Hongkong action movies a transnational genre

In the 1970s the Hong Kong action film genre reached international audiences largely through the work of Bruce Lee, and the television series Kung Fu. Hunt notes, however, that the transition from East to West was effected with a clear set of boundaries in terms of the allocation of tasks in making such films: written and directed by white westerners, fight scenes choreographed and performed by Hong Kong.1 Over time the role of the Hong Kong choreographer in films produced in America waned, and the 1970s enthusiasm for Kung Fu faded away. It seemed that interest in kung fu was nothing more than a passing phase. The genre was revived in the 1990s again by an influx of Hong Kong cinema professionals to America but this time there was a much broader range of talent involved, from actors like Jackie Chan, to directors like John Woo and choreographers like Yuen Wo-Ping.2 At first the films produced in the United States failed to make full use of the talents of the incomers, stressing their acting skills rather than their directorial contributions, and failing to understand the cultural resonance of the Hong Kong martial arts star. There was a clash of culture also in the cinematic practices of the transnational action movie, so that it tended to deteriorate into a binary opposition between slow and powerful Western heavyweight stuntsmen and fast, intricate martial arts technicians, thus bringing new messages of racial stereotypes to the genre. For many, this kind of collaboration is a travesty of the original subtlety of the Hong Kong cinema tradition. Above all, it severely impacts on the scope that is left for the inventive choreography and direction that is the trademark of Hong Kong martial arts fight scenes. The significance of choreography for the martial arts film genre cannot be underestimated. It is the feature, alongside the Chinese cultural setting, which distinguishes the genre from other action movie types. The contribution of one choreographer in particular has dominated the field: Yuen Wo Ping who has been a leading contributor in the genre starting with the innovative Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow in 1978 which started off a long collaboration with Jackie Chan. The Chinese national context, and the filming in the Hong Kong location makes a stunning use of the acrobatic showmanship of the Beijing Opera style of action. Moves are stylized, involving set pieces with traditional Chinese equipment and costumes, often using wire techniques and extremely fast sleight of hand. In this tradition the stunt man and the actor are the same person, and choreographers also are trained in this highly specialized skill set. One way of understanding the impact of this popular and very iconic cinematography is to see it in terms of its particular chronotope. According to Bahktin the concept of a chronotope refers to the unity of time and place in creative literature, and term can also be usefully applied to film: In the literary artistic chronotope, spatial and temporal indicators are fused into one carefully thought-out, concrete whole. Time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible. likewise space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot, and history. 3 Kung Fu action films work best when deeply embedded in Chinese history, geography and culture. They have a resonance with Chinese audiences, whether in Hong Kong, Taiwan or mainland China because of their