Great Quote No. 10

“(Critic David) Bordwell… points out that the rythmic pulse of Hong Kong action requires stasis as well as movement, with ‘lightning switches between quick, precise gestures and punctuating poses’ ”. Leon Hunt, Kung Fu Cult Masters, p. 28

Nicely spotted David Bordwell. Unfortunately, I didn’t copy down the Bordwell’s book that Hunt was referencing, but it may well have been the excellent Planet Hong Kong.

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4 Responses to Great Quote No. 10

  1. johnkreng says:

    Unfortunately, this is what is missing in many Western action scenes. So far, filmmakers like John McTiernan, James Cameron, Luc Besson, John Sturges, and Andrew Davis are the only guys who consistently understand that concept. For the rest, it’s all about the “eye candy” or what’s cool and forget about the emotion. What a lot of Western filmmakers don’t understand is action underneath all the excitement is a visual lyricism.

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    • “a visual lyricism” – nicely put! That’s why I love kung fu movies in a nutshell. They combine excitement with atavism with aesthetic appeal with consolidation of character / narrative / theme. Choreography of the highest order.

      I started, and will go back to, blogging about Jet Li’s Hollywood movies. The 2 movies that he made in the west (with Corey Yuen on Kiss of the Dragon and Yuen Wu Ping on Danny the Dog) that i think worked best for him he made in collaboration with Luc Besson, whom you mentioned above.

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      • johnkreng says:

        They had a more European feel than American of course. If you compare Jet’s American work with the European stuff, there is a huge contrast in how the action is portrayed. In the US it’s more of the cool factor and shallow. It’s as if they think martial arts is just an exotic way to kill somebody and nothing more behind that. Although, the only exception would be the fights in THE ONE, which I thought were pretty good. But everything else in that movie reeked of Pro Wrestling because it was originally written for The Rock before Jet took over.

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  2. I agree – those films do have a European sensibility. And I think that,sadly, American films DO treat movie martial arts as a cool way of killing folk (which is a bit sick, if you think about it – what’s so cool about killing?) rather than as a sophisticated choreographic process and performative technique (I’m talking about screen fighting as opposed to real martial arts of course). I wish there was more fighting in The One because I do enjoy the fight scenes in that movie – Jet Li, Corey Yuen and their team seem to have been allowed to have some creative freedom perhaps? I particularly like the way that the differing styles of martial arts were used to define good Jet and bad Jet in that movie – it gave us a chance to see what Jet Li can do so uniquely well, and it also respected the potential of martial arts to provide an expressive vocabulary of movement. I agree with you about the Rock though – his influence pervades the tone of the film somehow.

    I am working my way through Jet Li’s filmography as a blogging project and am up to The One as a matter of fact. I have started a blog on it. When I get a clearer head (crowded with work issues right now) I will go and finish it off.

    Thanks for stopping by John. Great to have your expert insider perspective.

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