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When “Hollywood of the East” meets Hollywood

   Hollywood is the epitome of American immigrant society. As early as the 1920s and 1930s, Hollywood attracted a large number of film talents from all over the world with its abundant funds and complete industrial system. Their participation has injected continuous vitality into Hollywood. While enriching the style and themes of movies, they have also constituted an important aspect of American culture.
   Among the film talents recruited by Hollywood, Chinese are naturally indispensable. However, in the United States where racist concepts were once prevalent, Chinese people cannot become the protagonists of Hollywood after all. Whether it was Huang Liushuang, who caused countless controversies, or Lu Yan and Li Lihua, who went to Hollywood after the war, it was difficult for them to gain a foothold in the mainstream American film industry, and even strengthened the stereotype of Chinese audiences in the United States. This situation did not change until the birth of Bruce Lee in the 1970s.
  Bruce Lee: Set off “Kung Fu Whirlwind”
   Due to the small market, it is difficult for Hong Kong films to obtain huge profits relying solely on the local box office. Therefore, since the 1930s, Hong Kong films have gradually formed an export-oriented business model, targeting Cantonese-speaking audiences in Southeast Asia and around the world. After the 1950s, Hong Kong gradually emerged as the “Hollywood of the East”. After occupying the markets in Southeast Asia and other places, Hong Kong producers and filmmakers are eager to further promote their films to the world. The US’s huge film market, diverse film culture, and relatively free and open competitive environment are quite attractive to Hong Kong filmmakers. It can be said that if Hong Kong films want to go global, entering the US market is a crucial part.
   Bruce Lee became the key figure in this link. He was born in a family of performers in 1940, and he starred in many Cantonese films as a child actor in the 1950s. When he was a boy, Bruce Lee learned Wing Chun from martial arts master Ip Man. In 1959, Bruce Lee went to the United States and majored in philosophy and psychology at Washington State University. In the mid-to-late 1960s, Bruce Lee opened a shop in the United States to teach apprentices, and tried to gain a place in Hollywood.
   However, this early experience of wandering around was not really smooth. Although he amazed American audiences with his unique skill “Jet Kune Do”, he was often dismissed as a supporting role and had to make various compromises. For example, in the TV series “The Green Hornet” (1966), Bruce Lee played the assistant of the Green Hornet and was set to be Japanese. Many years later, Hollywood adapted this series to the screen, and Jay Chou, who played the same role in the movie version, was one of Bruce Lee’s admirers. Bruce Lee was dissatisfied with the prejudice and indifference he suffered, and his failure to star in the TV series “Kung Fu” (1972) made him even more disheartened.
   Bruce Lee, who was frustrated in the United States, decided to return to Hong Kong. Since then, he has successively starred in “Brother Tangshan” (1971), “Fist of Fury” (1972), and “Way of the Dragon” (1972), breaking the box office record of Hong Kong movies in succession. Even Europe and the United States set off a “Kung Fu whirlwind”.
   Until this time, Hollywood producers were willing to lower their “noble” heads and offer an olive branch to Bruce Lee. In “Enter the Dragon” (1973), co-produced by Golden Harvest and Warner Bros., Bruce Lee plays a martial arts master who is invited to a small island to participate in a martial arts tournament. In fact, he has a secret mission to collect criminal evidence of a Shaolin scum . With the help of his companions, he finally destroyed the bandit’s nest and completed the mission. “Enter the Dragon” tries to combine Chinese Kung Fu with Hollywood’s genre paradigm, packs Chinese cultural elements in a novelty package, and sells it to European and American audiences. As a result, this B-grade film (referring to a film with a short shooting time and low production budget) with an investment of only more than 500,000 US dollars has earned Warner Bros. more than 10 million US dollars so far.
  Jackie Chan: Breaking the Stereotype
   Nevertheless , “Enter the Dragon” shows that Bruce Lee was at a certain disadvantage when working with Western filmmakers. Bruce Lee, one of the oriental kung fu superstars, is portrayed only as an action hero in the film—this kind of taciturn, mysterious and humorless oriental hero can be found everywhere in Hollywood movies. In the unequal power relationship, Bruce Lee had to accept the manipulation of his image by the Hollywood film mechanism. The most obvious point is the film’s presentation of violence: Bruce Lee has almost become a cold-blooded killing machine. Taste, then fight back more ferociously.
   In 1973, Bruce Lee passed away suddenly. In the process of “cloning” Bruce Lee, a group of new stars emerged, the best of which was another “Kung Fu Dragon” – Jackie Chan. In the early 1980s, Golden Harvest tailored several films for Jackie Chan, and tried to push them to the American market through joint production. In films such as “The Killer” (1980) and “The Dragon Detective” (1985), Jackie Chan dedicated many difficult stunt scenes, leaving a deep impression on people with his vigorous and flexible skills. However, the reception of these films in the United States was mediocre, and Jackie Chan’s first attempt to break into Hollywood ended in failure, which even became an unbearable scene in his career. For about ten years thereafter, Jackie Chan deliberately kept a distance from Hollywood.
