialog is brought to a tremendous “over-use” as in the action film counter movement, the Moleitau films. Films in which the dialog is not only the center but also converted into a nonsense form of story substitute.

KM: What role does the dialog play in contemporary films? Is it still exchangeable or hard to grasp at all? How deep does local culture influence the dialog or do we see a internationalization during past years?

The Hong Kong-style of Cantonese language is an ever-changing one because of its colloquial roots, and the English subtitles of Hong Kong films rarely capture them accurately because it’s impossible to. Nevertheless, dialogue plays a huge part, in my opinion, to the success of a Hong Kong film. Even today, people are still reciting dialogue from Stephen Chow films, and with a film culture so connected to pop culture here, that would happen even more so than in the United States. As mentioned in the previous question, a large part of 72 Tenants of Prosperity’s success is the local humor, much of those are language-based. Even a film like The Lucky Star series rely plenty of language-based humor. You’re right in that they don’t play such a big part in action films (there’s no punchline culture here in action films), their ability to use local language still plays a huge part to a comedy’s success here in Hong Kong.

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The email-interview with Kevin Ma is a continuous series and will be posted on a regular basis. Objective of the interview series is to provide an insight to contemporary Hong Kong cinema in order to incorporate aspects into the pending DimSum Western genre definition.

Kevin Ma is a HK based writer and film critic for lovehkfilm.com, also assisting with this years Asian film strand of the London East End Film Festival. Follow his Twitter for updated industry news.