Wuxia litrature and culture, which have been deeply influencing on Far-East cultures, have been also rebounded on modern life adaptations, unavoidably and maybe unconsciously. Although almost all Wuxia stroies (and movies) have been set in ancient times, Far-Asian cinema have also derived and reflect wuxia taste (or philosophy) to some action-crime-bullet ballet …etc types movies. Frankly, I am not sure whether these reflections are conscious or unconscious. But in the end, these works produced in wuxia philosophy are as fun as traditional Wuxia adaptations, and they can also carry wuxia soul as well. Let’s do a brief analysis of these films now, to expand these idea.
In my previous article, I mentioned 3 main elements which give real soul of Wuxia genre. In my opinion, any movie, which is thought in Wuxia concept, must be analysed with these;
- Epic, heroic stories with engrossing sub-text (didactic and ethical message…etc)
- Substantially righteous hero character (usually martial artist, soldier, warrior, … etc.)
- Their presentation in aesthetic and artistic consept.
Many people simply think that Wuxia stories are just adventures of martial artists who mainly use traditional martial arts against to the “evils”. But Kung fu, which is used in wuxia litature quite often, can be also used in many area other than old-school martial arts. Because, there is a fight and struggle every area of life; and according to the environment, the weapons, fighting style, and tactics must change. If it is thought like this, the movie set in today can be in wuxia mood, even it may not include old-school martial arts (because the fighting tactics change). I mean, a wuxia movie (or novel, story) should focus heroic codes and feelings, rather than specific martial arts or tools. That’s why, I think, ‘Wuxia’ and ‘martial art’ genres must be separated. In short, a Wuxia movie don’t have to be restricted in spesific antic ages, or fighting styles and weapons. These can be varied, but soul is saved.
Because of this, modern reflection of Wuxia litrature have been made either consciously or unconsciously since about ~70, with plenty of action, tirad, crime and essentially “bullet ballet” type films, especially in Hong Kong cinema. Very simply, firearms (guns ..etc) replace the old-school weapons (sword, spear …etc), flying gunmen replace the flying swordsmen, creative and different kung fu applications replace the old-school martial arts (sometimes they may used both together). But nomatter what, the 3 elements mentioned above are always saved as in classical Wuxia consept. Then,in my opinion, these movies can be called also such a Modern Wuxia movies.
There are numerous examples for this type of movies; many Modern Wuxia type movies made in Hong Kong (and far-east) have been either derived from their original stories or adapted from world cinema to their culture, for a long time. For example, Wang Yu, David Chiang and Ti Lung who are mostly known as the old-school-action (traditional) wuxia film actors, play also some wuxia-taste movies set in todays. Even these movies are arguably in the aesthetic side, they have quite heavy wuxia soul on the basis of the story and the characters structures. Also especially starting from ~1985, many action and “bullet ballet” type of movies can be considered in this category. The most famous examples generally include young Chow Yun-Fat and directed by John Woo‘s; A Better Tomorrow I-II (1986-87), The Killer (1989), God of Gamblers (1989). In particular, God of Gamblers have nice example of kung fu application (as gambling) in different areas. Furthermore, because Ti Lung is one of the unquestionable icons of old-school wuxia genre, movies of his hero gangster age also have many Wuxia traces, most likely come from his young martial age that he kept on his steady hero images in these modern set movies; such as, Better Tomorrow I-II, True Colurs, People’s hero, Run don’t walk, Killer’s Blues. As for another kind examples; Full Time Killer (2001), Running Out of Time 1-2 (1999-2001) gives some other creative application of fighting methods with puzzling style plots and actions. Furthermore, the relatively well-known far-eastern actors Andy Lau and Ekin Cheng‘s action, crime, tirad, and some fantasy-action-style flavor movies can be considered some kind of modern wuxia. All these are just small part of huge, and you may discover more…
Also all these movies and many other can be watchable in youtube type web-sites. I uploded some my personal likes in playlist which have movies after 1985. Also for before 1985, Wang Yu, Ti Lung ve David Chiang‘s some modern wuxia type movies can be found in subtitle of Retro Modern in wuxia-cinema/a-z-movies. ^_^