MIT3545 L02

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Film History: 

Film History MIT3545/41913F Lecture 2

Early Sound Film: 

Early Sound Film In Early 1920, many film makers began to input “sound” as an element in many films However, many of them still can’t handle sound technology very well. Therefore, only music was used in films. Later, it then came to the first great age of Hollywood due to interruption in the European film industries during World War I Era of Realism in Europe after WWI Films are used as a media to present the reality after the war Neo-Realism (1940s) A movement in Italian cinema that stressed an “anti-Hollywood” style No artificial setting / lighting, Social actors were used

Famous Films (Pre WWII): 

Famous Films (Pre WWII) Famous films & film directors include The Battleship Potemkin (1925, USSR, silent / war) (Odessa Steps scene, use of montage technique) Charles Chaplin (English/US) – Modern Times (1936 / comedy), City Lights (1931 / comedy) Friz Lang (German) – Metropolis (1927 / sci-fic) Alfred Hitchcock (UK) – Blackmail (1929, first British sound film / Thriller) Dracula (1931, emblems of Horror genre)

Early Sound Film (Poster): 

Early Sound Film (Poster)

“New Hollywood” / Post-Classical: 

“New Hollywood” / Post-Classical A change in method of storytelling chronology may be scrambled storylines may feature “twist endings” lines between the antagonist (敵) and protagonist (我/主角) may be blurred a greater tendency to dramatize things like sexuality and violence Famous Films Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960, Suspense/Thriller) West Side Story (1961, Musical) Ben-Hur (1959, Adapted from Novel)

French New Waves: 

French New Waves At the same time when Hollywood focused on goal-oriented stories, French Cinema try to combine Art into Film. French New Wave focused on “Eccentric oriented” storytelling system Low budget and light-weight equipments Improvised dialogue, rapid changes of scene, and shots that go beyond the common 180º axis Famous Films Jules and Jim (1961, François Truffaut / Romance) The 400 blows (1959, François Truffaut / Crime)

1970s - 1990s: 

1970s - 1990s Emergence of a new generation of film school-trained American film makers, making blockbuster films Francis Ford Coppola (Godfather Series) Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park…) George Lucas (Star Wars) Shift occurred in the 1980s from seeing movies in a theater to watching videos on a VCR In 1990s, cinema began another transition, from physical film stock to digital cinema technology - DVD becomes the new standard for watching movies

HK Film History – Pre-War: 

HK Film History – Pre-War The first film: 1909 short comedies 偷燒鴨 directed by 梁少波/上海亞細亞製片廠 First feature film: 莊子試妻 directed by 黎民偉/黎北海 (兄弟) 黎北海 飾 莊子 黎民偉 飾 莊子妻 Cantonese Opera 粵劇 scenes were the source for the first movies in Hong Kong Only four films remaining out of over 500 produced in Hong Kong before World War II Many films were destroyed during Japanese occupation in order to extract silver nitrates for military use

During Sino-Japanese War: 

During Sino-Japanese War Filmmaker from Shanghai (aka Oriental Hollywood) fled to Hong Kong Marked the beginning of Hong Kong Mandarin films National defense film became one of the major genres in Hong Kong in late 1930s. 生命線 (1935, directed by 關文清) 上海火線後 (1938, directed by 湯曉丹) Famous actors and actress like 張瑛, 白燕, 吳楚帆 began their starry lives in these years

Postwar – Golden Age: 

Postwar – Golden Age Postwar Hong Kong cinema was catalyzed by the continuing influx of capital and talents from Mainland China 1946 resumption of the Chinese Civil War 1949 Communist victory The bifurcation of the HK film industry into two parallel cinemas, Mandarin and Cantonese Mandarin movies had much higher budgets and more lavish production. Enormous export market Expertise, capital and prestige of the Shanghai filmmakers Cantonese films, though sometimes more numerous, were relegated to second-tier status

Mandarin Movies in 40s-60s: 

Mandarin Movies in 40s-60s Shaw Brothers and Motion Picture and General Investments Limited (later renamed Cathay) were the top studios by the 1960s 曼波女郎 (MPGI, 1957) – Hollywood-style musicals 江山美人 (Shaws, 1959) - 黃梅調 derived from Chinese opera

New School Wuxia: 

New School Wuxia In late 60s, the Shaws inaugurated a new generation of wuxia 武俠片 with large production values, acrobatic moves (特技) and stronger violence The trend was inspired by the popularity of imported samurai movies from Japan Famous Films 龍門客棧 (directed by 胡金銓, 1967, Taiwan) 獨臂刀 (directed by張徹, 1967) The New School wuxia wave marked the move of male-oriented action films to the centre of Hong Kong cinema Exceptional female action stars: 鄭佩佩, 陳寶珠

Cantonese Films in 40s-60s: 

Cantonese Films in 40s-60s 200 Cantonese films are made each year during the period During this period, Cantonese opera on film dominated. In 1950s, 1/3 of films were Cantonese opera. It was due to its low budget and short shooting time (7-10 days) The top stars were 任劍輝 and 白雪仙. They made over fifty films together. The Purple Hairpin 紫釵記 (1959) and Princess Chang Ping 帝女花 (1959) were one of their most popular films.

