John Woo: What I Admire

As I mentioned before in my previous post about him, John Woo is a well known Chinese auteur who has directed movies like The Killer and Mission Impossible II. In my post prior to this one, I talked about what annoyed me about his directing style, which was the bromance, mexican standoff, and gun-fu trademarks. However, in this post I will be talking about what I admire in his works, namely, his use of symbolism in his films.

One of his trademarks that I enjoyed pointing out in his films was the bloodshed symbolism. I’ve mentioned this before in my “annoyances” post as something that I admire in his works. In The Killer and A Better Tomorrow (II), Woo’s use of blood is different to what we are used to where blood is meant to signify that a character is hurt and is bleeding out. In other words, Hollywood cinema uses blood for its literal meaning. However, in Woo’s films, blood is used in a more poetic sense. It is used to signify sins instead of wounds. This is probably why, even after a gunfight, the character that was getting shot at was still alive. At first, I had no idea why it took a whole clip or magazine to kill a man, but after reviewing the film over again and again, I understood why that was. It wasn’t the fact that it took the entire clip to kill someone, it was the underlying fact that we were supposed to be looking at how much blood they had on them. This was especially the case since the color white was meant to stand for purity and innocence, which is what the main character in The Killer, Ah Jong, usually wore. However, when seen after a gunfight, he was usually soaked in blood and in stained his white clothes; his sin had tainted his innocence.

Another of his trademarks that I admired was his use of doves. John Woo loved to use doves in his films because he admired them and saw them as God’s messengers. They also symbolized peace, love, and purity. This also ties in to him using color to represent certain things. White meant peace, purity, and innocence. Red, specifically blood red, was used to symbolize sin. Black usually meant the bad guys, or at least the ones opposing the main character. All in all, yes, I do have my annoyances with John Woo, but there are some aspects to his style that I admire.