Steel, Synth, and Silk: The Musical Words of Martial Arts Cinema

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - 6:00pm
403 Kent Hall, Columbia University, New York NY 10027     map

George Biancorosso (The University of Hong Kong) will discuss the soundtracks of Ashes of Time (both the 1994 and 2008 versions, directed by Wong Kar Wai) in light of Japanese and Chinese-language precedents, and the changes in film distribution created by the rise of the PRC.

"Treating music as ‘symptom’ of a modus operandi, I present a few examples of the persistence of the legacy of jidaigeki and the Zatoichi (aka “Blind Swordsman”) series, not least via the surprising mediation of Leone’s spaghetti westerns. This leads me to revisit the 1994 version of Ashes of Time as not only partaking of the revival of martial arts in the Hong Kong of the early 1990s but also a poignant recreation of the Hong Kong of the 1960s. The “Silk Roadesque” flavour of the 2008 version marks instead a rupture in the history of Hong Kong cinema and its cozy relationship with Japanese and Western influences. For where in the 1960s producers such as Shaw Brothers drew inspiration from global cinema, and the Wong of the early 1990s from his memories of a lifetime watching cinema and television, in 2008 it is a new, flamboyant form of pan-Chinese production that provides the impetus (think Hero or House of Flying Daggers). It is only too fitting that Wong’s second major venture into the martial arts genre—his 2013 release The Grandmaster—was conceived and executed for distribution in the PRC, a move which is symptomatic of the role of Chinese producers and audiences in reshaping the cinema and with it cinema’s role as a global incubator, vehicle and arbiter of musical taste."

This event is free and open to the public.

Made possible by the Orient Finance Co. Endowment for the Donald Keene Center. Co-sponsored by the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture, Heyman Center for the Humanities, the MA in Film and Media Studies, and Department of Music.