What I want you to know. Which is everything.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Kung Fu Hustle with Spoilers!

This weekend I saw Kung Fu Hustle By Stephen Chow. I was really wanting to see this. Somehow I was able to get Amanda to see it with me. She didn't really want to see, although I was pretty convinced that one she saw it she would like it. I was was half right. She liked it, but not like I thought she would.

But that's not what this entry is about. This is an entry to try and materialize my thoughts on this film. It's got me thinking something vicious. FIrst of all, fans of the Crouching Tiger... and House of Flying Daggers genre of flying ninjas and super cool effects, be warned. This movie has all flying, mystical fighting stuff, but it's almost poking fun of it, in a way. First of all you have three Kung Fu masters. One is your typical buffed up Chinese guy with a headband. The other is a baker who is about middle age, the third is a tailor. The tailor makes for the funniest element of the film. The tailor in Kung Fu Hustle is not only gifted in the arts of fighting with his steal rings that make him inceceptable to metallic objects being thrown at him, but he is a flaming homo. After he has just dispensed of the bad guys in one of the first plot driving fight scenes, the infamous Landlady, smirks at the tailor, "Once a fairy, always a fairly" at which the tailor gets teary eyed and pranses off.

FIrst of all, this is not a review. I don't review movies, I just talk about them. So here's what I want to talk about.

The movie did a wonderful job and will do a wonderful job of dispelling stereotypes of Asian filmaking, as well as it's people. As a culture, I've always understood that Asians were without much emotion, stoic, and businesslike. The Kung Fu films that I would watch as a kid on Saturday mornings always depicted a very serious hero and lots of serious bad guys. Kung Fu Hustle blows this stereotype to smitherens by making fun of that attitude with characters like the tailor, among others.

Other examples of this is the opening sequence where, after dispensing of a rival, the primary antagonist, Brother Sum of the Axe Gang, leads his minions in a line dance that seems to mix 70s disco moves with Rat Pack cool. Then there is the Landlady whom I mentioned earlier. When she turns out to be a master herself, along with her womanizing husband, you aren't entirely surprised (after all, how else did she run so fast) but it is pretty amazing to learn that she and her husband renounced doing Kung Fu ever again in the intrest of peace.

Which brings me to my next comment about the movie. As slapsticky and cartoonishly violent as it was (It was also pretty violent in a traditionally violent way, a topic I could write a book on) KFH was deeply rooted in a message of peace and tranquility. The protagonist is a loser who goes around with his buddy, a big dopey sidekick, too out of shape to be a wirey, quick Kung Fu master himself, and still too small to be a strong man. These two set out on a daily basis to find a way into the Axe Gang. Earlier in life the protagonist was told that he would someday be a great Kung Fu genious, but later realizes that he was being lied to. He decides that the best way to live is bad. He decides that he is going to get what he wants by stealling and killing instead of helping. Unfortunately for him, his true calling betrays these wishes, as he has never been able to really commit to a life of derilecy. When he is practically beaten to a pulp by the most evil Kung Fu killer of all, everyone wonders why he hasn't died. Well, to make a long story short, he emerges from his bandages in a scene of beautiful symbolism (or degradingly hitting you over the head, depending on your cynicism) as a butterfly is emerging from a cocoon. He returns to fight and defend the villiage against the evil Kung Fu killer and the Axe Gang and in an impressive, however CGIed to death, fight sequence, he is able to channel Buddas most powerful gifts and defeat this extremely powerful enemy. This movie, if it didn't have any other message was that God has given us extraordinary gifts and we must use them, even when it seems as thought the world is only going to bury us because of them.

I sometimes wonder why there aren't more practicing Buddists. It seems like a fine religion, deeply rooted in peace, with the goal of achieving enlightenment, and is light on the judgement for people who don't reach it. If I understand correctly one is only punished if he is truely evil in life: killers, rapists, etc. It would seem that if all else were equal, Christianity wouldn't fair as well against Buddism because of the tendency for Christians to be judgemental and exclusive. Buddists don't seem like this at all. Of course I don't know much about Buddism, so I can't really talk.


Chad said...

It's sad to think that Christians tend to be judgmental for that was never the way of Christ. Christ, in opposition to Guatuan Budhu proclaimed a message of grace and mercy. Budha preached that your current life is the direct result of actions in your previous life, karma. Budha was trying to make sense out of all the evil he saw that Hinduism didn't explain. Therefore he came up with a system that you better your existence through a series of lives until you reach a state he called enlightenment. Enlightenment could never be reached in a single lifetime. The more good you do in this life, the better life you will have in your next life. Therefore, Budhists typically adhere to strict moral codes. There is no room for grace. Only a checks and balamce system in which the good we do must outweigh the bad in the end.

Kyle said...

Ah, now I am the enlightened one. Many thanks. After more thought on the subject I think that human beings tend to be judgemental and therefore anyone who believes there is a case for judgement will justify the judgement. People want to feel superior and righteous, not only to God, but to others. Therefore, just as the Bible can be interpreted to see the world as one likes, so goes many Christians.

Grace is my favorite part of Christianity, anyway. Reincarnation, I don't want no stinking reincarnation. I do believe in karma, though. I see it as a "what goes around comes around," kind of thing. It's why I sweat over the summer after my freshman year in college, because I had called a guy a jerk before I left and didn't clear it with him. As soon as I saw him in August I had to make it right.

jocelyn said...

Hey, Kyle! It's Jocelyn (Reese). I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on KFH. Mark (my husband) and I went to see it this weekend and we really liked it. I agree with your idea that this movie exalted peace more than violence and sort of spoofed other kung fu movies.

One of my favorite things about kung fu movies, though, that this one did really well was exalting a sense of magic. I love how there's always a solution that becomes apparent only when it's needed. Like the continuous lineup of kung fu masters in KFH...they just kept on coming! And I love any movie where the characters can fly...one of these days, I'll be able to fly too!


Jason said...

I had never heard of this movie until I read your blog. Then about an hour later, I saw a trailer for it on TV. Shows you what I haven't been paying attention to lately.