Thursday, July 24, 2008
Bone-breaking Hong Kong film history
Since the release of The Matrix, hardcore Hong Kong film fans have been bragging about how they used to watch Chinese kung-fu flicks and wire-gag extravaganzas, decades before Jet Li had his first hit in the U.S. It has become chic and de rigueur among film connoisseurs to display their knowledge of pre-Rush Hour Jackie Chan history, going back to his Snake in the Eagle's Shadow landmark kung-fu comedy. Well... Me, too! Me, too! I grew up in a town where 70s Hong Kong films were a HUGE draw at the local theatres. As little kids, we used to line up to be the first to buy tickets for things like The Blind Fist of Bruce (who the hell was in that picture, anyhow?). Then, we would beat the living daylights out of each other on the way home, in an attempt to replicate the oh-so-realistic martial arts we had just witnessed. I grew up heavily influenced by the stuff. Two decades later, I discovered that somewhere on the other side of the world lived Stefan Hammond, the estranged son of my grandmother's brother, who was a deep fountain of Hong Kong film knowledge and a legit industry insider, even though he's American and as Chinese as Cheddar cheese. Stefan has written two of the most insightful books about Hong Kong cinema published to date, Sex & Zen and a Bullet to the Head and Hollywood East. They are highly entertaining and filled with pictures and amazing anecdotes. You want to know where Tarantino and many other Hollywood boys got a bunch of their most famous ideas? It's all here, baby. Forewords to both books were written respectively by Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh. I'm glad I found Stefan. Now, I have a place to crash in Hong Kong.