Cantonese Films in 40s-60s: 

Cantonese Films in 40s-60s Low-budget martial arts films were also popular A series of roughly 100 Wong Fei Hung 黃飛鴻 kung fu movies were made First WFH movie: The Story of Wong Fei Hung 黃飛鴻傳 (1949) Last WFH movie: Wong Fei Hung Bravely Crushing the Fire Formation 黃飛鴻勇破烈火陣(1970) Fantasy wuxia serials with special effects drawn on the film by handwere also popular The Six-Fingered Lord of the Lute 六指琴魔 (1965) Buddha’s Palm 如來神掌 (1964)

The Cantonese Comeback : 

The Cantonese Comeback In 1972 no films in the local dialect were made The first spark was the ensemble comedy The House of 72 Tenants 七十二家房客 (楚原/1973) The return of Cantonese really took off with the comedies of former TVB stars the Hui Brothers 鬼馬雙星 (許冠文/1974) initially made US$1.4 million at Hong Kong box office 半斤八兩 (許冠文/1976) The Hui movies broke ground by satirizing the modern reality of an ascendant middle class, whose long work hours and dreams of material success were transforming the colony into a modern industrial and corporate giant

Golden Harvest Era: 

Golden Harvest Era In 1970, former Shaw Brothers executives Raymond Chow and Leonard Ho left to form their own studio, Golden Harvest and landed contracts with rising young performers Bruce Lee – He made the Kung Fu movie exploded into popularity internationally Hui brothers Jackie Chan, the kung fu comedy actor-filmmaker

Hong Kong New Wave: 

Hong Kong New Wave Young Hong Kong filmmakers of late 70s - 80s trained in overseas film programs started a new way in making films They had worked in television drama scene Applied location shooting and sync sound recording and explored a rougher look and feel Revised explorations of popular genres (namely thriller, kung fu, and crime; which was experimented with realism) Produced personal dramas about relationships, domesticity and family

Hong Kong New Wave: 

Hong Kong New Wave Famous Directors and movies Tsui Hark 徐克 - The Butterfly Murders 蝶變 (1979) Ann Hui 許安華 - The Secret 瘋刧 (1979), The Story of Woo Viet 胡越的故事 (1981), Boat People 投奔怒海 (1982) Yim Ho 嚴浩 - Homecoming 似水流年 (1984) Patrick Tam 譚家明 (Wong Kar Wai’s teacher) – Love Massacre 愛煞 (1981) Allen Fong 方育平 (Influenced by Italian Neorealiasm) – Father and Son 父子情 (1981),

1980s – Early 1990s: 

1980s – Early 1990s Up-to-date special effects technology Mix-and-Match of genres Slapstick comedy (“無厘頭”), sex, the supernatural, and action (of both the martial arts and cops-and-criminals varieties) ruled Hong Kong came to exert a comparable dominance in Asian region

Leaders of the Time (80s & 90s): 

Leaders of the Time (80s & 90s) Comedy mixed with Action – Cinema City (新藝城) trio: Karl Maka 麥嘉, Raymond Wong 黃百鳴 and Dean Shek 石天 Aces Go Place Series 最佳拍檔 All genre and trendsetter – Tsui Hark 徐克 Producer of many blockbusters Commercial-oriented, Comedy – Wong Jing 王晶 God of Gamblers Series 賭神 “Traid” movies – John Woo 吳宇森 A Better Tomorrow Series 英雄本色 Stunt-driven kung fu action – Jackie Chan 成龍 Police Story Series 警察故事

Second Wave: 

Second Wave In late 80s, there saw the emergence of a “Second Wave.” Graduates of overseas film schools and local television apprenticeships Interested in going beyond the usual, commercial subject matters and styles These artists began to earn Hong Kong attention and respect in international critical circles and the global film festival circuit.

Second Wave Directors: 

Second Wave Directors Stanley Kwan 關錦鵬 Rouge 胭脂扣 (1987) Centre Stage 阮玲玉 (1991) Mabel Cheung 張婉婷 An Autumn’s Tale 秋天的童話 (1987) Wong Kar-wai 王家衞 As Tears Go By 旺角卡門 (1988) Days of Being Wild 阿飛正傳 (1991) Chungking Express 重慶森林 (1994); and etc…


Post-boom During the 1990s, the Hong Kong film industry underwent a drastic decline from which it has not recovered The Asian financial crisis Overproduction, attended by a drop in quality control and an exhaustion of overused formulas Hong Kong middle class looks down upon local films as cheap and tawdry Rampant video piracy throughout East Asia


References 方保羅, 圖說香港電影史 1920 – 1970, 三聯, 1997. Wikipedia, History of Film, Wikipedia, French New Wave, Wikipedia, Cinema of Hong Kong, Film information is grabbed from Wikipedia, the Internet Movie Database ( and 中文電影資料庫 (

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