Once A Hero: The Vanishing Hong Kong Cinema

Once A Hero: The Vanishing Hong Kong Cinema
Perry Lam Pui-li


Product details
Paperback, 174 Pages, English
Publication date April 2011  ISBN 9789881500519

In Once A Hero, his latest collection of essays, Perry Lam describes the decline of Hong Kong cinema since 1997 and gives an eyewitness account of its attempt to reinvent itself. He examines successes and failures of famous auteurs; spotlights talented newcomers seeking to inject new life into cinema; and, with the future of Hong Kong cinema now bound up with the mainland, discusses the works of major Chinese filmmakers.

Widely quoted by the international press including Reuters, The Associated Press, and Cahiers du Cinéma, Perry Lam has long been recognized as an authority on Hong Kong cinema. From 2006-10, he was editorial director of Muse magazine, and taught Asian cinema as adjunct professor of Syracuse University Hong Kong Center. He is now assistant editorial director of Oxford University Press and has written regular columns in Chinese for Hong Kong Economic Journal and Yazhou Zhoukan. Once A Hero: The Vanishing Hong Kong Cinema is his first English book.

From the book
“The real story about Hong Kong films isn’t the dramatic decline in their creativity, or power to draw people to theaters. It is the surgical removal of their distinctiveness as movies of Hong Kong. In their eagerness to please the mainland audience, Hong Kong filmmakers now churn out movies with ready-made plots, powered by simple demographics. I smell more desperation than inspiration in the race to make the Hong Kong cinema mainland-friendly.”

“Hong Kong filmmakers still know better than anyone how to get under the skin of an undercover agent – a lasting legacy of the original sin of Hong Kongers, who prospered under colonialism by, as the Chinese saying goes, ‘treating the thief as father.’ The distinctly Hong Kong species of movie hero is a tragic hero who goes deep into the enemy’s operation, risking his identity, sanity and life, yet he remains misunderstood to the end.”

“There is a huge discrepancy between the sophistication of mainland filmmakers in their knowledge and state-of-the-art techniques, and the naiveté and bad faith of their failure to question authority and their emphasis on sacrifice as the highest manifestation of patriotism.”

“The crucial factor behind Chinese cinema’s failure to come up with movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars is cultural, not technical. With adequate resources and talent, you can have the most sophisticated special effects. But where can you borrow a sense of fun?”