Sunday, 30 March 2008

Guilty Pleasures of the Cinematic Kind

In this second instalment of the series "Guilty Pleasures", in which Montagers reveal their deepest, darkest cinematic favourites, Sandra Dupuy reveals her punchy pleasures of the guilty kind. Incidentally fact fans, Chuck Norris is so fast he can run around the world and punch himself in the back of the head. It’s true!

Behind all the bling, I’m a tomboy. While dedicated to promoting so-called “world cinema” (what does that term encompass anyway, all non-WASP cinema?), part of my heart still belongs to Bruce, Patrick, Jackie and a few blockbusting oddities. And all of this stems from my troubled past…

When I was eight, I developed a fetish for martial artists. While most of my girlfriends proudly displayed photos of David Hamilton and posters of the sugary 80s Japanese cartoon character Candy on their flowery walls, I had pinned, next to the aforementioned Manga icon, photos of Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon and Chuck Norris in whatever stinker he flexed his disproportioned pecs in at the time. Yeah, Chuck and Bruce’s pictures were feverishly torn from martial art magazines I spent my weekly pocket money on, because I secretly knew that one day I’d become the greatest female kung fu artist in the world.

Alas, that hasn’t happened yet, but while I may now tease my brother for having dared watch Walker, Texas Ranger, my admiration for Bruce Lee has never wavered. I regularly re-watch Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, and of course Enter the Dragon, his last movie, completed just before he sadly died of an alleged steroid-induced heart attack.

Enter the Dragon is my favourite because I first watched it when I was very young. I still laugh out loud at some everlasting lines. His fighting advice to a new Shaolin Temple recruit: “I said emotional content, not anger!” The hilarious conclusion to the training session: “It’s like a finger pointing to the moon. If you focus on the finger, you miss all the heavenly glory”. Or simply his deadpan address to evil Han (Shih Kien): “You have dishonoured my family, and you have dishonoured the Shaolin Temple”, after which he sets up to kick his nemesis’s sorry ass in the mesmerising mirror fight scene.

Everything about Enter the Dragon is both cheesy and awesome, from Lalo Schifrin’s cool 70s exploitation-type score to the hammy performances and bad dubbing (not a single line of dialogue is in sync). On top of that, Bruce’s charisma and incredible skills make the fight scenes astonishing. Some of his kicks, too quick for the camera, were tricky to shoot, but the result is just so rewarding... and enhanced by Lee’s extensive panoply of squeals, cries and grunts. Darts are flying, nunchakus hissing and fists are furious. A pure delight!

I know Tarantino started an exploitation-slash-manga-slash-martial-art-flick revival with Kill Bill, but my taste for kung-fu wasn’t that fashionable in the mid-80s, where everyone was obsessed with tacky dance films. Of course, I watched those too, but was never a big fan of Fame or Flashdance. I would have been very fussy, however, had I denied myself the never-ending source of pleasure Dirty Dancing and Patrick Swayze offered. He wasn’t as perfectly pretty as Rob Lowe, perfectly toothy as Tom Cruise, or perfectly sleazy as Mickey Rourke, but there was something about Patrick. His mullet was cooler than Don Johnson’s and his dance moves way steamier than Travolta’s. The only cloud in the picture was of course Baby (Jennifer Grey), of whom I was insanely jealous. Why on earth would the director pick such an ugly duckling that couldn’t even act, and barely dance (not as well as Patrick anyway)? I would have happily put Baby in the corner, and left her there!

Though I initially preferred Lowe to Swayze for plastic reasons, the latter obviously made better career moves. While Rob was desperately trying to become the American Alain Delon, he looked more braindead than enigmatic in forgettable teen comedies like About Last Night. Patrick, on the other hand, swiftly moved from dirty dancer with a mean quiff to dirty surfer with a mean streak. There might have been a slightly embarrassing Razzie Award for Road House in between, which I easily forgot, shedding buckets of tears during Ghost. Oh happy days, when Pat was a angel and Demi Moore a semi-virgin, untouched by plastic surgeons (and Ashton) …

If I initially took eager friends to see Katherine Bigelow’s Point Break in 1991, it was mostly for Keanu Reeves, but once again Patrick did it for me. And I became a Bigelow fan. Finally a female director who didn’t shy away from a kick-ass action romp with feelings! Yes, Johnny Utah (Keanu) and Bodhi (Patrick) are very sensitive fellas who get hammered, jump on surf boards in and out of the blue, parachute jump from planes, bone jump on sexy surf groupie Tyler (Lori Petty), wear super-cool Ex-Presidents masks, etc.

Because of that amazing blend of crazy stunts and intense emotions – how poignant is it when Bodhi disappears on his battered surfboard to tackle the ultimate monster wave Down Under? - Point Break became my second favourite action movie. I then watched a couple of Bigelow’s gems, Near Dark, a melancholy vampire story, and Strange Days, starring “Rafe” Fiennes and Juliette Lewis as a heroin addict rock chick (what a challenge!), and my love for Patrick was re-ignited with Donnie Darko… and spontaneously combusted when his character got busted for paedophilia. Thankfully, I had resorted to watching Jackie Chan movies by 1996, so Patrick’s terrifying turn was easier to bear.

Let’s forget about Bruce and Patrick for a moment, for Jackie Chan is another kettle of fists. He may not be as sexy as Swayze or as philosophical as Lee, but boy does he crack me up. I mean, who else would be nicknamed Pao Pao (Chinese for “Cannonball”) because he rolled around a lot as an infant? And he rocks as an adult, particularly in Rumble in the Bronx. I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t yet seen Drunken Master and Fearless Hyena, but I’m convinced that they can’t equal Chan’s adventures in the Big Apple, enthusiastically battling drug dealers here, happily saving a demure damsel there, solely armed with his infectious grin, silly jokes and iron biceps.

So Jackie’s cheeky giggles conclude my trilogy of guilty pleasures. I have more to say, but fear not (or fear a lot?), this will be the topic of my next feature entitled “The Dirty Way of the Dancing Dragon from the Bronx”. I’m not kidding.

1 comment:

roger said...

Not only brothers watch Walker ! Some fathers do too, I'm afraid . Bisous, D.