Categorize Me: A History of Hong Kong’s Category III Genre

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WHAT HAPPENED TO CATEGORY 1 AND 2?

Hong Kong films have been a major part of the spread of Asian cinema in the West, both in terms of imports and through the infusion of talented filmmakers. When Hong Kong cinema is mentioned, viewers generally think of action films such as Ringo Lam’s “City on Fire”, or triad thrillers like the “Infernal Affairs” trilogy (soon to be the subject of a U.S. makeover). However, equally important although often ignored by mainstream critics and unseen by the general Western public, are the darker, sleazier films which make up the category III genre.

These are films whose content goes way beyond what is considered acceptable in the West, and whose sensibilities are often very different indeed. Regularly containing graphic scenes of rape, sexual violence, torture, cannibalism, and just about every perversion imaginable, category III films, distasteful though they may sound, are an integral part of Hong Kong cinema. These are the films which never get remade, and which are only spoken of in the context of condemnation or dismissal, or both.

However, to those with strong stomachs and a certain moral flexibility, the genre has a wealth of dubious delights to offer which, though greatly varying in quality, contains some truly fascinating, and uniquely Asian, entertainment.

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