Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Fighting Can Be Productive, Sometimes

Ip Man was a master of the martial art style called Wing Chun, and the film Ip Man, with Donnie Yen in the title role, is about his life in Fo Shan prior to, and during, the Japanese invasion of China. Prior to the invasion, he lives in a big house with his wife and son, the latter of whom he tends to neglect with practicing his form. He doesn't run a school, or take on students, but people still show up to test what they've learned elsewhere against him, and he accepts these mostly good-naturedly.

The invasion begins, his house is seized to serve as HQ for the local Japanese forces, and Ip Man and his family are soon living in a small apartment, and he has to take a job shoveling coal to keep his family fed. Then he learns that a general in the Japanese Army is encouraging local martial artists to come and test themselves against his soldiers in exchange for sacks of rice. Ip Man is not interested, until one of his friends goes, and dies fighting the general.

This leads to the inevitable showdown between Ip Man and General Miura, but there's also several other subplots about the struggles other people in Fo Shan are facing. A friend is trying to run a textile mill, but is seeing his shipments hijacked and held for ransom by some bandit gang, lead by a fellow Ip defeated earlier in the film. The man who was the local police captain before the invasion is now serving as an interpreter for the Japanese, and is responsible for helping get martial artists for Miura's tests.

What was interesting to me was that, despite his own hardships, Ip didn't seem to have considered the possibility others would be facing similar problems. His harsh reaction toward Liu (the former policeman) is understandable in his anger at a friends' death, but in general, he seems to have kept himself somewhat disconnected from everyday life. He's willing to help people in need (which has the effect of others being willing to help him, even if he hates to ask for or accept it), but he doesn't seek out those who need it. He has to be convinced to help, but once he does, he throws himself into it.

The fight scenes are pretty good, excellent flow and pacing. The fact that Ip Man uses the same movements in both the fights earlier in the film, when he's not being serious, and later, when he's furious and determined, works very well. With the early fights, you can see how easily he could hurt someone, but he's not. He's basically humoring these challengers, making light strikes or moving slow so maybe they can learn something from it. When he's serious, it's the same movements, but faster, and with real force behind them. Suddenly people are flying across the room, but they aren't getting up with a surprised or embarrassed look on their face. They aren't getting up at all.

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