Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"Wire-fu"

The late 70's and the 80's were, in some way, the "golden age" of eastern kung-fu movies (mainly those made in Hong Kong and China.) These movies are often quite "campy" to the extreme, with severe over-acting, very simplistic plots, and lots and lots of over the top fight choreography (although exceptions to all these "flaws" exist, of course.)

There's one distinguishing feature in most (although admittedly not all) of these movies: All the fights are "real" in the sense that they are 100% fight choreography without any external aids or camera trickery. In other words, what you see on film is exactly what the actors / martial artists did in real life. Sure, it's usually not any "real fighting" in any sensible way (because it's often very over the top and choreographed), but everything is done "for real". These fight scenes are really fun to watch.

For some reason this art seems to have been lost. The vast majority of Chinese "kung fu movies" nowadays use wires (removed in post-production) and other aids to "enhance" the choreography to completely unrealistic levels. (This is called, often derogatorily, "wire-fu".) It seems that it has become the norm. And I really detest it. It makes the fights look completely unrealistic and unnatural. In other words, it breaks willing suspension of disbelief too much for comfort. It ruins the fight scenes.

I am willing to give a pass to movies that are clearly more in the realm of fantasy, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But not to movies that are supposed to be "realistic".

Perhaps the most egregious offender in recent times is the 2008 movie Ip Man, which is a semi-biographical movie based on the life of Yip Man, a grandmaster of the martial art Wing Chun and master of Bruce Lee. The wire-fu just ruins the movie for me.

That's not to say there aren't any modern kung-fu movies with 100% "real" choreography. It's just that way too many of them use wire-fu.

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