East/West an Analysis of Eastern Research Paper

Pages: 10 (3310 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: History - Asian

Chen goes on to lay out every single reference and cross-reference he can find in the film, linking the Guzheng assassins to The Six-Fingered Lord of the Lute; Landlady's "Lion's Roar" to Jin Yong's Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre; and Sing's swollen lips to "Tony Leung Chiu-Wai's famous 'sausage lips' look from The Eagle Shooting Heroes."

Interestingly, Chow's influence is often romantic, affectionate and spiritual. CJ7, for example, allows for a resurrection, the likes of which haven't been seen since Shakespeare's Winter's Tale. Shaolin Soccer showed what perseverance and spiritual affiliation could do. But it is Kung Fu Hustle, a collaboration between Eastern and Western producers in a sort of East-meets-West ultra-homage to both Hong Kong and American cinema (in a cross-pollination of ideals), that marks Chow as a master of his craft.

One of Kung Fu Hustle's greatest qualities is that it doesn't flinch at scenes of emotional and physical brutality -- in fact, it couples them with childlike innocence, heroism, and simplicity. Just like Hans Christian Anderson or the Brothers Grimm, whose children's stories are often far darker than anything adults can even imagine, Hustle doesn't shy away from the darker side of life: it vigorously embraces and offers the cure: a kind of Looney Tunes nostalgia -- a hey-kid-remember-what-it-was-like-when-you-were-little? That love of the battle between Good and Evil? That's what's at the heart of Kung Fu Hustle -- and at the heart of Hong Kong cinema and the Golden Age of Hollywood.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Research Paper on East/West an Analysis of Eastern Assignment

The world of Hong Kong is a unique place. It has grown up under the wing of opium pushing British colonials. It has been allowed a certain independence in terms of financing and capital from the Communist mainland of The Republic. It seems to have a foot in both worlds, just as Shakespeare did at the end of the medieval world and the beginning of the modern in London, England. Perhaps it is that kind of right timing at the right place, that catching of the spirit that breathed life into Winter's Tale, that has also breathed life into Stephen Chow. Shakespeare was coming from a tradition of mystery plays, which fed the local people of a morality-hungry time. Chow is coming from a similar tradition in cinema that has exercised almost a century of Chinese knight errantry called kung fu: a warrior's code where Good is against Evil.

Part of the magic of the warrior's code, is that the fighting is hand-to-hand. It suggests something ancient and noble, like Greek warriors in single combat before an entire army watching to determine the outcome of a nation at war. Part of the weirdness of Hollywood action cinema is that it relies so heavily on guns and ammunition: weapons of mass destruction, in other words. As Li (2000) points out, kung fu itself as a Chinese tradition 'naturally' lends itself to the construction of amour propre and the invention of the Chinese nation. Stallone and Lee's bodies embody different ideologies respectively: Rambo's a construct of Reaganite cold-war rhetoric; Lee's an imagined collective identity against imperialism and colonization (p. 526).

Perhaps it is for this reason that Chow puts weapons into the hands of the enemies, the Axe Gang and the Beast, while the hero Sing relies on the Buddhist Palm (though, in grand Hollywood style, it's as equally effective as a weapon of mass destruction). But the one-on-one combat is essential to the spirituality of kung fu, so absent in Hollywood cinema. True, John Woo attempted to infuse a sense of this spirituality into his Hollywood films. But as for Hollywood itself, only such outsiders as Terrence Malick seem to have any inclination to deliver a spiritual sense, through a twining of imagery, narrative monologue and musical scores.

Music is one of Hustle's biggest assets. Each score is elegant, evocative, and spiriting when necessary. If Chow can be faulted by Chinese traditionalists for his effects-laden sequences, he makes up for it by timing them with beautiful traditional Chinese melodies accompanied by symphonic orchestra. According to Mark Pollard (2004), "Raymond Wong scores perhaps the best Hong Kong movie soundtrack ever made. A full orchestra recreates traditional Chinese music that would have often been heard in Chinese swordplay films of '30s and '40s. It's nicely mixed with modern flourishes to compliment the film." Without this mix, Kung Fu Hustle would be without that which makes it distinctly Eastern -- its music.

