This article focuses on the trend toward sensationalism—or what I call “sensory realism”—in late 1960s and 1970s Hong Kong martial arts films and discusses the sociohistorical meanings that are inscribed in this process. Central to its argument is that rapid industrialization and modernization in postwar Hong Kong brought with it a new, intensified sensory environment and generated a different matrix of perceptual and affective possibilities. It is these changes in the experiential realm that helped propel a paradigmatic shift in Hong Kong martial arts films, which increasingly embraced a mode of sensory realism grounded not so much in visual resemblance between image and world as in the correspondences between a film’s perceptual and visceral sensations and the viewer’s real-life sense experiences. With its propensity for sensory stimulation and the rhetoric of realism underlying it, this new trend of martial arts film can be said to register the changing experience of the real in Hong Kong’s burgeoning urban-industrial modernity, thus functioning as a marker of the complex imbrications of aesthetic texts and sociohistorical processes.


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pp. 76-97
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