‘Expect the Unexpected’ — <i>PTU</i>'s Narrative and Aesthetics

Michael Ingham

in Johnnie To Kei-Fung's PTU

Published by Hong Kong University Press

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9789622099197
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9789882207103 | DOI:
‘Expect the Unexpected’ — PTU's Narrative and Aesthetics

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This chapter analyzes the film's narrative in detailed sharp focus. It explores the film's plot and story as well as its mise-en-scène and the aesthetic principles underlying its composition. As To has indicated, the relationship between stasis and movement in film is for him an ideal property of his chosen field of creative work. In the case of PTU, this crucial balance between the two is achieved with great flair. To a considerable extent, of course, it is greatly facilitated by the natural rhythm of the subject matter. In other words, the film's narrative and aesthetic concept, its movement images and action images are predicated on the tempo of the police street patrol's progress through the “perilous night” of Tsim Sha Tsui. The chapter delineates the film's seven contiguous plot strands, which are theatrically interlinked in a way that is very unusual for contemporary cinema.

Keywords: mise-en-scène; To Kei-fung; PTU; police patrol; Tsim Sha Tsui

Chapter.  13130 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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