The Sensuous Cinema of Wong Kar-wai

Film Poetics and the Aesthetic of Disturbance


Gary Bettinson

ISBN : 978-988-8139-29-3

Film, Media, Fine Arts

November 2014

176 pages, 6″ x 9″, 20 color illus.

  • HK$400.00
No longer available

The widely acclaimed films of Wong Kar-wai are characterized by their sumptuous yet complex visual and sonic style. This study of Wong’s filmmaking techniques uses a poetics approach to examine how form, music, narration, characterization, genre, and other artistic elements work together to produce certain effects on audiences. Bettinson argues that Wong’s films are permeated by an aesthetic of sensuousness and “disturbance” achieved through techniques such as narrative interruptions, facial masking, opaque cuts, and other complex strategies. The effect is to jolt the viewer out of complete aesthetic absorption. Each of the chapters focuses on a single aspect of Wong’s filmmaking. The book also discusses Wong’s influence on other filmmakers in Hong Kong and around the world.

The Sensuous Cinema of Wong Kar-wai will appeal to all who are interested in authorship and aesthetics in film studies, to scholars in Asian studies, media and cultural studies, and to anyone with an interest in Hong Kong cinema in general, and Wong’s films in particular.

Gary Bettinson is a lecturer in film studies at Lancaster University, United Kingdom. He is editor of Asian Cinema, Directory of World Cinema: China and author (with Richard Rushton) of What is Film Theory? An Introduction to Contemporary Debates.

“In this carefully written study, Gary Bettinson offers a critical assessment not only of the stylistic features of Wong Kar-wai’s films but also of the scholarship that has developed around them. Arguing against the facile culturalism that tends to dominate such scholarship, this book does full justice to Wong’s cinematic methods in a series of impressively well-informed and informative readings.” —Rey Chow, Duke University

“Gary Bettinson’s Sensuous Cinema of Wong Kar-wai is a major step forward in our understanding of this director. Bettinson scrutinizes Wong’s unique place in world film culture, his unusual production methods, and his debts to several cinematic traditions, both Asian and European. A close examination of Wong’s style shows, in unprecedented depth, how these lyrical, apparently loosely-constructed films are underpinned by a strong formal and emotional coherence. The result is an unequaled study of a filmmaker whose work, from As Tears Go By to The Grandmaster, has redefined contemporary cinema.” —David Bordwell, University of Wisconsin–Madison