Beyond Kung-Fu and Violence
Locating East Asian Cinema Fandom
In 2005, for the first time in history, the Venice Film Festival both opened and closed with Chinese-language films, Tsui Hark's martial arts epic, Seven Swords, and Peter Ho-Sun Chan's musical, Perhaps Love, respectively. Meanwhile, a number of major American and European cities each have annual film festivals dedicated to showcasing talents from East Asian countries like Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, providing fans with a variety of genres apart from martial arts (wuxia) and gangster films popularized by the likes of Tsui Hark and John Woo in the eighties, and a string of horror films marked by the onset of the release of Hideo Nakata's Ringu (1998) to Western audiences. Festival billings aside, Chinese-language films like In The Mood for Love (2000, dir. Wong Kar Wai), Hero (2002, dir. Zhang Yimou), 2046 (2004, dir. Wong Kar Wai), and most recently Kung Fu Hustle (2004, dir. Stephen Chow) have been made widely available for Western audiences.
These films, screened outside the periphery of film festivals, suggest that there are demands for Asian-language films—often considered as cult cinema due to the film genres that are exported overseas—among Western viewers. Matt Hills argues that the “distinctiveness required for cult status is [ … ] partly based on such films' cultural-textual differences from the 'mainstream' of Hollywood productions, given that a sense of what is marginal often has a national-contextual specificity, with the 'foreignness' of some [ … ] film genres rendering them marginal [and cultish] in markets outside of their country of production” (2005c: 161). As Jancovich et al. add, this “supposed difference from the 'mainstream' (although they may