Chinese martial arts…

I was watching the ravishing “House of Flying Daggers” for the second time, and was again struck by how ravishing Chinese martial arts can be. I find them far more compelling as ‘dance’ than I have ever found ballet, for example – and it does seem to me that martial arts plays the same role in China (perhaps less so in Japan) as ballet does in Europe… I studied T’ai Chi (that is the yin, or ‘soft’, side of Kung Fu) for years and so am aware of how profoundly aesthetics informs that martial practice. In T’ai Chi, aesthetics and function are inextricably intertwined… This relationship seems to be there in many aspects of Chinese culture. Perhaps this says something significant about how Chinese culture differs from that of Europe.

On a lighter note, it amuses me to consider how the Chinese have managed to turn ‘dancing’ into a form of warfare *grin*

6 thoughts on “Chinese martial arts…

    1. I didn’t really say anything about those aspects of the film. Generally, I find that most of the recent Chinese ‘spectaculars’ are a tad empty at the core. They’re beautiful to look at: both cinematography and choreography – but the stories and music are often terrible. I’m not entirely sure I would feel qualified to judge the acting. It seems to me that much is conveyed in these films by posture, by stylized exchanges… I’m not at all sure that applying Western categories of ‘dramatic realism’, for example, is at all appropriate…

  1. I’m a great fan of Asian cinema. Of all the recent Chinese martial arts movies I think my favorite is “Hero”. It has a great story (based on an actual Chinese legend), great acting and amazing music and settings. In this movie too the colors play a very important role. I’ve noticed that in some Asian movies I saw, not only Chinese but also Japanese and Korean, there is much importance given to the colors, not only in an aesthetic way but also to enhance the characters feelings and actions. I think it’s a great way of telling a story, unfortunately is not something we see very often in western cinema.

    1. “Hero” is great, but again it left me feeling a little emotionally ‘remote’… Of course it is beautiful. I do feel that the criticism: style over substance, can be applied to a lot of these Chinese films. I think this is far less the case with Korean and Japanese films. I suspect one of the reasons for this is that these Chinese ‘epics’ are a relatively new form for Chinese cinema (I could be horribly wrong) and that they are an expression of the new and growing confidence of China. However, there is a (natural) tendency to reflect wealth and power – and there seems to me to even be a link between the ‘spectacle’ of these films and the parades in Tianamen Square… So that, underlying these spectacles is insecurity (it wasn’t so long ago that China was languishing in terrible poverty). However, all this said, I feel that we can see in these films much that is brilliant and I would suggest that where this happens, the roots of what we’re experiencing on screen is going deep into Chinese culture… and, of course, there is a VAST ocean of culture to tap into – the ‘spectacular’ part of which is merely a thin layer on the surface. Once Chinese filmmakers start really getting into its deeper, more subtle levels… I expect to be blown away…

  2. That’s actually an interesting point, it makes perfectly sense that if a country is doing good or bad ends up being reflected in its movie industry, after all cinema it’s just another way of art and expression.

    I would like to recommend you two Korean movies, “Oldboy” and “Bittersweet life”. Unlike those Chinese eye-candy epics, these are guaranteed to blow you away… that’s, of course, if you haven’t seen them yet ^^

    1. I saw “Oldboy” – and even though I found it horrifying, it was one of the most intense and ‘freshest’ cinematic experiences I had had for a long while… Haven’t heard of the other one and so have added it to my ‘consume’ list… thanks

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