Another film, another long delay before sitting down to write. I started to ask myself, why do I mention this at all? The answer I came up with, is that I’m mostly writing these thoughts for myself. I do this so I can capture something about what I was thinking at the time I saw these films. A bit like a journal or a diary, but just with directed prompts. On that basis, when I reread this period of my life I’d like to remind myself of my complete lack of personal time.
This is the second King Hu film I’ve watched for this project. The first was the incredible A Touch of Zen. Both films are wuxia, which means “martial heroes", and they are basically the superhero movies of China/Taiwan/Hong Kong. But, what I love about them, and this film in particular, is the way in which cultural differences play out, as opposed to the superhero films we get here.
These aren’t about violence. That’s the best way I can think of to put it. American superhero films are absolutely about violence. Whatever morals and choices they have the heroes make, the issue comes down to using force, for good or for evil. It’s still almost never about examining the nature of the force itself.
Contrast that with these films, where martial prowess is celebrated, yes, but only the evil characters are quick to resort to violence. The good ones try their best to avoid it, and in some cases are actively unwilling to participate. The violence then becomes almost a ballet, so stylized that it’s barely recognizable. The wires and moves that are associated with wuxia are a form of modern dance almost. It’s really lovely.