Donnie says: “This is action filmmaking”

Since March 2016, around the edges of my day job, I have been writing a book about Shaw Brothers studios and some of their directors, framed against the theme of innovation. As you can imagine, this has been a lot of hard work but also highly enjoyable. It has been particularly interesting to track down…

Disciples of Shaolin – Opening Sequence

A common aesthetic device used in kung fu movies of the 70s and 80s was to show the opening credits of the film against footage of the main stars performing displays of martial arts in front of a plain (often boldly coloured) backdrop.* This was often used in films that had, as part of their…

Chow Yun Fat on the set

In this excerpt from my transcription of the commentary to The Replacement Killers, director Antoine Fuqua talks about Chow Yun Fat's attitude to his work. You don’t always need 100 million dollars to make something exciting. You just need to be clever and you need to give the filmmakers a little more room sometimes to do…

How do you choreograph an epiphany?

Ponder for a moment Yuen Wu Ping’s central creative problem in making a film called Tai Chi Master, which shows the discovery of this internal martial art. The protagonist of the story, Jun Bao (played by Jet Li), has to undergo a spiritual transformation that will allow him to arrive at the realization of the…

The Choreography in Tai Chi Master

To state the bleeding obvious: Tai Chi Master is a martial arts film. A cursory glance at the title and plot synopsis may suggest that it is a film ostensibly about pugilism and violence. Why is it, then, that my repeat viewings of this film always leave me with the impression that it is imbued…

Tai Chi Master – Characters and Actors

According to my notes, the Chinese title for this film is Tai Ji Zhang San Feng. How does this literally translate? I am assuming that Tai Ji refers to the martial art that I know as Tai Chi. I know that Zhang San Feng is the name of the character who, according to myth, invented…