Saturday, November 17, 2012

Enter the Quentin

Near the end of Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee chases the villain Han through the latter's island paradise as Han flees a terraced arena/garden.  Had Quentin Tarantino shot the scene, Lee would have run right up the stone wall in slow motion, his legs windmilling.

Instead, he leaps onto a piece of furniture and propels himself over the wall, the way you or I would if chasing a sadistic, renegade megalomaniac. Given the aestheticized technical gimcrackery that has since become so closely associated with Hong Kong martial arts movies, Lee's act was endearingly human.

What has changed in moviemaking since Enter the Dragon's release in 1973, and who or what is to blame? Tarantino? The martial arts movies that influenced him? Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?
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(Read this blog's discussion of a Hong Kong martial arts movie that followed Enter the Dragon by twenty years and is already full of slow-motion flying. When did that sort of thing become a part of cinematic language?)

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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5 Comments:

Anonymous solo said...

Given the aestheticized technical gimcrackery that has since become so closely associated with Hong Kong martial arts movies, Lee's act was endearingly human.

What has changed in moviemaking since Enter the Dragon's release in 1973, and who or what is to blame? Tarantino? The martial arts movies that influenced him? Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?


That 'gimcrakery' existed well before Bruce Lee came along. If someone has to be blamed it's King Hu, whose hugely successful movies Come Drink With Me and Dragon Inn, both from the late 60s, started off the wuxia boom and were the models for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

This clip from the epic gorgeous-looking A Touch of Zen gives a good idea of Hu's style. Hu was influenced by Beijing Opera, so his action scenes are better understood as dance scenes, and his heroes are more often supernatural than human.

November 18, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for that clip. I see what you mean about King Hu's action scenes. I did read somewhere that Enter the Dragon was the first Hong Kong action movie produced or co-produced by a Western movie studio, so it makes sense that it might have toned down styles of movement that Western audiences at the time might not have been used to.

November 18, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm predisposed to regard everything Tarantino does as a gimmick. My apologies to wuxia fans.

November 18, 2012  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

Eh, I don't mind Tarantino's gimmickry. It's not posing as something else. The gimmickry is the point, isn't it? A stylistic choice.

November 19, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, I don't know the man's oeuvre that well, but the idea that the gimmickry is the point is depressing. And I know the guy's talented. When I saw Kill Bill. though, I was impressed that a Western filmmaker could shoot such credible Hong Kong-style action scenes but thought there has to be something more to a movie than flawless imitation of something else.

November 19, 2012  

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