Interview With Idol Ninja

World Cinema – Asian Martial Arts Research – Interview with Idol Ninja – Http://

After reading the ‘About’ page on this person’s blog, I saw how passionate they were for martial arts films, asian ones in general.


I’m 36 and married, with a 12+year career in IT. My wife and I recently moved out of state for her job, and I’m looking for work. In the meantime, I decided to get into game development. It’s something that I’ve always dreamed of doing, so its pretty exciting. I also translate Japanese as a hobby and subtitle and author my own DVD’s. I have a massive collection of Asian cinema with a focus on fantasy martial arts and wuxia. I also play guitar and keyboards and also do composition.’

I saw this, and had the idea to ask them about the different types of films. I sent:

‘Hey, I am doing a media studies project at college, and it is all about asian martial arts cinema. I was wondering if I could interview you about them? I need to talk to people who are passionate about the genre. Don’t worry, it would only be a few questions over the internet. Comment on my blog if you are interested please. Thanks alot.

Doug Kerr.’

Then I received the reply:

‘Sure thing. As a huge asian cinema fan, I’d be glad to participate. Ask away. :)’

Which I replied to him with the questions:

‘1. Why are you so interested in Asian Martial arts?

2. Can you remember the first Asian Martial Arts film that you watched?

3. Do you have a favourite actor/actress?

4. Can you give me your opinion (mini review) on the following films:

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
House of Flying Daggers

5. How do you think hero’s and villains are shown in the films?

I then received all of these answers to my questions:

1. Why are you so interested in Asian Martial arts?

I find Asian cinema to be very creative and unique when compared to Hollywood fare. There is a certain energy there, especially in martial arts cinema, that makes viewing much more entertaining. My favorite sub-genre would be fantasy martial arts movies. I also have quite a fondness for Kyonsei (hopping zombie) movies, especially ones with Lam Ching-Ying (the one-eyebrow priest aka Mr. Vampire.)

2. Can you remember the first Asian Martial Arts film that you watched?

My first exposure was when a group of my friends rented Revenge of the Ninja starring Sho Kosugi when it came out on video rental in 1983. The movie that really started my obsession with Asian cinema though was when The Stormriders came out in 1998. After seeing Stormriders, I bought books and hit the Internet to track down as many similar films as I could. I currently own 500+ Hong Kong/Chinese martial arts movies, which doesn’t even include all the Japanese chambara and jidai geki movies I’ve managed to find.

3. Do you have a favourite actor/actress?

Actor: Tie
Ti Lung – His work with the Shaw Brothers studios in the 70s (especially the Gu Long wuxia adaptations directed by Chu Yuen.)
Gordon Liu – His work with Shaw Brothers studios directed by Lau Kar Leung are some of the best Shaolin martial arts I’ve ever seen. Especially the 36th Chamber cycle of films.

Actress: Kara Hui – Her work with Lau Kar Leung for Shaw Brothers studios in the 70s.

4. Can you give me your opinion (mini review) on the following films:

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
I don’t care for Ang Lee as a director, but the movie has beautiful cinematography, and the martial arts themselves are captured well. The big problem though is that Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh don’t speak Mandarin, (only Cantonese,) so the dialogue is terribly stilted and kind of ruins the rest of the film if you have a decent grasp of Mandarin. The best thing about the movie though is that it opened a door in the West for other Asian movies to come out here and get exposure.

House of Flying Daggers
Zhang Yimou is a fantastic director, and his second wuxia movie (the first being Hero) is a great follow up. Beautiful visuals, but didn’t really hold a candle to Hero. I may be a bit biased because my expectations were through the roof for the movie after Hero. Andy Lau is great in just about everything, and Zhang Ziyi is both an excellent actress and martial artist. It was also interesting to see Takeshi Kaneshiro who has been popping up lately in Chinese cinema, most recently John Woo’s Red Cliff.

Hero is one of my favorite wire-fu wuxia movies I’ve ever seen. I was really surprised at how this turned out considering that Zhang Yimou’s previous films were dramatic period pieces like Raise the Red Lantern. The action choreography by Ching Siu-Tung was incredible. He has always done excellent work, especially in the 90s with Tsui Hark films like Swordsman 2, but this was just off the charts. It was also a very deep film, using colors to signify different personal versions and false versions of events. It also had a great all-star cast.

5. How do you think hero’s and villains are shown in the films?

In the above films, arthouse martial arts tend to offer shades of gray in both the Heroes and the Villains. For example in Hero, the ruler of Qin was in reality a ruthless dictator who practiced genocide and book burning, similar to Nazi Germany’s Hitler. It was actually shocking to see him portrayed as a somewhat sympathetic character in the film to Chinese audiences. Generally Asian cinema is pretty black and white when it comes to heroes and villains. A lot of this is due to heavy censorship of anything critical of the the Chinese government.

NOTE: Kind of a strange selection of movies for opinions, considering that two of them are by the same director. They are all arthouse martial arts movies as opposed to “true” martial arts movies. You may want to have the opinions be open ended based on genre or period, like favourite:
90s wire fu
Fantasy martial arts
Kung fu
Shaw Brothers studios
Golden Harvest studios

Or just mix it up a bit with other popular current movies in the West like say Ong Bak, or any of the Jet Li US films.

Anyways, best of luck on your project!

These answers really helped me with the research of my project, and I can use them to help add to my knowledge of Asian martial arts cinema.


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