SATURDAY, MAY 1 | ENTER THE DRAGON | 12:00 PM | SUNSET 5
|ENTER THE DRAGON|
ENTER THE DRAGON
(Hong Kong/United States, 1973)Dir.: Robert Clouse; Scr.: Michael Allin
35mm, 98 min., color, narrative, in English and Cantonese w/ E.S.
Plus PANEL DISCUSSION , which will follow after the film presentation: A special post-screening panel with Shannon Lee, Directors Reggie Hudlin, Brett Ratner, Joe Hahn (Linkin Park) and moderated by Phil Yu of angryasianman.com.
Martial arts fans may debate whether ENTER THE DRAGON is the best kung fu flick in American history but it’s certainly the most influential. Released in the summer of 1973, just weeks after the untimely death of its star, Bruce Lee, ENTER THE DRAGON introduced U.S. audiences to martial arts cinema and nearly forty years later, its influence is still felt in cinema, television, video games, music, and more. Directed by Robert Clouse, ENTER THE DRAGON introduced a new genre by borrowing from two contemporaneous ones. From the James Bond spy thrillers, ENTER THE DRAGON cobbled together its subplot. The British recruit Lee to infiltrate the island lair of Han, a renegade Shaolin disciple running drugs and prostitutes whilst amassing a private army. From blaxploitation movies such as SHAFT and SUPERFLY, ENTER THE DRAGON borrows its funky wah-wah score, touches of social commentary, and a supporting role for Black action star Jim Kelly.
The whole affair is enjoyably overwrought, but what prevents it from descending into pure camp is Lee himself. Though a star in Hong Kong, ENTER THE DRAGON was the first time most Americans had a chance to see his physicality put into poetic motion. Whether roundhouse kicking his way through black-clad bad guys, whipping nunchucks across his washboard abs or uttering now immortal aphorisms as “You have dishonored my family,” Lee’s presence transcends the film’s mish-mash of styles. ENTER THE DRAGON isn’t so much a spy/blaxploitation/kung fu flick as it is a “Bruce Lee film.” It seems that for Asian Americans who grew up in the wake of ENTER THE DRAGON, the movie became a mix of pride, aspiration, and at times, a burden. Lee gave Asians – especially Asian men – a visibility rarely seen in U.S. media, one that broadcast strength, integrity and virility. On the other hand, “Bruce Lee” continues to be a tired shorthand for Asian men in general. Yet, despite the complexities of that legacy, to see Lee at his prime in the film is to witness something remarkable that will never be duplicated (even if there’s talk of remaking ENTER THE DRAGON). That giddy magic still awaits those who see the film, whether for the first time or the thirtieth.
— Oliver Wang