Martial Art Fully Good

by Melissa Stage
Defining martial arts films is not an easy task - the genre is a dizzying array of action, adventure, romance, comedy, and grand stunts played out in numerous styles.

The ancient practice of martial arts has become an ideal storytelling partner for the modern art of filmmaking. Although the genre of martial-arts films originated in China, these thrilling action films have gained international acclaim and popularity. As the genre travels across the globe, its style and philosophy continuously evolve.

The martial-art style of film originated in Shanghai in the 1920s. The first film contained warring martial-arts factions, crude special effects, grand Beijing Opera-style choreographed fight scenes, and female warriors. The genre became known as 'films of chivalrous combat'.

In the 1930s, world events shaped the genre’s development. The Shanghai movie scene relocated to Hong Kong during the Sino-Japanese war. These filmmakers (who used the Mandarin dialect) initially followed the wu xia pian style, but then shifted to making wen yi pan, or ’literary arts films’, which were melodramas or adaptations of novels. The Mandarin films later added more special effects, fantastical story lines and settings, romance, and swordplay.

Cantonese-dialect wu xia pian films also were being made in Hong Kong at this time, but they developed a somewhat different style. Cantonese hero and martial artist Wong Feihung taught his skills to the future directors of Hong Kong cinema before his death in 1924, and his name became synonymous with an emerging style of martial-arts films. More than 60 films were based on this legendary character - films that focused on actual kung fu-fighting style (unarmed combat) and a fight to help an underdog.

In the 1970s, Bruce Lee created his own version of the kung fu film in Hong Kong and overseas. Born in the U.S., Lee grew up in Hong Kong but moved back to the U.S. to attend college. After his success on the 1966 TV show The Green Hornet, Lee moved back to China and began making films. Rejecting the over-the-top-styles, choreography, and story lines of films of that time, Lee focused on power and speed, bringing a realism and overt masculinity to the genre. After Lee’s untimely death in 1973, interest in Hong Kong kung fu cinema briefly declined until a new element was added: comedy. Jackie Chan’s career was launched in - you guessed it - in Hong Kong with Drunken Master in 1978. Chan blended his Beijing Opera training in martial arts and acrobatics with the comedy style of silent film star Buster Keaton. Hong Kong stars don’t have a monopoly on playing martial artists in films.

Americans Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal and Brussels native Jean-Claude Van Damme all parlayed their martial-arts skills into the successful U.S. film careers. Thailand’s 2005 film Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior launched the career of Tony Jaa, whose work is being compared to that of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. The Indian film star Priyanka Chopra trained heavily in martial arts for her role in the 2008 Indian film Drona.

Whether it’s an epic, historical piece such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) or a modern-day comedy like Rush Hour, martial-arts films continue to entertain and delight with their fantastic stunts and tightly choreographed fight scenes.

1. According to the text, the definition of the genre of the modern martial-arts film includes all of the following EXCEPT ________.

A a mixture of different amusing cinematographic genres and exciting stunts
B compulsory scenes of battles in kung fu-fighting style
C a screen script of the film written for American stars only
D a film that includes unarmed combat scenes and attractive special effects

2. What is the author’s main point?

A The martial-arts film style was originated in China and nowadays it is still the main Chinese style in the filmmaking.
B The martial-arts style of the films is one of the most popular cinema genres which succeed in the present time, too.
C The majority of Chinese actors became world-known due to their participation in the martial-arts films.
D The only actual kung fu-fighting style is the basis of all motion pictures which were made in the martial-arts style.

3. The phrase ’films of chivalrous combat’ (line 9) in the text is closest in meaning to ________.

A breathtaking female films
B up-to-date action films
C modern feature films
D actual underground films

4. According to the text, which of the following is TRUE of Bruce Lee?

A He accepted the specific style of martial-arts films in his own films.
B He was the best film director and film actor of the martial-arts films in the 1970s.
C He carried on the traditions of wu xia pian films when he began making films.
D He focused on truthfulness and the qualities of men - fighters

5. According to the text, which of the following statements is WRONG?

A The unarmed combat style is still a visiting card of the martial-arts style of film.
B The martial-arts style of film is still the national peculiarity of Chinese films only.
C The basic feature of the martial-arts style of film - thrilling action - has remained by the present.
D The martial-arts style of film changed together with the progress of a society.

6. What artist was associated with a great advance of the martial-arts films and became a prototype of the main heroes for such films?

A Bruce Lee
B Buster Keaton
C Wong Feihung
D Jackie Chan


Answers:

1.c; 2.b; 3.b; 4.d; 5.b; 6.c
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