Late 1800s Foshan, Guangdong: Wong Fei Hung/Jet Li trains men in martial arts to help defend against foreign powers already holding Hong Kong and Macau. He looks after cute 13th Aunt, who's just returned from England. Lots of fight scenes.
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Set in late 19th century Canton this martial arts film depicts the stance taken by the legendary martial arts hero Wong Fei-Hung (1847-1924) against foreign forces' (English, French and American) plundering of China. When Aunt Yee arrives back from America totally westernised, Wong Fei-Hung assumes the role of her protector. This proves to be difficult when his martial arts school and local militia become involved in fierce battles with foreign and local government. As violence escalates even Aunt Yee has to question her new western ideals, but is it possible to fight guns with Kung Fu?Written by
Michele Wilkinson, University of Cambridge Language Centre, <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wong Fei Hung is a legendary Chinese hero (like James Bond) whoe has some 90 films about him before this movie. In fact Jackie Chan plays Wong Fei Hung in Legend of Drunken Master. So this movie is not merely a kung fu movie. This movie's main theme is of Chinese culture vs Western culture as it is embodied by martial arts vs guns. How can China remain beautiful in its art that requires years of dedication to master, when success can be so cheaply purchased with Western firearms? Wong Fei Hung must make sense of it somehow, and in the end shows that while you can't fight guns with kung fu, that kung fu in the right hands can be just as deadly as guns. (It's not the gun... it's the bullets.)
Woven into this main theme is the theme of a lost sense of Chineseness and lack of communication. The characters who cut off their queues (their symbol of loyalty to the Qing dynasty) because of desperation or confusion or ambition. The Chinese/American who cannot read Chinese. The mistaken Lion dance.
Beyond this conflict, the movie has countless inside jokes for the fans of Honk Kong cinema. The trampolines at the end were a tribute to the early kung fu movies that used them before wire techniques were introduced. The scene where the two disciples have to dress up in the Peking Opera: Sammo Hung (TV's Martial Law) traditionally played the role of the butcher in this series. He, along with the other character who dressed up in the movie were originally trained in Peking opera and form there entered kung fu movies. So it was an inside joke. The nerdy character is played by one of Hong Kong's most popular pop singers.
This movie is simply incredible, even though the kung fu is not as satisfying as in some of Jet Li's other movies (The Legend and Fist of Legend). I recommend seeing it on DVD. That way you can see the original movie with subtitles. Then you can go back and watch it with a running commentary. Stay away from the English dubbed version, as it cuts scenes from the movie.
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