Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 190: Thu Jul 10

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (Lau Kar-Leung, 1978): BFI Southbank, 8.40pm


This film, which screens as part of the Century of Chinese Cinema season, also screens on 6th July. Details here.

Here is the BFI introduction: The 36th Chamber of Shaolin is the masterpiece of the great director and fight choreographer Lau Kar-leung, and arguably the greatest martial arts film of all time. Lau’s godbrother Gordon Liu stars as San Te, who is drawn into rebellion against the oppressive Manchu government. Wounded, he flees to the Shaolin Temple and spends years mastering his martial arts skills... Lau emphasises his discipline and dedication, but this doesn’t stop the film from being spectacular and riotously entertaining.

Time out review:
The first half hour is standard Shaw Bros melodrama: vignettes from the Manchu army's subjugation of Canton in the early Qing Dynasty, following the usual script, staged on the usual sets with all the usual 'guest stars' and extras. But once the wounded hero (Liu) reaches the Shaolin Temple and - one year of sweeping floors later - starts learning the monks' secret knowledge of martial arts, the movie becomes extraordinary. The temple has 35 training rooms, each one dedicated to the perfection of a physical skill, a mental reflex or a spiritual insight. Once our boy graduates cum laude the abbot pragmatically expels him for insubordination, freeing him to rally anti-Manchu resistance in the province and turn the whole of Guangdong into a 36th 'chamber' of Shaolin. Fine myth making, anchored in a heroic central performance.
Tony Rayns

Here (and above) is the trailer.

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