Friday, May 30, 2003

My life has been very calm for the past week or two. I wrote “surprisingly calm,” then deleted it, because in some ways it’s not a surprise. It shouldn’t be, at least; I’ve been slowly eliminating distractions in my life so that I could just be. Now I’ve finally reached a tipping point, where there’s very little that I make myself do.

So, last night, I could watch another Bruce Lee kung-fu film: Return of the Dragon. I didn’t enjoy it as much as The Chinese Connection, partly because TCC is set a hundred years ago in Shanghai, while Return of the Dragon is set in Rome of the 1970’s. It’s like photos of my Mom’s vacations in Europe come to technicolor life: big, wavy women’s hairstyles and Elton John fashions. The lanky black guy villain slouches and whines in a desperate attempt to seem cool.

Return of the Dragon is a very 1970’s film, and of course I mean that in a bad way, because almost all films of the 70’s sucked. It was a period of unflinching realism in film, which meant that every film was set in a crime-ridden urban neighborhood. Or, you got bad science fiction in which you knew it was the future because the cars had spikes on the fenders.

But it’s not all bad; Bruce was a good actor, and more than that, he had real screen presence. Your eyes are just drawn to him. It was fun to see him playing around with a cloak-and-dagger bodyguard role, sometimes serious, sometimes playful.

And his final fight, the duel with Chuck Norris, is engaging and amazing. This isn’t a simple fight; it’s a duel between two masters, who clearly respect each other. Occasionally, during a brief pause in the fight, one or the other will smile, as if saying, “You’re good.” The fact that they didn’t know each others’ language improves the fight too, as there’s no dialogue. It’s just fighting, intercut almost absurdly with a kitten who’s watching the fight. It adds a softness to the fight, a reminder that this is not simply a grim deathmatch.

If the film had excised the flamboyantly gay interpreter who whines for what seems like half the movie and some of the more annoying evil flunkies, I’d be raving. Ah well.

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