Bruce Lee and Modern Cinema

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Bruce Lee was by far one of the most influential martial artists in the history of Asian cinema. His status was not earned by being the toughest fighter, but training himself to be the best humanly possible. His philosophy and training earned him his stardom in the United States in movies such as Enter the Dragon. He instantly became a pop culture phenomenon and his efforts have ensured his presence is noticeable in modern film. Elements of his cinematic fighting styles can be seen in many movies, particularly those where stylized yells an be heard. Even the way he dressed has become pop culture, most notably his yellow and black striped jumpsuit: Image

While he achieved stardom for his training styles and fighting techniques in American cinema, actually being form California, he became a national icon for China where he was a child star. His sudden death in 1973 sealed him into cinematic history as one of the greats. Ultimately, the Bruce Lee foundation was established, as well as many Bruce Lee museums in China, to disseminate his philosophies and optimistic humanism (http://www.bruceleefoundation.com/).

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The Surge in Chinese Film Festivals

According to the article by The Japan Times (http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2013/11/07/films/money-censorship-and-the-future-of-asian-cinema/#.Uoq-1OKQOSp), there has been a massive increase in film festivals, and low level film production since Hong Kong’s independence was returned to China in 1997. This article claims there to be about 400 “important” festivals, and somewhere over 5,000 in total. Contrasting this with the rest of the world’s film industry, there are startlingly fewer. Just to list some of the big names in film festivals, there is: Cannes in France, Sundance in the US, the Toronto International Film Festival, South by Southwest in Austin, TX, the Venice Film Festival, and the list could continue. With there being such a massive surge in festivals in China, the business side to the industry is greatly impacted. Of course establishing viewings for all of the films that populate these festivals becomes increasingly difficult, but the distributors’ interest in these films dwindles. These films tend to attract a highly specific audience, and distributors can’t commercialize these because those who already want to see it saw it at the festival. So while the festival industry is booming, the continued return on investment for these film makers would logically begin to dwindle. It would seem that such an industry boom could not be maintained for too long and, for me, seems likely to burst without some sort of limitation within the market.

The Raid: Redemption and Indonesia’s Drug Policy

The Raid: Redemption is an Indonesian action film that details the hyper violent encounters between a S.W.A.T team and a drug lord and his associates, demonstrating the martial art Pencak Silat, which originates in Indonesia. The purpose of this martial art is to maim or kill and is highly effective, utilizing strikes, takedowns, weapons, and acrobatics. On the surface this film is nonstop, adrenaline pumping, all out action. But underneath this kill-or-be-killed exterior lies a cultural statement on Indonesian drug policies. Indonesia has always had an extreme take on punishment, drug charges often resulting in the death penalty. This is not limited to citizens of Indonesia either, but extends to foreigners caught with them as well

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/indonesia/10335629/British-former-PCSO-faces-death-penalty-for-alleged-drug-trafficking-in-Indonesia.html

Despite such an extreme stance on drug trafficking and smuggling, there is a constantly growing drug problem, both use and sale, within Indonesia. 

http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/archive/indonesias-illegal-drug-trade-gets-higher/

The United Nations has stated multiplied methamphetamine, marijuana, and heroin smuggling cases from 2010 to 2011

Here you can see an example of the martial art as demonstrated within the film:

 

Modern Asian Cinematic Collaborations

Taking a break from analyzing actual cinematic works, this post is concerned with a growing trend in Asian cinema. Asian cinematic production companies are working in partnership with American production companies in a joint effort, both fiscally and production-wise, to complete these films. One of the more recent, and most notable is the massively successful third installment in the Iron Man series, produced by Marvel (which is owned by Disney). There were two versions of this movie released; the version that was released within the United States, and the version released in China. The Chinese version contained product placement and a few additional scenes nonessential to the actual movie plot. This trend is growing, but is not exactly favored by either side of the situation.

http://movies.yahoo.com/blogs/movie-talk/iron-man-3-china-only-scenes-featured-short-182624177.html

http://www.forbes.com/sites/simonmontlake/2013/06/05/chinas-cinema-boss-no-fan-of-disneys-iron-man/

With growing costs of movies this seems like the fiscally intelligent move to make, cutting costs for both sides while making blockbuster hits, there is growing tension from these two sides specifically. Concerns are that these Chinese companies, often state-owned, are merely using this collaboration in order to learn the measures needed to be successful and then split and make their own cash cow movies. With growing tensions between what content is expected from both countries/regions, the cost benefits may soon be outweighed by their differences. They are coming to a fork in the road and how they settle these issues will determine the how both American and Asian films are produced in the future.

Equilibrium and the influence of Asian cinema

A theme within Asian politics is the intermingling and grafting of Asian traditions. This is the way in which Asian traditions move across the continent and influence one another. Here I am observing an exaggeration of the trend in which Asian culture has influenced American cinema. Within the movie Equilibrium there are several popular characteristics derived from Asian cinema. One such characteristic is the heavy focus upon a specific martial art. In Asian cinema that may mean karate, kung fu, etc. In this film there is a fictional martial art entitled Gun Kata which is central to the plot.

Gun Kata as demonstrated within the film:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4mS_3hWwtk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRzwHIAAGzI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPuAKVnqJdk

Another trait within this film reminiscent of Asian cinema and culture is the portrayal of the image of the current or past ruling member of the society. As in such countries as North Korea and China. These rulers are often all powerful and dictate all actions within the society. In Equilibrium this figure is known as “Father,” and provides public digital messages to the people in order to maintain their position against the group deemed the enemy.

One of the final characteristics is the emotional state of the members of the fictional dystopian future. In this future all members of the society are to self-medicate in order to suppress emotion. This results in a meditative type state in which all members exist. This, in particular relation to the protagonist, is common amongst Asian films, such as Ip Man. These characteristics and their incorporation into American cinema demonstrate how Asian culture has traveled and spread its influence.

Ong Bak and the culture of Thailand

Within Asian politics, there are several themes to which it follows. One that I’m exploring today is the theme of Endurance Traditional Cultures. The working definition that I’m using for this theme is “the use of traditional icons in order to tie current political standings back to traditional values.” In the movie Ong Bak, there are several cultural holdings widely used. The first of which, and most predominantly is the use of the martial art Muay Thai. This martial art was founded in Thailand and to this day is very central to their culture. Muay Thai is characterized by its focus not only on the use of fists and feet, as with most martial arts, but with its inclusion of knees and elbows.

The following clips are very cinematic versions of the martial art but serve to demonstrate the techniques used:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moWFBlfiu04
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sDbaAWPwl4

The next cultural holding within the movie is the importance placed upon the Buddha within the more rural areas of Thailand. The film’s plot centers around the retrieval of a Buddha statue, but takes the protagonist from the rural countryside to the very urban and developed areas of Thailand. By including not only Muay Thai as a cultural foothold, but also the religious aspect of Buddhism and the vast differences between the populated areas, the film provides a fairly detailed and  encompassing look at the state of Thailand within the more recent era.