Chasing Dragons: An Introduction to the Martial Arts Film
'The art of fighting without fighting', is how Bruce Lee described his martial arts style in the film Enter the Dragon. This can equally well be said of the art of fighting for the movie camera. From post-Second World War Japan, to present day Hong Kong, the martial arts film has been one of cinema's most enduring and popular genres. This lucid introduction to the martial arts film is a welcome companion to a remarkable cinema, written for interested filmgoers as well as established aficionados. Chasing Dragons explores how the genre has adapted to satisfy the shifting demands of an increasingly international and diverse audience. It covers the cinemas of Japan, Hong Kong and America, exploring over fifty key films, their texts, fighting techniques, stars and directors, set in the distinct cultures producing and forming them. It introduces readers to the Japanese masters of the samurai film - Kurosawa Akira, Kobayashi Masaki, Okamoto Kihachi, and the lethal swordsmen of the screen, from Zatoichi to Miyamoto Musashi. Here are the superstars of Hong Kong - from the original kung fu hero Kwan Tak Hin to the international break-through of the 'Little Dragon' Bruce Lee in the 1970s, the groundbreaking works of Sammo Hung in the 1980s and the continuing success of Jackie Chan and Jet Li. The surge of interest in martial arts cinema in Hollywood is examined, from the lows of exploitation ninja movies to box-office blockbusters including Matrix and Kill Bill, placing these films in their full context for the first time.
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A intelligent overview of the genre from an author who has a good understanding of film theory, martial arts, and East Asian history. As someone who's interested in all three topics, I enjoyed it immensely and learned a lot. I especially appreciated the critical distinctions West makes between those films that draw on the philosophy or spirituality of the traditional martial arts, and those which take a more cynical, nihilistic approach and celebrate gratuitous violence. -- Elliot Hanowski