   After the mid-1990s, Jackie Chan had the opportunity to join hands with Hollywood again with the hits of “Rush Zone” (1994) and “Police Story 4: Simple Mission” (1996). The most iconic work is “Rush Hour” “Series of videos. Inspector Li, played by Jackie Chan, and the rapping black actor Chris Tucker form a wonderful combination, which can always defeat the villain’s conspiracy in unexpected ways. Jackie Chan’s character is righteous but not preachy, loyal to his duty and flexible, not to mention his signature kung fu and sense of humor. With these, Jackie Chan became the most popular Hong Kong movie star among contemporary American audiences; more importantly, he changed the stereotyped image of the Chinese on the screen to a large extent, which is exactly what Bruce Lee failed to accomplish.
  Tough Guys: Woo Yusen, Lam Lingdong, Tsui Hark
   When Jackie Chan’s reputation in the United States was growing, Hong Kong directors represented by Woo Yusen, Lam Lingdong, and Tsui Hark also won the favor of Hollywood producers. Wu Yusen’s hero films, Lam Ling-tung’s wind and cloud films, and Tsui Hark’s martial arts films are all models leading the creative trend. Their influence has already surpassed Hong Kong, and they also have many fans in Hollywood.
   However, filming in an unfamiliar environment still faces many challenges. The difference in production methods between the two places limits the free play of Hong Kong directors, not to mention the cultural and value differences between the East and the West. In Hollywood, where producers have higher authority, Hong Kong directors have to make certain concessions; Hollywood is not without strict production methods and strong labor unions, which prevent Hong Kong filmmakers from working long hours every day, and are not allowed to work at will. Reshoot, make up. This one-sidedly explains the fate of Hong Kong’s top directors in Hollywood: apart from John Woo, Lin Lingdong and Tsui Hark are probably just passers-by in Hollywood.
   Generally speaking, most of the films directed by these three directors in Hollywood are only medium-cost, mainly thrillers and crime films, and all of them focus on gun battles or action scenes, injecting oriental elements into Hollywood action films .
   In “The Ultimate Target” (1993), “Broken Arrow” (1996), “Face Changing” (1997) and other films, John Woo combined gorgeous gun battle scenes, precise scene scheduling, and breathless rhythm. The fusion opened the eyes of American audiences. Before him, Hollywood action movies had never been so romantic: In an abandoned warehouse or church, white pigeons are flying, and the protagonist suddenly leaps into the air, shoots with both hands, and hits his opponent. With this unique aesthetic of shootouts, John Woo gained a firm foothold in Hollywood and won the opportunity to direct blockbusters – in his “Mission: Impossible 2” (2000), the superstar Tom Cruise went to heaven Go to the ground, while saving the world, embrace the beauty.
   Despite the change in style, Woo’s films in Hollywood have retained certain of his preferred themes. For example, the two protagonists in “Broken Arrow” parted ways due to differences in values, and the two protagonists in “Face Changing” caused identity confusion due to the exchange of faces, which can be regarded as variations on the theme of “Double Heroes”; “Wind Talker” (2002) used the form of war films to emphasize male friendship and affirmed the heroism and self-salvation of the protagonist.
   Following in the footsteps of Woo Yusen, Lin Lingdong started his Hollywood journey with his grim style, gloomy tone and climaxing violent scenes. “Hardly Entering 100% Dangerous” (1996) revealed the inside story of the collusion between the FBI and the Russian gangs through a series of adventures of the protagonist; The appearance of human beings caused the whole city to fall into a horror atmosphere of panic; “Hell Awakening Dragon” (2003) portrayed the prison as a hell on earth, presenting the escalating hand-to-hand combat and the distortion of human nature. People think of the director’s famous “Prison Storm” (1987).
   Among the three action film directors who went to Hollywood to make films, Tsui Hark is probably the most frustrated one. In his work sequence, “The King of Counterattack” (1997) and “KO Thunder Blow” (1998) directed for Hollywood have been almost forgotten. This also shows that Tsui Hark’s favored complex narrative clues and unconstrained imagination are difficult to integrate with the genre conventions of Hollywood action movies, and failure is inevitable.
   After entering the new century, Hollywood is no longer the only center of the world’s film industry. In sharp contrast, the strong rise of China’s film industry. Against this background, Woo Yusen returned to the Chinese film scene with the giant “Red Cliff” (2008-2009), and Tsui Hark even integrated into the contemporary Chinese film industry with “Taking Tiger Mountain Out of Wisdom” (2014) and “Changjin Lake” (2021). mainstream. As the saying goes, “Hedong for 30 years, Hexi for 30 years”, the development of Hong Kong films today does not need to rely on Hollywood. Based on Chinese culture and the Chinese market, it is the only choice for Hong Kong films to go global.

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