Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Unseen #27: Last Hurrah For Chivalry

In another attempt to boost this poor anemic column up with some steroids of love, I’m providing a double dose of pimping- er The Unseen.

Why’d I Buy It?: Dragon Dynasty puts out a fine product. They’re maybe the most underrated DVD company today, their prints are superlative, their restoration work admirable, and their discs are usually worth buying for the archival material alone. I love seventies John Woo and wanted to see him get the royal treatment.

Why Haven’t I Watched It?: Well the thing is Last Hurrah For Chivalry isn’t technically a Kung Fu film. It’s a full blown Wu Xia picture, a genre that translates a little less gracefully to western audiences audiences.

Though the genre is broad, the simplest way to describe Wu Xia is it’s a permutation of the martial arts movie in which the pageantry and melodrama matter just as much if not more then the actual martial arts.

I mean listen to that theme music.

If that ain’t the sound of manly tears I don’t know what is.

Its not a bad thing, just disconcerting if you’re not in the mind set. This isn’t even mentioning a slow start, a plot convoluted even by genre standards, and two lead characters, who thanks to the fact that both where the same hyper stylized Wu Xia hair, costumes, sideburns, and eyebrows are just plain difficult to tell apart.

Like I said, none of this is a deal killer in and of itself, but combined its lead to me drifting off in the first half hour of the movie after a long day a whooooolllllleeee bunch of times.

How Was It?: A lot of fun actually. Once one’s expectations are suitably adjusted, Last Hurrah For Chivalry is kind of a blast. Things get off to a good start with the supreme dick of a villain (A blast to watch. A true case of first class mustache twirling, or given the mileu Beard stroking) coming to a wedding of a rival Kung Fu master and starts some shit. Inciting things with a twist that I’m sure is awesome in spite of or because of its blatant misogyny.

Everyone in the school is killed, save the requisite student who survives to vow revenge. If the title, genre, and awesome theme music didn’t tip you off, Last Hurrah For Chivalry is a wildly melodramatic film. In away all John Woo’s films are Wu Xia films. One of the elements that has always set his films apart is the extreme level of emotional masochism in them. The heroes of John Woo films go through torments that Joan Crawford would find too much. Last Hurrah is no exception and the mileage you get out of it will relate directly to the milege you get from shirtless, well muscled, oiled, and weeping Asian men vowing revenge and crying over the corpses of fallen comrades. Which happens to be something I have a high tolerance for.

Don’t judge me.

Its a shame that I didn’t hold on through those opening minutes. Slow as Last Hurrah starts when it does build to its action scenes it does so with gusto.

For fans of this particular school of filmmaking Last Hurrah For Chivalry is something close to a Platonic ideal. It asks for patience. But it rewards it as well.


Franco Macabro said...

Saw this one when I had a Kung Fu Craze period, but it was one of the finest Kung Fu movies I saw. It concentrates more on sword play and the friendship between the two main characters. I was surprised to find out that John Woo had made this one since he is more well known for making his action shoot em up's.

Erich Kuersten said...

this is one is hilarious! I love the Sleeping Wizard!

This IS the one with the Sleeping Wizard, correct? It just doesn't get any better than a sleeping wizard.

Matt-suzaka said...

I really enjoy this film too, and the Sleeping Wizard scene is one of may favorite in the movie. Wildly funny, and the choreography of that scene are top notch.

Dragon Dynasty does put out fantastic DVDs and Bey Logan usually does insightful commentaries on them. However, the Weinsteins are known to sit on their martial arts and Asian acquisitions for a very long time and for no good reason. Pretty lame.

Bryce Wilson said...

@ FC: You'd be surprised how many Kung Fu films Woo has directed Franco. And by how many good ones.

@ Erich: This IS the one with the sleeping wizard. And no it does not get any better then him.

@ Matt: I almost feel as if the label is karmic penance for how badly they fucked up for so long.

Hardeep said...

Great review! Cool characters and amazing swordplay. I also had no idea this was a John Woo film, but it makes perfect sense in hindsight.