Influence is a Two-Way Street

By realizing how both East and West base their relationship on a mutual give and take, one can better understand how Eastern philosophy has helped shape Western philosophy. For example, Herman Hesse is one Western writer and philosopher who came under the influence of Eastern spirituality. Through his Siddhartha one glimpses the influence the East. More fascinating still is how the ideas found in modern Western literature, as in works by Hesse or Eliot, or the philosophy of Leibniz, we find concepts of karma, samsara, and moksha which are related to ideas expressed through Eastern spirituality. There appears to be a bridge between East and West and some scholars theorize that the origins of Hinduism actually stem from both the Vedas and the Indus culture -- and there certainly are similarities. There also appears to be an Aryan influence (with its Indo-European Sanskrit language) which remains most definite. It is the Aryan influence that primarily informs the Hindu tradition (Sanskrit, after all, is the "sacred language of the Hindu scriptures") (Sikora, p. 8). Likewise, the Aryans divided into castes -- as the Hindus do still to this day.

As Sikora suggests, the mythology of Hinduism is distinctly Aryan -- "the Aryans believed that the life essence was centered on the breath, i.e. prana," and that atman was like the Western concept of soul. Such an idea is even found in Native American traditions: the Cheyenne, for instance, would cover their mouths to keep their spirit from getting away (Berger, 1964, p. 43). Dharma, then, was like the duty that a Hindu was obligated to undergo -- and it was related to one's karma. One's karma, therefore, in the great cycle of life, could be affected by deeds or misdeeds in this life as well as in one of former times. If, for example, one was of a low caste -- this was the unfortunate result of bad karma -- perhaps the effect of misdeeds of the person in his other life.

If what goes around comes around, it would seem that the Aryan influence that helped inform the Eastern sacred texts has now in a way come back to inform the Western arts T.S. Eliot's "Wasteland" is the surest indication of this: "Eliot's note to line 402 ("Then spoke the thunder") directs the reader to 'the fable of the meaning of the Thunder,' recounted in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5" (Eliot, Rainey, 2006, p. 119). What Eliot incorporates into the thematic structure of his poem on the break-up of Western culture is a kind of Western eye turned towards the East for reassurance and enlightenment -- how, in other words, to exercise "self-control, giving, and mercy" (Eliot, Rainey, p. 120). Just as the Magi come from the East to make obeisance before the King of the Jews in the Gospel of Matthew, Eliot returns to the East to make obeisance before the side of the world that first recognized the Incarnate God of "self-control, giving, and mercy."

What does this trade-off mean in terms of Chineseness and Americanness? The West, and America in particular, seems to have cut itself off from any traditional source of spirituality. In fact, it seems as though what Americanness lacks is simply that: a traditional model for spirituality. Part of what it gains in the flow exchange from Hong Kong is that sense of spiritual purpose -- that transcendental ideal. Hong Kong can put some of that Eastern philosophy on screen and make it appealing for Westerners.

As Gerald Mast and Bruce Kawin (2006) conclude in their Short History of the Movies, Hong Kong isn't backing down from its spot on the world's stage:

Whether they are gritty and gory or sentimental and magical, whether they are gangster stories or fairy tales or martial arts spectaculars, the films defy the limits of space and time and endurance and even gravity in a realm of impossible wonders where dreams turn real, wounds never kill unless they bear a thematic charge, 'perpetual-motion editing' keeps sorcerers and combatants pin-wheeling and sweeping through the air for minutes on end, spells work, honor matters, style and skill are one, and every action and skill is an expression of good or evil. (p. 500)

Precisely because of Hong Kong's stories and histories, of her people's trials and escapes from persecution (such as John Woo's family who fled China's Christian… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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