Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

Drunk on Jackie Chan

Yeah, I needed a treat. OK, strictly speaking I wanted a treat, all I really need is air, food, water and a place to take a dump -- perspective, y'all! -- but after the maddening week I'd had, I knew to be bold and to treat myself.

OK, OK, I think I'll modify the above list to air, food, water, a place to take a dump, and Jackie Chan movies, because the Laurelhurst has a dubbed copy of Chan's 1978 film Drunken Master and insane kung-fu comedy makes things better.

I learned that in college (YES I LEARNED STUFF), because Eugene's Bijou Theater would bring in Asian-market prints of martial arts films, prints with (sometimes) two or three sets of subtitles along the bottom and right sides of the screen. Over a couple of years I got to see stuff like Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh's The Tai Chi Master (that one I saw on a late-night date with Alicia) and High Risk, where Jet LI plays the stunt double for a Jackie Chan-like star who -- gasp! -- fakes his stunts, for shame, and the double and the star wind up having to fight off terrorists in a high rise. That one's Jackie Chan-parody-meets-Die Hard, down to the classical music on the soundtrack and destruction of a helicopter. (And an opening that emulates Speed, except that the bus in High Risk blows up WITH EVERYONE ON IT.) And, nicely soon after it had been released in Asia (and years before it was released, re-edited, dubbed and with new music, in the U.S.*), the Bijou showed 1994's Drunken Master 2, a movie which almost gallops from insane fight scene (under the bridge! Destroying the restaurant!) to insane fight scene (the ending! About which Roger Ebert once said "It may not be possible to film a better fight scene.").

Drunken Master is still insane in its action, but not as epic in its story, and rambles a bit more; it's less plot-propelled and more episodic, where most episodes are "Jackie Chan gets into trouble" -- a nice, pure illustration of Chan's belief that the best fights are often by fighters trying to get out of those fights. The title-inspiring drunken fighting doesn't even start until about two-thirds of the way through the film, when Beggar So teaches the style to Chan. I like the explanation of the fighting style: it makes you look like you're losing! But you're winning! (Plus if you're fighting that way in the film, you're drinking nice wine.) And when the stakes get serious, the film gets serious, and that's the final fight, and that made me smile. As most of the film made me smile. Which is what I wanted after this week. No, needed.

* Here's what I always felt was a mistake about the 2000 cut's music: It's too serious! I didn't mind that it was a little Babylon 5-era-Christopher-Franke style, but I did mind that it seemed to do heavy-lifting to try and make the film something it's not. The 1994 original's music is more poppy than most American audiences probably would've accepted, but it adds to the fun.

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