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Hong Kong puzzle films: the persistence of tradition

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Publication date14/09/2016
Host publicationThe Poetics of Chinese Cinema
EditorsGary Bettinson, James Udden
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9781137553096
ISBN (Print)9781137566089
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

NameEast Asian Popular Culture
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan


This chapter examines the fate of traditional modes of practice, as well as of local storytelling norms, in contemporary Hong Kong cinema. It contests some widely-held yet arguably specious assumptions: first, that the "Mainlandization" and "Hollywoodization" of Hong Kong cinema eradicate local filmmaking practices and aesthetic norms; and second, that the local routine of piecemeal script construction yields slapdash plotting, and thus is inferior to the screenplay practices advocated in Mainland China and Hollywood. This chapter argues that not only have local work routines endured in spite of institutional change, but that those practices yield films of considerable complexity and ambition. The chapter's major case studies - Wu Xia (2011), Mad Detective (2007), and Blind Detective (2013) - can be assimilated to a nascent puzzle film trend in Hong Kong cinema. Disputing claims of a "post-Hong Kong cinema," this chapter draws on primary interviews with Hong Kong filmmakers in detailing both the PRC coproduction system and the characteristic script practices employed by Peter Chan, Johnnie To, and the Milkyway Image film studio.