Do We Hear the City?: Voices of the Stranger in Hong Kong Cinema

Esther M. K. Cheung

in Hong Kong Screenscapes

Published by Hong Kong University Press

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9789888028566
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9789882206991 | DOI:
Do We Hear the City?: Voices of the Stranger in Hong Kong Cinema

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This chapter attempts to examine the ethical relationship between self and other by way of focusing on the theme of estrangement in the New Hong Kong Cinema. In his study of the voice-over in cinema, Michel Chion creates a category of “acousmatic voices” or in French the acousmêtre. The acousmêtre refers to the image-voice relation in which one does not see the person one hears. Chion observes that sound film began with visualized sound but very soon it tried to experiment with acousmatic sound—voices without images, or voices divorced from images. These are not the voices of the disembodied, detached voice-over like that of documentary films because they have no personal stake in the film. This area of research has filled a lacuna in the study of cinema because the voice has often been considered as an inseparable and natural part of the image and thus it has seldom been examined as an independent category.

Keywords: estrangement; New Hong Kong Cinema; voice-over; Michel Chion; acousmatic voices; acousmêtre; sound film; cinema

Chapter.  7117 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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