Dear film club fans, welcome to the Next Generation!
Just like Mike the Headless Chicken, we find ourselves here without our beloved leader, but nevertheless life must continue on. But history has taught us, that such regime changes never seem to occur smoothly. And perhaps we should have realised that getting our superstar Maths teacher Susan to host on the opening weeks of term time would have disastrous pooey and phlegmy consequences. As the human petri-dish of secondary school started to culture, poor Susan was unexpectedly struck down. But never letting diarrhoea get in the way of a good time, we last-minute convened at my place in Brixton instead and we fought on, although sadly without Susan at the helm.
Luckily, my obsession with MNFC is such that I have a saved shortlist of future film spectacles, and as such was able to rummage through my DVD collection at the 11th hour to pick out a classic that I hadn’t seen, other than possibly on a drunken night 14 years a go. And remarkably, the surviving film-clubbers hadn’t seen it either. Somehow, we teamed with a theme, starting the night with Chinese take-away and settled down to Enter the Dragon.
In a further unexpected coincidence, this year is the 40th year since Bruce Lee died, and earlier this year co-star Jim Kelly also passed away. Enter the Dragon was released in 1973, and was Bruce Lee’s last film. He died unexpectedly aged 32, of cerebral oedema (likely as a reaction to the pain killer Equagesic) before the film premiered. As with many icons, his death has sprouted many theories, including overdose with potent Nepalese hashish and involvement of the Triads. One theory that is popular in South-East Asia but relatively unknown in the West is that Bruce Lee challenged Diki Zulkarnain, a silat exponent while he was in Indonesia. Although Lee won the fight, the silat fighter perceived Bruce Lee to be arrogant and had used secret mantras while fighting him, resulting in internal injuries for Bruce. The injury continued to haunt him till his sudden death due to the blows received from the fight (possibly using the Dim Mak). Whatever the reason, there was an international out-pouring of grief, reflecting his stardom as well as his incredible talent.
Indeed, the film clubbers were all amazed by his prowess and abilities. He was less than 1% body fat, something which this year’s Operation 6 Pack is attempting to emulate. And his fighting was all choreographed by him, with no stunt men or wires etc.
Kung Fu movies helped propel Hong Kong cinema to an international audience in the early 70’s, a trend which continued well into the 90’s, and arguably this was spearheaded by the success of Bruce Lee. The mantle was handed to other stars who embroiled themselves in the Hollywood system deeper (such as Jackie Chan, who had a cameo in Enter the Dragon). Eventually this paved the way to the success of Wuxia and later waves of Chinese cinema such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: or as Lucy stated should have been a better terminology, “New Fu”.
Enter the Dragon was full of typical 1970’s style, and mixed fairly unknown Hollywood actors with Hong Kong artists, in a story that was basically ripped from Dr No, complete with cat-stroking evilness. But the power of this film lays with the superb martial arts spectacle that is so well captured on film. Predictably, it has been parodied throughout the subsequent decades;but the growth of this genre has allowed Western audiences to be captured by the spectacle of Kung Fu in many other forms also. It is worth looking here for the incredible Shaolin monks, and their proteges. And then maybe follow Di’s example and learn to kick-ass yourself. Cautiously. It’s not as easy as Bruce makes it look.
Until we convene again then, with hopefully a secretion-free Susan.
A good dictator does not become tense, but ready. Not thinking, yet not dreaming.
Ready for whatever may come.