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Hong Kong Blue: Flâneurie with the Camera's Eye in a Phantasmagoric Global City Tsung-yi Huang Two Tales of One City: Global vs. Local From its days as a British empire colony to its current status as China's Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong's urban space has been continously redrawn by globalization. Technology in the areas of communications and transportation redefines national borders both culturally and economically to accumulate capital. The concentration of international capital and labor entails significant changes in the social, political, and cultural environments of Hong Kong. For years people in Hong Kong have been subscribing to the image of their city produced by the official and the multinational consortia as a free land of possibilities.1 Is their knowledge of Hong Kong a reasonable speculation or an inflated myth? The concept of global flow implies flexibility, fluidity, and mobility. Are the inhabitants of a global city like Hong Kong entitled to more freedom now than they had at any earlier time, as these phenomena of globality connote? Or are these new possibilities just another version of the myth of emancipation ? The tangled day-to-day interaction between urban inhabitants and cities has attracted the attention of those concerned with the consequences of modernity, at least since Baudelaire. According to Walter Benjamin, the Baudelairean flâneur is a figure that embodies ambivalence: one who alJNT : Journal of Narrative Theory 30.3 (Fall 2000): 385^102. Copyright © 2000 by JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory. 386 JNT ways borders on leisure and turmoil, joy and melancholy, alienation and familiarity. He feels at home while he is away from home: "the flâneur is still on the threshold, of the city as of the bourgeois class. Neither has yet engulfed him; in neither is he at home. He seeks refuge in the crowd" (Benjamin, "Paris" 156). No mater how protective the crowd can be, the flâneur is still a loner, "someone abandoned in the crowd" (Benjamin, "Flâneur" 55). While deriving voyeuristic pleasure from observing the crowd, he also experiences a sense of loss in the crowd. Seeing the crowd as inferior to him, Has, flâneur can never completely identify himself as one of them. On the other hand, since the flâneur cannot resist the fascinating spectacle the crowd presents, he is never a total outsider. Benjamin suggests that the charm of walking in the city might lie in such ambivalent feelings toward the crowd: "[tjhere is something compelling about this ambivalence where he cautiously admits to it. Perhaps the charm of his 'Crépuscule du soir,' so difficult to account for, is bound up with this" ("Motifs" 172). And yet, it is the same ambivalence that leads to the flaneur's "spleen." The melancholy of the flâneur results from the fragmentary nature of city life. The sensual pleasure the flâneur derives from the "phantasmagoria," the dazzling urban spectacle, is both fleeting and tantalizing. He can look but not touch, and what he sees is montage, one snap shot after another. The dream world of urban spectacle offers the flâneur no complete narrative; he has to make sense of the fragments by himself. As Rob Shields maintains, the importance of the figure of the flâneur lies in "its Utopian presentation of a carefree (male) individual in the midst of the urban maelstrom" (67). To be precise, the flâneur is an "urban native," whose "discernment of the subtle pleasures of urban life and detection of the truth of the street indicate a form of pedestrian connoiseurship and consumption of the urban environment" (Shields 61). Following Benjamin's analysis of Baudelaire, I argue that in his Chungking Express, Wong Kar-wai exemplifies an archetypal à vctctor-flâneur, a cinematic detective of urban life, if you will, on the streets of Hong Kong in the age of globalization. This paper intends to superimpose the social/historical account of Hong Kong's urban space as subjected to constant time-space compression with the representation of Hong Kong's cityscape as experienced by those who walk its spaces in Wong's Chungking Express?-1 will explore how the film interprets global space from a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9248
Print ISSN
1549-0815
Pages
pp. 385-402
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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