Google Center of Content : The Killer : Film Analysis

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Killer : Film Analysis

The Killer (1989 film)

LANGUAGE: Cantonese

The concept of national cinemas is not coextensive with cinema itself. In some ways, national cinemas can be said to have existed only since the late silent or early sound era. For the first two or three decades after the birth of cinema, films were not explicitly identified with a particular nation-state; and production companies were international, sending camera operators, films for exhibition and, before long, production subsidiaries around the world.

But these are, apparently, insufficient ways of defining a national cinema. Higson feels that the approach of comparison is a better way to define national cinema. He first suggests that the cinema of a nation should be compared to other cinema’s to establish a “degree of otherness.” Most of the comparison suggested, is between a given cinema and Hollywood, or at least a cinema that has become internationally successful.

At one point Higson says “Part of the problem is the paradox that for a cinema to be nationally popular it must be international in scope. That is to say, it must achieve the international (Hollywood) standard.” What’s troubling about this statement is that it requires that cinema that might have little or nothing to do with Hollywood play by their rules. Instead of operating on its own merit, a popular national cinema must play by the rules of Hollywood. Though Hollywood is undeniably popular around the globe, that is just the problem with this argument – if it’s internationally popular than all other film measured against it is ‘other,’ and if all film is othered, then where is the distinction between national cinemas?

His second method of comparison seems far more grounded. This method involves “constituting a national cinema not so much in terms of its difference from other cinemas, but in terms of its relationship to an already existing national political, economic and cultural identity.” This allows national cinema to stand on its own, represent a more diverse picture of the population, and not be ‘colonized’ by Hollywood’s standards.

Now, to be fair, it is true that to create a definition of something, you must compare it to something else. But Higson’s suggestion that national cinema must be held to the same standards of Hollywood for it to even be a blip on the radar doesn’t allow for as wide a scope. His second suggestion, that on top of considering the politics and social construction of a given country, comparing art cinema to the Hollywood wannabes is the most comprehensive of all the previous theories. Movies made in Hong Kong are not the same as those made in South Africa, for a lot of reasons. But they do both make blockbusters as well as art cinema, they both deal with current political situations in their countries, they both tell stories in a local and international scope. But they are not Hollywood, and they have a history all their own. Using Hollywood as the gold standard for cinema does not seem to encourage different cinemas, it just seems to be reinforcing cinematic colonization.

Andrew Higson, 2000, “The Limiting Imagination of National Cinema” in Cinema and Nation, (57-66), ed. By Mette Hjort and Scott Mackenzie.


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