Urban Space in Noir-style Hong Kong Films of the 1950s-60s


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The 1950s-60s are considered to be a formative stage in Hong Kong’s social development. During this period, detective fiction and film provided a “controlled space” in which public concerns and cultural fears could be investigated by a wide audience. This paper studies the noir-style films of Li Tie 李鐵 and Chu Yuan 楚原 as well as the 999 film series which explored specific urban spaces such as banks, insurance companies, billiard halls, night clubs and hotels, revealing a world of blurred values. These films have rarely been discussed in detail, yet contain special value in our understanding of Hong Kong urban culture.

I will discuss how noir-style Hong Kong noir films blended local colours with an American formula, how the city and urban life were portrayed in these films, and to what extent they were rooted in reality. Finally, I will investigate the connections between the symptoms of neurasthenia in crime narratives (such as continuously imagining oneself to be followed and watched) and the contemporary anxiety vis-à-vis the web of social control. If we regard these noir films as a kind of cultural hybrid, how do they contribute to our understanding of Hong Kong subjectivity in the 1950s and 60s? With these questions in mind, this paper aims to treat these films as case studies to address the issues of transculturation and the formation of post-war Hong Kong urban culture.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2019
EventThe 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) - Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands
Duration: 15 Jul 201919 Jul 2019


ConferenceThe 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS)
Abbreviated titleICAS11
Internet address


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