Circus Martial Arts

City_Under_SiegeI just saw "City Under Siege" a film by Benny Chan at the Hong Kong Film Festival.  The best line in the film is this exchange:

Question: "Do you practice a lot of martial arts here?"

Answer:  "No, it's just a circus."

If you've been reading this blog you know that the Chinese circus tradition is Martial Arts.  To my delight the film's makers are strongly rooted in the gongfu theater tradition and share a historically informed ironic love of it.

Here is the plot.  While on tour the mean circus crew and the one nice guy clown happen into some biological warfare and are given a dose of mutating virus which makes them act like they are on a million doses of PCP.  The mean guys and one girl get meaner and go on a robbing and beating up police spree, the nice guy gets some confidence and fights back.  The physical comedy is top notch.  So is the gongfu.  And so is the physical embodiment of evil.

Here is the second best line in the film:  "Even acupuncture doesn't work!"  It is delivered by a doctor super cop brought in  from "The Mainland" with his super cop half wife lover side kick.  (Yes, I said half wife--he has nick named her "Tai," half of what you call a married woman: Taitai).  He is pickled cucumber cool and she is Sichuan pepper hot.

Did I mention the steel whips and nine section staff work?  Yea, it's great.  And this movie takes it's flying daggers really seriously!  If at all possible you should bring a date to this movie because the mandatory love interest scenes are actually touching and sexy at the same time!

The fighting sets are inspiring and modern.  The morality of the story is classic and timeless, almost Faustian:   Vanity, greed, power and desire create a hell realm on earth.

Unfortunately last night was the last showing at the Festival but if this film doesn't get a wider release my faith in humanity has been misplaced.  Keep your eyes out for it, or have it beamed directly into your central nervous system by satillite if you have that service.

Great news:  The San Francisco Film Society has gotten it's hands on the theater in the basement of the New People Building in Japan Town.  It's a great place to see a film and they have a lot of interesting stuff coming up, including a showing of the new Shaolin movie this weekend.siege