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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: November 2020

3 - Mass Camp in Contemporary Hong Kong Cinema



This chapter considers Hong Kong's particular socio-historical context since the 1960s, which has been imperative to the diffusion of a local mass camp impulse characterized by a self-conscious, often parodic attitude toward the artifice of conventions, particularly those associated with art, gender behavior, and media representation. It then investigates the particular ways in which mass camp has at once informed and been informed by Hong Kong mainstream cinema from the 1970s onward. A crucial point made throughout lies in the intimate relationship between mass camp and the proliferating gender parody of contemporary Hong Kong cinema, culminating in films of the early 1990s (e.g. Swordsman II). This process, importantly, has also been coupled with the critical articulation of camp discourse since the mid-to-late 1970s.

Keywords: Hong Kong, mass camp, camp discourse, gender parody

The previous chapter zooms in on the PRC, tracing the history of Yueju through the uses of qing and film melodrama, bringing out a queer discourse on Chinese opera that, defined against the state ideology of socialism, becomes crucial to the region's emerging mediascape. This chapter will focus on Hong Kong and it social economy, which is key to the diffusion of mass camp impulse and particularly gender parody, a characteristic of Hong Kong cinema from the 1970s onward. During the 1950s and 1960s, Cantonese-language cinema and Mandarin-language cinema existed in Hong Kong mostly as two separate systems, each constituted by different modes of production and consumption. While Cantonese cinema was epitomized by fast turnaround, low-budget, mostly independent productions, from the mid-1950s Mandarin cinema was generally geared toward bigger budgets and higher production values, the standards of major film studios such as Shaw Brothers (originally Shaws) and MP & GI (later renamed Cathay). While Cantonese cinema reached an annual output of over two hundred films in the early 1960s, Mandarin cinema maintained an annual average of around forty until the late 1960s, when its output conspicuously increased to over sixty (nearly one hundred by the early 1970s). With this rapid expansion of Mandarin cinema, however, came the drastic decline of Cantonese cinema, whose output dropped to nil in 1972.