Sunday, 7 April 2013

Week 31 (Tues 26 Mar - Communicating)

In the seminar, we returned to the subject of the 'Controlling Idea', and brought forward our chosen example: Mine was the 2009 film Watchmen, the controlling idea, I felt, was 'To achieve a better world, truth is not always the right path', given that in the film, World peace is achieve, but in the process, many people die after a major nuclear attack, orchestrated by the film's main villain, which leads to the nations of the world to 'detente', and in the end, the exposing journal is left in the hands of a small time journalist, and we don't know if he ends up telling the truth, which might lead to global chaos, or keeping it secret and letting this 'false' peace reign. To further cement, we looked at the controlling idea in a selection of films we've watched over the course:
  • Rear Window: Justice prevails as long as there is dedication.
  • Nine Queens: Society is corrupt so why not take advantage of it?
  • Platoon: War is hell because you end up fighting yourself.
  • Festen: The truth will arise, no matter what class you are from.
  • La Haine: Those who live by and idolise violence will be consumed by it.
  • Touch of Evil: Justice prevails, even if the law is corrupt.
And then, in specific genres:
  • Western: Justice prevails, even if the law is corrupt/ineffective.
  • Science Fiction: We shouldn't overly depend on technology, otherwise it will destroy us.
  • Romantic comedies: Love prevails, no matter the odds.
  • Gangster: Those who live by violence and greed will be destroyed by them.
Later, in the screening, we watched the Hong Kong drama Chungking Express, which tells the parallel stories of two policemen, each dealing with a broken relationship: one who falls in love with a mysterious 'criminal', the other who becomes the target of obsession of a local snack bar worker. The film is certainly very different, and presents a lot of bizarre ideas and circumstances, like the obsession and the first policeman's habit of buying tins of pineapples because it reminds him of his former love, in a sort of ironic, comical light at points, juxtaposing the loneliness of these people against the busy city of Hong Kong, despite not being a comedy, and the rapid, colorful visual style and editing of the film give it a very different feel, almost akin to a lot of the 60s/70s psychedelic films

Then in the seminar, we looked at Hong Kong Cinema, a type of film making noted for its very rapid, energetic quality, and the industry itself up until the 90s was the third largest in the world, and its history makes no secret of why: the explosion of martial arts films in the 70s, such as those starring the iconic Bruce Lee, himself born in the US but returned to his native land at a young age, and then the boom of action films, especially those of John Woo (Hard Boiled, The Killer and later, Face Off and Windtalkers) which both shared that rapidfire energy and violence in contrast to the then slower action films of the West (though Woo and Lee would make films for them too in later years).

In the 2000s, though, HK Cinema began to move away from that and become more transnational, constantly exploring new ideas and changing, very much a postmodern approach, the director of Chungking Express, Wong Kar-Wai, being a sort of figure head, infusing the sensibilities of art cinema with more traditional genres and stories, like the love stories of this film, and often exploring the ideas of relationships, especially between that of the past and present and their effects. Also, on another note, we briefly looked at Asia Extreme, which, as its title implies, is a very violent, over-the-top type of film, and very stylized (famous examples include Oldboy and The Eye).

In conclusion, I felt this was a day of two halves: the first half I felt was passable, and the ideas presented certainly were interesting, but there wasn't much new ground covered and it felt like going in circles for a while over the same concept. The second half, however, was a massive improvement, in part because of the film shown and its 'uniqueness', but also because we got to look a film industry that very often gets stereotyped by us in the West due to their icons (like Lee, Chan and Li) but has a lot more going on than we tend to give it credit for.

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