Before this class, I knew very little about kung fu movies and even less about King Hu. However, after this class I’ve learned how his meticulous attention to details and clever ways of utilizing what he had made King Hu a very skilled filmmaker. His efficient use of his settings in combination to his tracking shots created very impactful action scenes that would even best some of the present day films. He was definitely setting a standard at the time that people found inspiration in.
My top favorite films were the Valiant Ones, the Fate of Lee Khan, and Dragon Inn. I liked the clever battle techniques that were showcased in the Valiant Ones. The Fate of Lee Khan had an excellent cast of action heroines, which I appreciated. The cinematography inside the inn in Dragon Inn was very beautiful for a place in the middle of nowhere.
My least favorite films were Raining in the Mountain, Painted Skin, and A Touch of Zen pt I. There were very unnecessarily long scenes in Raining in the Mountain, the temple was beautiful yet boring. Painted Skin had an intense buildup that eventually accumulated to a short easy climax. In A Touch of Zen Pt II, there’s less of connection with the new characters so I felt unengaged.
As I mentioned before, the techniques that King Hu used in his films oftentimes felt very modern to me and thus his films would be engaging even to me, who is used to fast paced Hollywood style movies. After watching Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which he explicitly said was influenced by King Hu, the audience can see some borrowed techniques (and technically a borrowed actress) that I’ve originally seen in King Hu films. Although it was not as extensive in King Hu’s Come Drink With Me, in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, there is a rooftop scene in which the characters would “fly” up onto the roof tops and with their martial arts skill, jump from roof to roof skillfully like rocks skipping across water.
During the bamboo scene in Zhang Yimou’s House of Flying Daggers where two characters are running away as men chased them high above at the tops of the bamboo and pelting the fleeing couple with sharp cut bamboo, I was distinctly reminded of the scene in A Touch of Zen where the leading lady faces off against the Eunuch’s men with her General. Except, in King Hu’s film, it was the good guys chasing after the bad guys. However, the use of both the tops of the bamboo and the running between them at the bottom was definitely inspired by King Hu.
In all, I really enjoyed this class and getting to learn more about King Hu. The way that he was making his films are really inspiring and stresses the importance to me in utilizing your settings and backdrops to really create impactful interactions between characters and their world.