Portrait of the Warrior in Two Films Film Review

Pages: 5 (1450 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: History - Asian

Portrait of the Warrior in Two Films

Film is a good medium for cultural and political representation. Images and dialogue shape the audience's viewpoint concerning who they are. Without question, film is a signifying system that one can analyze for patterns of meaning and representation. One perspective analyzes film as an Orientalizing "system of signification that represents non-Western cultures to Western recipients in the course of Western imperialism" (Chow 2009, 169). Here the idea is to analyze how the film manipulates its images ideologically to portray a culture. In a different example, Jenny Kwok Wah Loh has concluded that Chinese films tend to represent the domination of insiders over outsiders (Loh 1991, 173). She writes, "The Chinese notion of human relationships is dramatized in the Hong Kong films by the acute distinction between the 'insiders' and the 'outsider'" (Loh 1991, 171). She draws a distinction, further, between Chinese films and Hong Kong films where the latter perpetuate such ideologies less by an appeal to the heart and more by the survival of the physical body. The stress on the physical body makes sense in light of the postcolonial realization that the body is both a site of oppression and a site of resistance to and self-articulation against oppression (Gateward 2009, 63). For the present analysis, the notions of "orientalizing" portraits of the Asian, the insider/outsider dynamics, and the focus on the body as a site of resistance are important analytical categories.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Film Review on Portrait of the Warrior in Two Films Assignment

This essay will contrast Fist of Legend (1984) and The Last Samurai (2003) with respect to their representations of the Asian warrior. In Fist of Legend, the category of insider/outsider is crucial since the film deals with the Chinese warrior's response to Japanese colonial occupation. The principle tension is one of ethnicity related to Japanese imperial conquest. In The Last Samurai, the principal issue is the classic warrior system against a modernist perspective driven by Western values. Here the category of Orientalism becomes more important, since it is a Hollywood film with a Western portrayal of Asian culture. While there are many complexities that cannot be addressed, this paper wants to show how cultural and political representations are presented in the image of the warrior.

Fist of Legend falls into the genre of the wuxia or Kung Fu movie. However, it is primarily about the conflict between Japanese and Chinese during the period of Japanese imperialist expansion. Rather than present a monolithic view of culture, its narrative highlights the tension between Japanese and Chinese identity. This conflict is felt most deeply in the main character of Chen Zhen (Jet Li), who is a martial arts warrior from the Jing Wu Men. At the outset, he learns that his master has been killed in combat with someone from the rival Japanese band, the Black Dragon Clan. He abandons his love in Japan to return to China with thoughts of revenge. It is this which fuels his intense anger toward the Japanese, symbolized by his destruction of a "tolerance" sign in the Jing Wu Men precinct. The ethnic impact of this act is stressed when Ting'en, the new master, says, "The foreigners have been domineering and tyrannical in China because we Chinese have tolerated them for so long." Only a few key moments can be shown to illustrate how the insider/outsider and ethnic dynamics play out in Chen Zhen's response.

He is intentionally aggressive toward the Japanese. While as a warrior he respects his dead master, he does not respect his enemies. He barges illegally into their space and whips the rival gang with his shoes on, showing complete disrespect. He says, "This is the land of China and Chinese can go anywhere they want." His warrior ethic is tainted by angry ethnic passion. After solidly defeating the man who allegedly killed his master, he says, "I see now you could never win a match against my master." The implied idea is that no Japanese could defeat a Chinese. In other words, the hero has adopted the racist attitude to begin with, but it is not his real belief.

At the same time, martial arts are not the real war. The film uses them symbolically to represent the nationalistic conflict. In one scene, the Japanese master Funakoshi tells Chen Zhen that "the best way to conquer an opponent is to use a gun." His point is… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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