Books read in 2013 # 104 - 105 - More comic books
105. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 1 by Wang Du Lu and Andy Seto - You know it's amazing, but I don't file Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as the greatest kung fu movie. Even though it was more professionally produced and allowed American audiences to get the character names as well as beautifully shot, I don't necessarily love it in the same way that I love the Hong Kong movies that I watched in the 90s - which were much cruder. Part of that might be the nostalgia factor. Hanging out with my friend Jojo and going to Asia Media Access events to volunteer if we were needed (get in free if we weren't) was one of the things that was fighting it out with my conversion to Judaism (since the schedule was Friday midnight, Saturday afternoon and Saturday midnight - until the movie theater decided to start running Rocky Horror Picture Show on Saturday midnights - so fuck you Rocky kids from the 1990s - at least the ones that live in Minneapolis) and it was a great community and action movies that proved that Hard Target only scratched the surface of how crazy these things could be. I remember telling Steve "Disco" (this juggler hippie dude that I knew from the U of MN - not very well since I can't remember his last name) to shut the fuck up after enduring a half hour of his running "whacky" commentary (the MST3K comedians are professionals. Try it at home but do not try it in the movie theater) and that was for Armor of God - a Jackie Chan movie that is fun for the first ten minutes and the last 15 minutes and fucking boring for the 4-5 hours in between. I remember being annoyed with the people who were watching the movie ironically and laughing throughout - I even name checked Niku - this Iranian/Jewish girl that I volunteered with in the Bijou movie group, even wanted her to run it after I was gone - only to discover that she was talking shit about everyone and practically driving the group apart (I figured that I was an aggressive asshole as a volunteer and diplomatic as leader so she should be the same - unfortunately sometimes when you put an aggressive asshole in charge of a group, she remains an aggressive asshole) - in the movie theater - like "Shut up Niku!" Wonder what happened to her. But the movies were done on sound stages, they went on for long stretches, they were ridiculous at times and often referenced myths and legends that I didn't know (Green Snake in particular is based on a legend that gets a TON of adaptations and permutations - this version was the "Fucking Buddhist Monk zealots trying to screw with the romantic snakes-turned-humans" version. Other versions make the snakes out to be villains and monsters.) and interrupted with music (the "Bride with White Hair 2" song montage was beautiful since it involved the two characters sending love letters via carrier pigeon until a third character killed and ate the bird)
But Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - it was too well made to love. At least over the long term. I think I would enjoy the movie if I saw it today, but I don't know if I would love it. Still, I was curious about the books since most of these kung fu epics are based on books. I even wrote a novel that attempted to be a kung fu epic (it's an interesting failure - I might try another one, but there are points where the characters sound like white people imitating the Chinese people that they see on 70s commercials. I almost got that one published by a small press, but thankfully, that publisher decided to fold up shop to work on his own book - I was pissed, but I got to keep the $100 advance and now I'm rather grateful) but the epic five book series isn't translated. So instead I settled on buying the comic adaptation.
And I have no clue what's going on in this one. I thought that made sense, but actually the author decided to give us the Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh characters - but their back stories - before diving into the plot of the fourth book in the five book series - and the one that became a movie. The artwork is good but there's just too much fighting and not enough characterization. There's also a lot of "she's perfect for you, too bad she is going to marry this other guy" story which is much more powerful in a story taking place hundreds of years ago (in China no less - but let's be honest, arranged marriages were pretty much standard all over the place) The rest of it is just ancient family revenge and "I killed my best friend when he went bad. Now his family is after me." It's ok, but nothing exciting.