Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Kung Fu, Dance, And Denial

Americans make martial arts movies, but Asian kung fu movies have an important advantage: in America, people sometimes dismiss kung fu as dancing.

Some Americans deny this, some Americans affirm it, but all American martial arts films operate on the assumption that dismissing kung fu as dancing would be reasonable in the first place.

Consider Asia's neighbor, India, and the role dancing plays in Bollywood cinema.

Consider Thai movies. Thailand's at the border of Asia and India, speaking extremely broadly. Thai movies structure their fight scenes like Hong Kong fight scenes, but they pace their fight scenes like Indian dance scenes.

American martial arts movies never embrace kung fu's role as dance, only as action; consequently, there are Asian martial arts movies where you can learn something from the martial arts themselves, but few such from America, because ignoring kung fu's role as a form of dance means ignoring its role as a form of communication.

What would it look like if American martial arts movies were movies which incorporated both dance and kung fu?

Imagine this:

Blended with this:

In this scene from Iron Monkey, Donnie Yen is beating the crap out of corrupt Shaolin monks who have helped a local governor to steal grain from the people who that governor, and those monks, are supposed to protect. The fact that he uses bags of grain as a weapon against people who have stolen that grain is intrinsic to the scene; it's equivalent to beating up corrupt cops with the money they stole.