Semiotic Multimodality: A Filmic Analysis of Wong Kar-Wai’s “In the Mood for Love”


The study builds on Bateman and Schmidt’s (2011) seminal research on film as a form of “cinematographic document” and continues their efforts to construct a semiotic mode of film. The study applies a multimodality framework for a fine-grained analysis of Wong Kar-wai's "In the Mood for Love" - a film adaptation of Liu Yichang's modernist novella, "Intersection" - that covers the entire target film fragment. A stratified semiotic model applied to the film explores the syntagmatic configurations of filmic units through shot-by-shot analysis of the case study. The research design employs extensive corpus of data coupled with rigorous annotation of filmic units and detailed analysis of paradigmatic systems. The paper argues that the interaction of robust multimodal resources, well-defined analytic units, based on dependable models, and conducted through a discursive process should all be aligned to produce meaningful filmic discourse. The study premised on the assumption that film is more than a “self-enclosed signification system” but a crucial “cultural practice” that “reflect and inflect culture.” Taken together, this view underscores the importance and interactivity of cinema, culture and society. The study contributes to filmic meaning making, the New Hong Kong Cinema, and finally, the study invariably serves as a form of “social document” or “cultural artifacts” in its exploration of Hong Kong ever changing identity, culture and moods. This study is all the more relevant as 2017 is exactly twenty-years after Hong Kong’s 1997 Handover, when its sovereignty was returned to Mainland China.

Author Information
Christian Bernard Tan, University of Saint Joseph, Macao

Paper Information
Conference: CITY2018
Stream: Media, Film and Communication Studies

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon