Kung Fu Movies For Dummies
January 12, 2014 9:56 AM   Subscribe

What reference materials can you recommend regarding...not sure the correct term: Kung Fu movies? Hong Kong action movies? Martial Arts movies? Wuxia?

I'm looking for books or websites that will serve me in good stead as I attempt to explore Kung Fu movies and the like. Part of my problem here is that my ignorance is near total, so I don't even know the proper terminology for genres and sub genres. Best way I can think of to describe what I'm curious about is that I'm inferring its existence from the few and scattered elements that make it to the US, or that are produced in the US as homage. So, the keywords that I would throw out are: Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon", "Shaolin Soccer", "Kung Fu Hustle", "Kill Bill".

So, what books and resources can I consult to get myself better educated on the genres to which these things pertain (or in some cases, are imitative of)?
posted by Ipsifendus to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There's several documentaries on the subject. The Art of Action and Films of Fury. The one I found most informative and enjoyable was Chop Socky: Cinema Hong Kong.
posted by cazoo at 10:53 AM on January 12, 2014

Are you fluent in Chinese? I mean, there's a lot of films set in the wuxia (武俠) genre, most of which are adaptations of the major famous novels by JinYong (金庸), GuLong (古龍), and the like...but the vast majority of them are still in Chinese and have not made it over to mainstream western media. (The original novels are even better in my opinion, but that goes back to whether you have Chinese fluency.) I think they are trying to break into the western market...but for the more authentic ones, the English translation seems rather...silly in a lot of places where they wouldn't in the Chinese language.

There are a couple of films that seems to have English subtitles though, but don't count on voiceovers. Would that be acceptable? I think The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (龍門飛甲) is supposed to have English subtitles. Try stuff like those.

(And see what I mean about the translations sounding silly?)
posted by Zelos at 10:56 AM on January 12, 2014

Go back to the DVDs of all those films you mention and listen to the commentary tracks. Ric Meyers does a ton of them, he's a real character.
posted by carsonb at 11:15 AM on January 12, 2014

Response by poster: Nope, not fluent in Chinese...as in, don't speak a word of it.

Subtitles are not a problem, and in general I prefer them to dubbing.
posted by Ipsifendus at 11:36 AM on January 12, 2014

Best answer: I found the book Sex and Zen & A Bullet in the Head useful and informative way back when.

Of course, it was published in 1996, so not current at all, and covers primarily a certain era of Hong Kong films, which include much more than "Kung Fu" or "martial arts" flicks, so YMMV.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:45 AM on January 12, 2014

Best answer: The best single-volume history of HK cinema is Stephen Teo's Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions. It's a little on the dry side, but quite detailed and good.

The best English-language book on HK film style and industry is David Bordwell's Planet Hong Kong. (You can get the significantly updated second edition from his website.)

This is a decent collection of essays on HK film.

posted by Dr. Wu at 3:09 PM on January 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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