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Modern Martial Arts Directors: 4 Filmmakers Who Stand Out

By    |   Friday, 08 Apr 2016 02:29 PM

Martial arts movies have been around just as long as any other film genre.

According to Craveonline, “The earliest martial arts films came out of Shanghai in the 1920s and remained popular in mainland China through the 1930s, when the production of the films moved to Hong Kong. The films from the 1920s were adapted from martial arts novels and they used wire work and swordplay.”

With the advent of the home theater experience and increasing international distribution, more and more modern martial arts movies from the Far East are being seen by American viewers.

Here are four directors whose films have stood out among the modern martial arts imports:

1. Yimou Zhang

The films of director Yimou Zhang are a visual delight, full of color and costumes and fight scenes that put the art in martial arts, making his films more of a violent ballet.

While not an imitation, Yimou's visual language compares favorably to Ang Lee's in the Oscar-winning "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

"Hero," "House of Flying Daggers, and "Curse of the Golden Flower," are his most celebrated entries into the modern martial arts genre.

Before his turn toward action, Zhang directed Chinese domestic dramas worthy of Oscar consideration like "Ju Dou" and "Raise the Red Lantern."

2. Stephen Chow

Stephen Chow's films have a very distinctive style among modern martial arts movies. This director mines Chinese myth, philosophy, and history and Western pop culture to craft densely textured stories. But Chow's action sequences are accented with cartoonish digital effects that add to a comedic touch not often found in the genre.

His most popular films among Americans have been "Kung Fu Hustle," "Shaolin Soccer," and "Journey to the West."

Actor and comedian Bill Murray praised "Kung Fu Hustle" in an interview with GQ, calling it "the supreme achievement of the modern age in terms of comedy."


3. Hark Tsui

He is a prolific martial arts filmmaker whose director and producer credits date back to the late '70s. While he is one of Hong Kong's most notable directors, Hark was actually born in Vietnam.

In many ways, modern martial arts filmmaking would not be what it is today without the contributions of Tsui. Senses of Cinema credited Tsui with building the foundation that other directors on this list used to create some of their best work.

"The genres most identified with ’80s and ’90s Hong Kong film (heroic bloodshed, fantasy swordplay, ghost romances, period martial arts) were genres he created," said Senses of Cinema.

"Once Upon a Time in China" and "Wu: Warriors From the Magic Mountain" are considered some of his martial arts masterpieces.

4. Wilson Yip

Director Wilson Yip is best known for the "Ip Man" series of movies, a biographical treatment of martial arts master Yip Man — the teacher credited with spreading the martial art of Wing Chun and mentoring Bruce Lee.

"Ip Man" stands in direct contrast to the vivid entries above, featuring a more muted pallette and grittier, bone-breaking action. However, this series is perhaps more remisicent of classic kung fu movies.


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Martial arts movies have been around just as long as any other film genre, but with the advent of the home theater experience and increasing international distribution, more and more modern martial arts movies are being seen in America. Here are four directors whose films have stood out among them.
modern martial arts, directors
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2016-29-08
Friday, 08 Apr 2016 02:29 PM
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