Saturday, June 25, 2011

Enter the Dragon (1973)

Staring Bruce Lee and John Saxon, this Hong Kong film was Lee’s final movie. It was released six days after his death.

Its significance goes beyond the tragic death of its star. Enter the Dragon was the first Chinese Martial Arts film to have been produced by a major Hollywood studio. Jackie Chan was a member of the stunt team for the film, with his appearance launching his career. Bruce Lee drafted and revised most of the script, having directed the opening monastery fight scene. It was also deemed to be culturally significant within China and entered the National Film registry for preservation in 2004.

Enter the Dragon is rated as one of the most popular martial arts films despite its thin plot and questionable acting. Through Bruce Lees prowess as a martial artist and choreographer, the audience are entranced by the beauty of the moving body and the deadly actions it can perform. Its on the essential viewing list for all martial artists as it doesn't focus just on Wing Chun; but rather reveres all styles.

The plot follows Bruce Lees character, a martial arts expert, who has been convinced to capture drug dealers competing in a major Martial Arts Competition. His quest to bring justice to the renegade Shaloin monk with the removable hand is just an excuse for Lee to showcase the best martial arts fight scenes and battles almost constantly occurring throughout the film.

Forty years on and its still stands as a classic Marital Arts film. Don’t watch it for the acting, unless you are into kitsch, predicable dialogue. Its sexist, racist attitudes were mainstream for the day, but can appear as grating or uncomfortable in modern times. Its a nice introduction to Bruce Lee's personal philosophy for life and as a showcase for the beauty of China.

This film carries a warning.  If you’ve not taken up a martial arts before, it will make you want to visit some clubs and join up on the spot.

Photo via Wiki

Monday, June 20, 2011

Red Cliff ( 2008 )

Red Cliff story centers on the battle fought in China's Three Kingdoms period (220-280 A.D.) Directed by John Woo, this is the first in the paired films, introducing viewers to the origins of the great war.

An estimated US$80 million was budgeted for Red Cliff, making it (to date) the most expensive Asian film produced.

Red Cliff is visually breathtaking on the scale of Hollywoods  cinematographic greats, compared by some to Lord of the Rings in set up.

From the film maker who produced some of the most ultra violent crime thrillers, which influenced the later part of the last century, this movie comes as a breath of fresh and exciting air.  John Woo has returned to his origins with this traditional story of Chinese history, marking his place as one of the great directors of epic military battles.

He handles the intriguing plot poetically, unfolding the nuances of the battle between intellect and muscle as they pit against each other. Although loosely based on an ancient Chinese story, recounting the events which lead to the destruction of the Han dynasty, the films plot follows a popular war movie set up with the good guys being outnumbered by the bad guys and how they scheme to get out of their predicament.

Westerners may miss many of the subtleties; given the story of the battle is engrained into the myths and culture of the Chinese. There is a voice over narration which assists in identifying key characters and events, though this may be more of a distraction than assistance.

There were a few scenes (the Political intrigue) which may have not translated well into English, dragging somewhat.

The full two films are apparently over five hours long, though this is available at the moment as a bootleg version and one I have not been able to secure. Get the biggest screen you can to watch this, as the battle scenes need it.

Theatrical Poster via Wiki