Too busy to blog properly (end of uni probably not the best time to start up a blog) so here’s a section of my Hong Kong Cinema essay that i’m just finishing up for tomorrow’s deadline. It’s in need of a witty cultural studies-type title! Something with brackets and a hyphen always seems to go down well with this particular realm of academia.
In contrast to the successful marketing of Hong Kong films in the United States, it is due to the difficulty in obtaining independent distribution in China ‘without official sanction’ that films may not be successful in the box office market (Chan 2003:58). In her essay, Felicia Chan records that because of this difficulty, the distribution of Crouching Tiger was delayed and the film did not premiere in China until three months post of the desired release date (2003:58). The streets then filled with pirated DVD and VCD copies of the film, suggesting that even though Crouching Tiger may not have been an official box office success in Asia, its popularity was enough that it gained substantial attention within the network of film viewers and cinephiles (Desser 2005). Kelly Hu references Ding Tzann Lii in her essay ‘Techno-Orientalization,’ and includes his claim that ‘periphery media,’ such as pirated DVDs and VCDs, ‘serves[s] to regionalize and to localize, not to continue the global expansion of capitalism’ (cited in Hu 2005:59). As Crouching Tiger’s failure at the Asian box office may well have been due to audience’s viewings being satisfied on the periphery, it does seem the case that this provision of peripheral access to films serves to disrupt capitalism’s monopolisation of the global market. As Desser writes, the VCD, and by extension any pirated media form, exists as ‘a programmatic technology…one whose use value is defined primarily by content’ (2005:211). So pirating also challenges the exchange value demands of capitalist consumption, because as a technological and cultural form there is no attached cultural capital, nor value beyond its use as a means to view a film. Pirating technology enables individuals to operate outside of Marx’s defined economic system (Martin 2003:104) of use-value versus exchange-value of the cultural commodity form, and thus subvert capitalist growth. While the use-value of any product is difficult to determine when ‘usefulness’ is calculated in the rather arbitrary terms of the economy, the cost of pirated films is always significantly less than industry counterparts in the West. This popular method by which to view films in Asia enables a community who is very able to consume of their own accord, without reception of films at risk of being distorted by studio distribution.
– Chan, Felicia, 2003. ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Cultural Migrancy and Translatability,’ in Chinese Films In Focus: 25 New Takes, ed. Chris Berry, London; British Film Institute. 56-65.
– Desser, David, 2005. ‘Hong Kong Film and the New Cinephilia,’ in Hong Kong Connections: Transnational Imagination in Action Cinema, eds. Meaghan Morris et. al., Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. 205-222.
– Hu, Kelly, 2005. ‘Techno-Orientalization,’ in Asian Media Studies: Politics of Subjectivities, eds. John Nguyet Erni and Siew Keng Chua, Malden; Blackwell Publishing. 55-71.
– Martin, Fran, 2003. ‘Everyday Life and Commodity Culture,’ in Interpreting Everyday Life, ed. Fran Martin, Great Britain; Edward Arnold Ltd. 103-108.