I thought the following was an interesting observation by director Ang Lee (from the January 2008 edition of Sight & Sound magazine). Interesting in relation to the idea of an almost synaesthetic approach to visual representation via information-dense icons &c.:
Nick James: There’s a beautiful little book by Donald Richie that explains Japanese aesthetics. I wish there was an equivalent for the Chinese.
Ang Lee: There’s a huge difference between people who use phonetics for language transcription and those who use characters, as in China. The Chinese system is more like movies, like montage, like drawing with sight and sound. The shape itself means something, so when you see the word it resonates in your head. When the Chinese see Lust, Caution in characters with the comma in between it has a shocking vibe.
(Incidentally, I’d suggest that there is a good book on Chinese aesthetics by François Juillen, called In Praise of Blandness: Proceeding from Chinese Thought and Aesthetics, as well as the catalogue to the extraordinary ‘China: The Three Emperors’ exhibition. And I suspect a better book on some specific aspects of Japanese aesthetics than Richie’s, alongside numerous architectural texts, would be Junichiro Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows. Any other recommendations for either?)
(That issue of Sight & Sound also features an excellent essay on the hyper-specific genre of 1930s British movies set on foreign trains: "For The Lady Vanishes, Alfred Hitchcock invented a quirkily archetypal version of the English abroad with a steam train, light banter, cricket obsessives, tweedy spies and phallic symbols", by Graham Fuller. I note also that two noir classics of a decade or so later, Night and the City and Cry of the City, have been properly released on DVD by the BFI, though see also the Criterion edition of Night and the City)
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