Transcultural Sounds: Music, Identity, and the Cinema of Wong Kar-wai

Emilie Yueh-yu Yeh, Lake Wang Hu
2008 Asian Cinema  
LEWI Working Paper Series is an endeavour of David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies (LEWI), a consortium with 28 member universities, to foster dialogue among scholars in the field of East-West studies. Globalisation has multiplied and accelerated inter-cultural, inter-ethnic, and inter-religious encounters, intentionally or not. In a world where time and place are increasingly compressed and interaction between East and West grows in density, numbers, and spread, East-West studies has
more » ... ned a renewed mandate. LEWI's Working Paper Series provides a forum for the speedy and informal exchange of ideas, as scholars and academic institutions attempt to grapple with issues of an inter-cultural and global nature. Abstract This essay proposes that music, rather than images, furnishes a key to account for the transcultural appeal of Wong Kar-wai's films. Transcultural appeal, in Wong's case, resides in aesthetic evocation that obscures culturally specific, ethnic details. Appreciating Wong's films demands lesser cultural or linguistic context than works of Zhang Yimou, for instance; instead, viewers are offered moments of dreamlike sounds and imagery intended for universal sensuous delectation. Unlike cross-cultural practices in which differences are managed and power relations negotiated, transcultural contact tends to neutralize cultural conflicts and emphasizes instead multicultural deterritorialization. Transcultural, in this regard, shifts attention from politics to aesthetics and creates spaces allowing different cultures to trespass, coexist, coalesce, and be 'happy together.' Based on this notion, the essay selects three key Wong Kar-wai films--Fallen Angels, Happy Together and In the Mood for Love-for case studies. These all demonstrate how transcultural analysis yields insight into the shifting meanings of identity, locality and Chinese diaspora. Mobility, portable identities and historical nostalgia in Wong's films are conveyed primarily through musical channels, as well as image and performance.
doi:10.1386/ac.19.1.32_1 fatcat:o3aenzuavzeefkoxy7gw36yvuu