Sunday, June 17, 2007

Chop Socky: Cinema Hong Kong

Since this was co-produced by IFC and released on DVD by Docudrama I'd expected something more, even despite the condescending title. And it is very mildly interesting though so sloppy and poorly researched that it really can't be recommended to anybody. Some points:

* Claim that first martial arts star was Wong Fei Hung but they don't make it clear this was a character and not an actor. (The clip is from a 1949 Kwan Tak Hing film.) Later the narrator says something about fighting style unchanged since the days of Wong as if it was a reference to a specific time - the best known Wong films were after the time he mentions.

* The section about HK films being edited in camera has clearly confused actual editing in camera with something else. Basically what they're talking about is shooting only specific shots instead of a lengthy one that's later edited but this is not editing in camera which clearly couldn't have been the technique for most of the scenes shown.

* The chronology is confused and the jumps in time periods means that, for instance, the impact of King Hu isn't as clear as it should be. Also, far too many clips from Hollywood films as if they're afraid the subject itself doesn't really deserve the attention. I think even a viewer who knew pretty much nothing about martial arts films would have picked up that Kill Bill Vol. 2 was a tribute.

* For some inexplicable reason they launch into a detailed plot synopsis of One-Armed Swordsman even though there aren't such descriptions for most other films and this one isn't such a landmark to deserve such a treatment. Just a further indication that the filmmakers didn't really absorb their material enough.

* John Woo credits some of his style to working in wuxia but the clip is from The Replacement Killers which can't really show his style since he was only one of four executive producers.

* Even though the film came out in 2003 it more or less stops in the 80s despite references to films later.