Martial Arts Gold is a short season of classic Shaw Brothers martial arts films being broadcast on Film4 in the UK each Friday from January 15th to February 5th. Every film is being presented at its original aspect ratio and in its original language, complete with English subtitles. I'll be putting together a review for each film in the season, as well as for the films shown in a second season due in March and April. The season continued with King Boxer on January 22nd – here's my belated review.
Martial Arts Gold is a short season of classic Shaw Brothers martial arts films being broadcast on Film4 in the UK each Friday from January 15th to February 5th. Every film is being presented at its original aspect ratio and in its original language, complete with English subtitles. The season kicked off with Lau Kar-leung's iconic 1978 film The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. I'll be putting together a review for each film in the season, as well as for the films shown in a second season due in March and April.
If the exhibition on Bruce Lee's life at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum demonstrates one thing, it is the huge amount Lee achieved during a cruelly short but incredibly productive life. While his reputation rests mainly on the four martial arts films he completed as an adult, he had a notable career as a child actor in Hong Kong during the 1950s. Significantly, he appeared in In The Face of Demolition (1953), which was listed as the 18th greatest film in the history of Chinese cinema at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2005.
Today, most fans of Asian action cinema surely have all of Lee's martial arts films in their collection. Since coming back from Hong Kong, I've been revisiting those films and have decided that for me personally, only three make the cut. If only those three films existed, I really think that Lee's legacy would be almost exactly as strong as it is today. Moreover, those three films chart a logical progression in Lee's abilities, demonstrating the vast potential which was cut short by his untimely death in 1973. By looking at Lee's films in turn, I'll explain why I think that Lee's legend was made not in five films or even four, but just three.
Without a doubt, my highlight of 2015 was being able to fulfil a long-held wish to visit Hong Kong. While I can't recall exactly when I first became interested in the territory, it was definitely Hong Kong cinema which first caught my attention. By the time I had seen John Woo's action classics like The Killer (1989) and Hard Boiled (1992) as well as the widely-acclaimed thriller Infernal Affairs (2002), I was fast developing a fascination not only with Hong Kong film but also the culture, geography and history of the territory itself.
By 2011, I finished my dissertation on the negotiations which led to the 1997 handover and my interest in Hong Kong had grown still further – but the territory still seemed like an incredibly remote and inaccessible place. With the arrival of 2015, two things gave me the resolve to actually plan a trip: one, the knowledge that the exhibition on Bruce Lee at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum would not be open forever; and two, the influence of my friend Stevie, who had become interested in Hong Kong himself.
As I've launched a new website with a limited blogging capability, I thought I'd post some of my highlights and photos of our ten-day trip in September 2015. To finally see a place I'd been fascinated by for so long was a huge thrill, and we were delighted by the amount we were able to see and do in the relatively short time we had. For me, just to walk the streets I'd previously seen only in films was almost a greater pleasure than seeing the famous sights, like Victoria Peak or the Star Ferry.
Although Hong Kong was a British colony for over 130 years and until recently had the third-largest film industry in the world, I find that British people don't tend to know a huge amount about the territory. I hope this overview of our trip will help to show how dynamic and varied Hong Kong is, and just how much there is to see and do there besides the popular image of endless skyscrapers. While in some ways the trip left us with something of a bittersweet feeling (of which more later), it was an incredible experience and I'd enthusiastically recommend a visit to anyone interested in East Asia.
Sometime film reviewer, Letterboxd user, novice Blu-Ray collector. Top 3 directors: Woo, Hill, Leone.
Henry V (UK, 1989) ★★★★½
The Fast and the Furious (USA, 2001) ★★★★
Goodfellas (USA, 1990) ★★★★★
[All Letterboxd Reviews]