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

Directors: Andrew Corvey & Andrew W. Robinson

Having recently invoked one of Ric Meyers’ books in another review, it seemed right to go for a film based on another book by him… haven’t read the book in question (his take on the Hong Kong action film since the 1960s), but I gather the narration of the film is lifted more or less straight from it (the structure of the thing also falls into clear “chapters” in what I presume is also the same as the book). This is, to be sure, an initially off-putting technique; directors Corvey & Robinson eschew the usual talking-head interview format in favour of an animated frame, featuring a martial arts movie sifu educating a young know-nothing in the ways of Shaolin Temple… well, you know what I mean. Anyway, this is an interesting device, although I’m not sure it’s fully successful; the informal tone of the narration is maybe just a little too casual at times. Still—only a fool would deny that the film actually generally achieves what it set out to do, i.e. be a compilation of the greatest hits—in a literal and figurative sense—of the Hong Kong action film. At just 80 minutes, of course, it’s way too short to cover everything equally—in fact, I can’t recall the words “Shaw Brothers” being uttered at any point, and it definitely short-changes Sammo Hung and John Woo’s early traditional kung fu films and comedies—but, for the most part, it’s a solid survey of the field, and the many individual scenes and fights from the generous selection of films it samples are suitably amazing, full of human bodies doing mad things you’d think human bodies shouldn’t be able to do. On which note, the film does quietly lament the decline of the sort of Peking Opera-style training the old-school stars received, from the rise of “gun fu” in the mid-80s (guns didn’t require the same sort of skill traditional wu xia swordplay etc did) and the apparently increasing prevalence of CGI, technology doing the work of fighting that the human performers used to do. Still, there’s an awful lot of the old school stuff out there who want to see actual people actually doing some kind of fucked-up stuff that should rightly be impossible, and Films of Fury has made me want to see pretty much every film in it that I haven’t seen before, and to rewatch all the ones I have. On that level, mission accomplished.

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