- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (May 21, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1405163704
- ISBN-13: 978-1405163705
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,526,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Dying to Belong: Gangster Movies in Hollywood and Hong Kong Hardcover – May 21, 2007
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?There is much to admire about this book, particularly in itsformal and thematic film analyses.? (Film Criticism , Winter2008)
"The cultural crossings, borrowings, and thefts betweenHollywood and the Asian film industries have been much commentedupon in recent years; Martha P. Nochimson's book is thereforetimely and necessary. Offering new perspectives on the debate, thisoriginal work brings fresh insights to the cultural meanings of the'rise and fall' gangster narrative and updates a generic form whichcontinues to address the concerns of contemporary audiences.Dying to Belong will provide an admirable lead in the fieldof which all subsequent work will have to take into account."
Esther Sonnet and Peter Stanfield, editors of Mob Culture:Hidden Histories of the American Gangster Film
"An original and much-needed intersectional study of Americanand Hong Kong gangster films, Dying to Belong challenges ourmost basic truisms about this genre. Nochimson compels us torethink the best known and most popular gangster texts, fromScarface and The Public Enemy through TheGodfather and The Sopranos. But she also introduces andprovides cultural contexts for the Hong Kong films, making thelatter more accessible and more likely to appear on syllabi and incultural studies of modernism and violence."
Linda Mizejewski, Ohio State University
?Successfully adds to the scholarship of cinema with criticalinsights and historical perspectives?Nochimson should be commendedfor what is perhaps her finest book to date.?
?Presents an interesting take on the subject ? offers a uniquelook at the complex genre ? an absorbing study into the history andmovement of the genre. Recommended.?
Dying to Belong offers a unique look at the complex and fascinating genre of the gangster movie. Across the world, gangster films are often mistakenly viewed as an inferior and immoraleven dangeroustype of entertainment. By examining a broad range of films spanning several decades, Martha Nochimson deftly illustrates the darker, more substantial themes of dislocation and disorientation which define true gangster films. From Little Caesar and The Godfather to The Sopranos, the gangster's tale is that of an immigrant outsider looking in. The shock the gangster film delivers is not just in its physical violence, but in its perspective on the confusing and illusory promises of upward social mobility given to newcomers in Hollywood and Hong Kong. Here, classic screen traditions are explored using a new definition of the gangster genre. Offering no excuses for gangster behavior, Dying to Belong nevertheless highlights the disturbing resemblances of these "wild, bad men" to the straight citizens of two immigrant nations, in what is sure to be a controversial analysis of films that have historically been dismissed as part of a frivolous action genre.
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In her opening chapter she makes a salient observation about distinguishing between the gangster film from the "lone outlaw/couple crime film and the caper film" and she further defines her study for inclusion that the films must "construct the narrative through the gangster protagonist point of view." I tend to define "gangsters" as anyone belonging to a gang. She states that the first Hong Kong gangster film is A Better Tomorrow (True Colors of a Hero 1986). One always has to be careful to write about firsts especially when The Club (1981), Long Arm of the Law (1984), Hong Kong Godfather (1985) came before. It seems weird to completely ignore Long Arm of the Law which is critically popular among Hong Kong film critics making the Hong Kong Film Awards 103 Best Chinese Films list in 2005 (two years before the book.)
It is wrong not to mention the influence of Jean Pierre Melville on both John Woo and Johnnie To especially with gangster aesthetics (though this might go against her thesis) or Chang Cheh's influence on Woo. While she has Kenneth E. Hall's John Woo: The Films book in the bibliography she completely ignores the book when she states "...even those that discuss John Woo have little to say about his or any gangster films." Hall's book, now in a second edition, is a must for those wanting to learn more about John Woo.
I am always a bit wary of terms like "American Materialism", "Materialism" and "Modernity" because of the relativity or overly generic usage. For example how does Japanese Materialism differ from American Materialism: more gadgets? The amount of times these terms are bandied about one does not need to know they are used more for anti-Americanism rhetoric sometimes just being plain wrong like when she stated about Hong Kong "fighting against the depersonalized influences of American technology..." when they are actually much more influenced by the latest Japanese, South Korean and now Mainland China's technological gadgets. Also since materialism is the focus, the ideas of solidarity and brotherhood for gangsters seemed glossed over.
However, its use of the term immigrant had me more annoyed than anything. Immigrants are people who migrate to a different country and their importance in gangster cinema is well noted. However, the next generation and those after are no longer immigrants themselves. She notes this issue with a chapter on The Sopranos, but does not use it correctly on Hong Kong cinema. While she discusses the Triads as immigrants she seems to ignore the fact that many are in fact born in Hong Kong and have a Hong Kong identity not an immigrant identity. She does not mention that one group, The Big Circle Gang (Tai Huen Chai) which in Hong Kong would be considered immigrants and have made for some fascinating cinema and would fit perfectly in her book.
The book ends on a high note with an enlightening interview with David Chase. She does note that his knowledge of Hong Kong films is quite low, but if you are a fan of his series The Sopranos you will like it as well as the previous section "Afterword: From Here to Modernity" which also focuses on the show. Her knowledge of Hollywood gangster cinema is fine but when comparing and contrasting a limited amount of Hong Kong films (though the Young and Dangerous series discussion was good to read) with the problems that I discussed above and more I did not mention I feel that there is a need for a better book on the subject. For fans of John Woo I would read Kenneth E. Hall's John Woo: The Films and for fans of Johnnie To I would read Stephen Teo's Director in Action instead. For Hong Kong cinema in general I recommend Stephen Teo's Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions and David Bordwell's Planet Hong Kong recently in a second edition.