Stream/Society--Mystery HK Theater 2K20: New-Wave Swordplay


Location: Streaming (online)

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Screen/Society delves into the dusty archive of import, out of print, and custom fan-subtitled DVDs, in search of forgotten gems of Hong Kong genre cinema from the 80s and 90s.

Show up to one of our Thursday night live-streams with no preconceptions, not knowing what film you are about to see, and if you are not already a devotee of this particular cinematic universe then it’s very likely that you’ll come away with new memories of spectacles unlike anything you’ve seen before onscreen… Questions and reactions welcome in the live chat!

Unusual genre hybrids of kung fu, comedy, supernatural horror, sci-fi, modern day police and gangster action, warrior women and “girls with guns”, with wild tonal shifts, creative low-budget special effects, and unbelievable stunts, acrobatics, and fight choreography at a level that was the best in the world at the time!

This week's sub-genre is: "80s New Wave Wuxia Swordplay"

As defined by the international distributor for the Shaw Brothers film catalog, wuxia is “related to any form of Chinese writing, story, or film dedicated to the tales of ‘sword-wielding chivalrous heroes’”. And the Shaw studio played a leading role in defining the cinematic form that wuxia story-telling would take, in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. The End of Cinema blog explains that in wuxia fiction, "heroes follow a very specific code of honor as they navigate the jianghu, an underworld of outlaws and bandits outside the normal streams of civilization. Wuxia films often incorporate fantasy elements, using special effects to allow their heroes to fly, shoot concentrated chi energy out of their hands (or eyes) and in other ways violate the laws of physics."

Wuxia swordsmen clash in a blur of motion

In the late 1970s and 1980s, a new generation of young, foreign-educated filmmakers who became known as "Hong Kong New Wave" directors emerged on the scene and reinvigorated the Hong Kong TV and film industries with fresh takes on established genres - including wuxia cinema - often for newer, smaller, more independent studios than the venerable Shaw Brothers. Tonight's film is an example of that 1980s marriage of traditional genre themes and story elements with an emergent and dynamic "New Wave" cinematic style.

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Sponsor: Cinematic Arts at Duke University