December 20, 2005

The Magic of Cinema 

If you think that Hollywood does over-the-top action and shooting movies you're wrong. I've seen my fair share of action movies, but no Hollywood one can even come close to John Woo in his Hong Kong period.

Face/Off is tame in comparison, really. I have Hard Boiled on DVD, and now I'm watching The Killer... and what can I say?
Handguns with 20 or more rounds? Of course
Prolonged kinetic firefights? At least 3/4 of each movie
Body count in the dozens (and loads of blood)? Never less than fifty
Slow-motion action? Abundant
Stylish visuals? Always
Solemn, emphatic soundtrack? Sure as hell
Ultra-cool protagonists with untarnishable honour? No doubt
Virile friendship and heroic deaths? They cannot lack
Vicious, callous villains? Naturally
While all this can sound preposterous, the mix works surprisingly well. Much better than a lot of Hollywood movies of the same theme. I only regret I don't have Hard Boiled in Cantonese...

Not surprisingly, John Woo obtained a cult following: fans all over the world love his works; Quentin Tarantino isn't oblivious to those Eastern gems and the comic writer Garth Ennis places a number of open John Woo/Chow Yun Fat references in his comics (which mostly tell the tales of a professional killer, go figure...).

But the Far East, in this case Japan (and this should ring an alarm bell) graced us also with other masterpieces (well, for a twisted mind like mine). I remember that night of many years ago when I tuned my TV onto a local station and I could see The Green Slime. Unforgettable, and in more than one sense...
Thinking about it, a Japanese movie that recalls John Woo - especially for the body count and gore, but also the stark contrast between the honourable protagonist and the vile villains - is the (deservedly) notorious anime Ninja Scroll.

And while we're at it, James Cameron is making a film out of the anime Battle Angel Alita. In digital 3D no less, using the camera system developed by Cameron himself for underwater exploration - his documentary Expedition: Bismarck about the famous German WWII battleship is as engrossing as any fiction story.


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