Analyzing a film is a rather challenging task. It involves the knowledge of numerous techniques and methods of filming used together with the background of the film and the two contexts – the one in which the film was created and another one in which the plot develops. When the post-Handover Hong Kong cinema is considered, it adds specific socio-political and cultural colouring to the film and consequently to its analysis. Thus, the present paper will focus on the analysis of “The Longest Nite” by Tat-Chi Yau in order to consider it as a post-Handover Hong Kong movie.
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The background to the film under consideration is dual, as well as the character of the film. In other words, “The Longest Nite” can be viewed as a product of the political and social changes that took place in Hong Kong in 1997 and named the city’s Handover by Great Britain to China, and as the traditional Hong Kong movie depicting the criminal life but bearing, in most cases, the deep emotional colouring and philosophical meaning in it.
If the Post-Handover period is taken into consideration, it is specific features and privileges that Hong Kong obtained being a part of China that differ its economic and social reality from the monopoly. Cinematography as well bears these traits of the social life and depicts it in the light that the official Chinese government would never allow to any other territory of the country. The depiction of the criminal world, violence and brutality is not the ideology allowed in Communist China. In Hong Kong, in contrast, the above-mentioned points are central for cinematography, and the special position of the city among other Chinese regions allows the directors to film what they wish and in the way, they prefer to. Moreover, Hong Kong cinematography is impossible to imagine without crime and violence portrayed in the movies, and the film by Tat-Chi Yau is not an exception.
The very plotline of the film develops in Macau where a corrupted policeman Sam is involved in the feud between the local triads, i. e., criminal gangs. The essence of their rivalry is the desire to join forces broken by the rumours about the plots the gang bosses set for each other. Sam is sent to clear the situation up, and he is caught up in the mix of this, all surrounded by violence and brutal killings. As a result, the viewers of the movie have presented the picture of the grim and pessimistic city setting where the criminal laws are worth more than official ones and betrayal, crime, killing are natural things for everyone (“The Longest Nite”, 1998).
Consequently, the techniques used by the director and the editors of the movie are numerous and rather complicated. First of all, the peculiarity of the filming of “The Longest Nite” is the plotline far from a straight one. In other words, the film develops in numerous directions, twists the viewer’s attention, and the outcome of this or that situation turns out to be completely different to what was expected.
For example, if traditionally, the corrupted policeman could be expected to be an antagonist of the story, while there would be a protagonist, the film under consideration does not have a protagonist at all. All the characters are reflections of the harsh reality of Hong Kong criminal life, and even the look of some of the actors in the cast is perfectly fit for such a kind of film. For instance, Tony Leung Chiu Wai starring Sam, is a brilliant figure to play a corrupted policeman as far as his face seems to have no difficulty transferring the image of a criminal adjusted to lies, torturing others and killing his rivals (“The Longest Nite”, 1998).
As for the filming techniques used in “The Longest Nite,” they are diverse as well. First of all, there are some unnecessary shots in the film which stand out from the whole picture. For example, the final scene of the gang shooting is not typical of the film as viewed from the beginning. The movie is full of brutal scenes, such as cutting off the head, tortures of witnesses by criminals, violent treatment of women, etc., but shooting can not be integrated into this picture (“The Longest Nite”, 1998). In other words, the movie is, during its course, a traditional Hong Kong thriller, but in the end, it acquires features of a Hollywood western or the so-called “shoot-‘em-up” movie. However, other techniques, including the use of little light and enormous use of dark settings and pessimistic landscapes of Macau, are rather fitting for the main purpose of the film, which is to render the realities of the criminal world of the post- Handover Hong Kong.
To conclude, therefore, it is necessary to state that the post-Handover Hong Kong cinematography differs a lot from the Chinese cinema as such. Hong Kong movies preserve their thriller features, courageous depiction of the drawbacks of the society and the filming techniques that are more typical of Hollywood movie-making. Despite certain drawbacks that the filming of “The Longest Nite” displays, it is a brilliant example of the Hing Kong post-Handover movie.
The Longest Nite. Dir. Tat-Chi Yau. With Ching Wan Lau, Tony Leung Chiu Wai. Blue Jackel, 1998.