City on Fire

Michael Hoover hoov at
Thu Sep 2 19:21:07 MDT 1999

> For a fascinating exegesis of the allegories of primitive accumulation,
> cutthroat gangsterism, etc. in the Hong Kong cinema, read _City on
> Fire_ (NY: Verso, 1999) by Lisa Odham Stokes and (our very own) Michael
> Hoover!
> Yoshie

A big shoutout to Yoshie for the plug!  Book is now available via both
actual and virtual bookstores although official release date isn't until
Sept. 16.  Folks can check out description and read comments at Verso
website - - or at several on-line sellers (I posted a
couple of announcements a few months ago). For NYC area listers, Verso is
having a book release party at Anthology Film Archives on Saturday after-
noon Sept. 18.  AFA will screen Woo's *Bullet in the Head* and Donnie Yen's
*Ballistic  Kiss*.  A chance to meet in person, Michael Hoover

Current issue of *Library Journal* recommends _City on Fire_ for
libraries and here's what *Publisher's Weekly* said in its 8/9/99
issue (I've editorialized a little):

The Hong Kong film industry of the '80s and early '90s produced a treasure
trove of films.  It made matinee idols of (among others) Chow Yun-fat,
Jackie Chan, and Maggie Cheung, reinventing genres style and generally beat
the Hollywood dream factory at its own game with an 'anything goes' attitude
- despite tiny budgets and brief production schedules.  Hoover and Stokes
rightly consider the anxiety produced by the ticking clock to the 1997
handover of Hong Kong to China as the key to this period of frenetic
creativity.  In the most serious study to date of Hong Kong cinema, the
authors dutifully ground their account with social, political, economic,
and historical analysis.  Sometimes they get a bit carried away [[oh
really]], however: comparing a Harold Lloyd stunt to a Jackie Chan variant,
the Lloyd version becomes emblematic of the ideal of upward mobility in the
American 1920s, and Chan's tumble reflects how 'Hong Kong's dollar fell
during a run on the colony's currency in 1983.'  The abundance of quotes
from Marx and Engels [[for what's it worth, there aren't that many, but then,
this *is* *Publisher's Weekly*]] at times makes a cinema noted for its pure
entertainment value sound dull and allegorical [[re. allegories, see Yoshie's
more astute comments!]].  Still the book's extensive interviews with major HK
players - and detailed coverage of the comedies and romances that have
enjoyed less international exposure than the now famous action films of Chan
and John Woo - are of outstanding interest.  So tantalizing is the treatment
of many of these obscure films that readers will scurry to the neighborhood
video store in search of such charmingly translated titles as *Tom, Dick,
and Hairy* and *Shogun and Little Kitchen*.

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