Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Homage to Tsui Hark

Homage to Tsui Hark

Homage to Tsui Hark (2002)

From Senses of Cinema:

You'd think a guy like this would be sitting behind a desk with his feet up, puffing on a big cigar, but Tsui Hark struggles. He believes that he is the only person who understands the wonders of Chinese culture and history and that with his great understanding comes great responsibility: he must save it. Tsui looks at Chineseness and sees a neverending source of ideas, a river of strength that will never run dry. People dismiss this and it drives him crazy. He wants to knock off the dust and kick out the jams. And he's been surprisingly successful. He's revitalized almost every major trope of Chinese popular culture and, if background counts, he's barely even Chinese.


But while offering the stability of historical continuity with one hand, he takes it away with the other. His movies exist in a perpetual state of flux, where the only constant is change. Immigrants know the bitter taste of premature partings and the absurdity of keeping a place in their hearts for a homeland they barely remember. They know that borders make all the difference and that citizenship is destiny: a chemical engineer in Bombay is a cab driver in New York; a screw-up in London is a bank manager in Hong Kong. A Better Tomorrow III (1989) takes place in Vietnam and never has so much apocalyptic angst been unleashed in an airport departure lounge. Dragon Inn wrings 88 minutes of pathos and paranoia out of a single attempt to cross a border without a passport. Tsui's characters are neither here nor there, subject to sudden, traumatic changes in status and identity. Demons become human, men become women, swordsmen become monks, criminals become heroes, and heroes become villains. Shape-shifting aliens become bangable pinball machines, robots turn into sexy sirens, human bodies are pulled apart, hung from hooks, deflated, de-faced, skinned alive, castrated, amputated, and exploded. Twins and endlessly replicating time travelers proliferate exponentially.

Hark proved movies could also have a manic punk energy.

1 comment:

toby said...

Tsui Mark sounds like Adolf Hitler.

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