Films of Fury: The Kung Fu Movie Movie (2011)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Films of Fury: The Kung Fu Movie Movie</strong> (2011)

(On Cable TV, February 2014) A quick look through my archives will show that I spent much of 1998-2003 watching an astonishing number of Chinese-language movies from the Hong Kong film industry. (It helped that a local TV station was broadcasting them on a weekly basis and that video stores were there to catch up on the classics.) Given this, I’m reasonably sure that I’ve seen most of the major Chinese action movies made between 1990 and 2005. But that’s just a sliver of what’s available out there as the prototypical “kung-fu movie”, and Films of Fury: The Kung Fu Movie Movie (written by Ric Meyers, based on his book of the same name) is there to explain how kung-fu movies developed as a genre, and where they are now. After pointing out that the genre has its origins as much in dance than in action, Films of Fury gives an overview of its development, from the often-ludicrous early examples to the emergence of Bruce Lee, the golden-age of the eighties-and-nineties, the emergence of stars such as Jackie Chan, John Woo and Jet Li, and the Hollywoodization of the form toward the turn of the millennium. The film’s definition of a kung-fu movie is reassuringly expansive: not only does gun-fu gets its own section, but the film points out that the first inroads of kung-fu movies in western cinema were made in early James Bond movies. Films of Fury avoids talking-head syndrome by featuring narrated animated segments in-between tons and tons of archival footage. The effect is much like hanging out with an enthusiastic video-store clerk for an hour and a half. While the animation style grated on my nerves, the collection of archival footage, sometimes milliseconds long, is astonishing: It seems as if every major kung-fu film is featured on-screen at least once, along with several not-so-major ones. Films of Fury answered my perennial question as to why kung-fu movies disappeared from the big screen after such a strong presence around 2000 (answer; economic downturn, increased post-takeover restrictions on the Hong-Kong film industry by the Chinese government, lack of charismatic stars) while providing reassurance that at least I managed to catch or purchase some recent masterpieces (Kung-Fu Hustle, Red Cliff) and suggesting a few titles that I missed (SPL, Warlords). It amounts to a quick introduction and refresher on a fun genre, and a must-see for anyone interested in a kung-fu movie movie.

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