Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Grady makes a point about critics missing the point.

Oh Grady. How we miss you here in Toronto. We fawn over your blog and think of our drunken fun times over a month ago. When will you return?

In the meantime, we will sit cross-legged drinking vodka and Red Bull as we chant your wise words about how critics seem to constantly miss the importance of physical action in cinema. Here are some excerpts:
Critics have long felt that somehow the martial arts or action genre needed to be changed, elevated, abstracted in order to be considered "real art." White isn't entirely to blame for his misperception, he's merely toeing the critical line here, mouthing stale attitudes that are pretty common among film writers. Somehow action in movies is looked at with suspicion, whereas "longing and weeping" are considered "rich and real."
Physical performance is an essential - I would argue THE essential - part of true cinema. Buster Keaton is one of the world's greatest filmmakers and he built his career by developing ever more sophisticated ways to showcase his physicality in his movies. In his own way, Jacques Tati did the same thing, building movies that are no more and no less than the physical performance. Bruce Lee was not a great verbal or psychological actor, but the grace and power he brought to the screen was not some kind of chop sockey grindhouse guilty pleasure, it was a call for revolutionary awakening, a re-definition of what a Chinese man could be.

When Jackie Chan takes on a hundred hitmen in a teahouse in DRUNKEN MASTER 2, or a speeding bus full of thugs in POLICE STORY or an entire warehouse of drug dealers in DRAGONS FOREVER the contrived storyline becomes secondary to the amazing things he does. Chan's physicality is an affirmation of human potential and audiences never get tired of seeing him show what anyone can do if they put their minds to it, that there are no odds we can't overcome. These are visceral lessons, emotional effects provoked by action that can't effectively be broken down into words. Sammo Hung's agility in ENCOUNTERS OF THE SPOOKY KIND or THE VICTIM are ten-thousand word essays in grace as he pulls off incredible feats that belie his bulky body.


Lars Nilsen said...

I'm going to tattoo those words on my face. Exactly. Exactly!

Charlie Kondek said...

I have to agree completely. I also am wondering where the critics dropped off in the 1970s when they were interested in such action cinema - or cinema with substantial action components - as Bonnie and Clyde and The Wild Bunch. Perhaps we are experiencing the hangover of a gluttony that started in the 80s and peaked in the 90s and now no one in this particular sphere wants to take action, as a genre or a component, seriously.