from Taiwan. The Taiwanese film industry was very small, and, with an economically resurgent Taiwan, opportunistic investors decided to pour money into Hong Kong movies as they were usually more profitable than their own. Thus, ironically, the gradual drop of annual attendance by 25 per cent from the recent peak of 66 million in 1988 was indirectly caused by the huge success that Hong Kong films achieved overseas in the 1980s.
The valuable experience gained in making kung-fu films for nearly two decades, coupled with the introduction of special-effects hardware from the west, produced brilliant action stunts and flamboyant visual effects in the Hong Kong films of this period. These are best embodied in the work of Jackie Chan, Tsui Hark, and John Woo, which opened up new markets like Japan and South Korea, and received releases in Europe and America.
In terms of genre development, the modern period of Hong Kong cinema is a continuation of the major trends (kung-fu and comedy) of the 1970s. More polished visuals and urban settings aside, martial arts action and comic high jinks have remained the staples of Hong Kong movies,
The modern Hong Kong cinema is strongly characterized by genre combinations, where all subject-matters are game for comedy. This reflects the industry's ambitions to open up more markets and attract the widest audiences in the community; essential after the drastic rise in production budgets following Cinema City's lead. Comedies remain an overwhelmingly popular genre; the majority being farces which emphasize excess, chaos, a quick rhythm, and a preponderance of gags.
The evolution and adaptation of kung-fu into other genres has been complicated. The early works of the New Wave directors in the crime thriller genre were more heavily influenced by Hollywood, and succeeded in imparting a fresh feel to audiences by shooting in real street locations. When Jackie Chan turned to urban settings, he chose the same genre, but essentially just 'dressed up' traditional kung-fu acrobatics and combat sequences in modern clothes. The most important subgenre was the so-called 'hero film', initiated by John Woo 's A Better Tomorrow (Yingxiong bense, 1986), which was a modern variation on the old martial arts movie. While gun-toting replaced sword-fighting, the emphasis on the kung-fu themes of honour, brotherhood, and male bonding remained unchallenged. Nevertheless, the successful adaptation of martial arts choreography into designing gun fights, explosions, and action stunts contributed to an aesthetics of stylized violence unrivalled anywhere in the world. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Hard Boiled (Lashou shentan, 1992), where the combined talents of director John Woo, art directors James Leung and John Chong, and cinematographer Wong Wing-heng produced a spectacle of quite dizzying proportions.
The ghost story movie emerged as a popular genre in the 1980s, encompassing all movies dealing with sprites and demons, superstitions, fatalism, and supernatural phenomena. The genre mixed horror, comedy, kung-fu, special effects, suspense, and melodrama. The rise of production standards with big investments in state-of-the-art special effects greatly benefited the rise of the ghost story movie. The most representative films were those of Sammo Hung; and Ching Siu-tung's A Chinese Ghost Story (Qiannu youhun, 1987).
The popular rise of the ghost story film in the early 1980s can be seen as a response to the uncertainties of the future. The prospect of the 1997 hand-over of Hong Kong to the Chinese has caused Hong Kong grief and anxiety. The spirits, demons, and superstitious fatalism that are inherent to the ghost genre mirror the fears of the people.
Teo, Stephen ( 1996). Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimension.
The Taiwanese cinema is best known in the west for its kung-fti and other action films which for a time rivalled Hong Kong films in world-wide popularity. But Taiwan is also home to a movement known as 'Taiwanese New Cinema', of which the best-known representative is Hou Hsiao-hsien.
The New Cinema movement emerged in the early 1980s and has been seen as a culmination of the 'back-to-theroots' cultural nationalism that swept Taiwan during the 1970s. A critical era of change for the island, the decade began with a series of embarrassing political set-backs for Taiwan -- the forced severance of diplomatic ties with the USA, Japan, and other major nations, expulsion from the United Nations, and exclusion from the Olympic Games --