How to See Martial Arts Films

The MoMA explores the career and films of martial arts legend Lau Kar-leung.

In this short video, Museum of Modern Art film curator La Frances Hui explores the history of martial arts movies, the distinction between the ​“wuxia” and ​“kung fu” genres, and specifically, the career of Lau Kar-leung, one of the greatest and most influential figures in martial arts cinema history.

Lau directed or otherwise worked on some of the greatest martial arts movies of all time, including One-Armed Swordsman, Master of the Flying Guillotine, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Shaolin Challenges Ninja, Invincible Pole Fighter, and Drunken Master II.

The MoMA video highlights several of Lau’s titles, while discussing his background in the Hung Gar style of kung fu as well as his approach to filming and choreographing action, which stands in stark contrast to how modern action scenes are often filmed. (Tony Zhou also discussed this in his excellent ​“Every Frame a Painting” series.)

Regardless of whether you’re a long-time fan of the genre or a total n00b that doesn’t know your Jackie Chan from your Jimmy Wang Yu, I highly recommend this video. If nothing else, it makes a good case why this genre — which is so often dismissed as mindless action — deserves plenty of respect from a filmmaking perspective. (Via Kottke.)