Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Flying over roofs, running on walls.

I have a question for the Chinese men of my generation who used to so love those black and white Cantonese wuxia movies of the 1950’s. When you listen to this Chinese pipa classical called 十面埋伏, what picture or scene comes to your mind?

I believe, like me, many of you will immediately visualize a night scene where a masked intruder in black, crouches and walks stealthily on the roof of a building. That’s the same kind of scene that Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon director, Lee Ang (sigh … those Americans changed his name to Ang Lee) so skillfully weaved into the beginning of his movie. However, I am glad that he used the drums as the background for that famous Zhang Ziyi - Michelle Yeoh fight scene - one of the best ever, in my opinion. It adds so much to the excitement.

In Cantonese, we call this type of action, fei sim zhao pek (飛簷走壁)** or "flying over roofs, running on walls". Through the magic of modern-day special effects, Lee Ang helps us to see what it means to literally “fly over roofs and run on walls”. With the help of YouTube, we can enjoy that scene again.

Still it would be fun for us oldies to view those old Cantonese fight scenes once again just for the nostalgia. Anyone know where we can view them?

Can you guess where this photo was taken? Answer here.

 ** It’s quite confusing. There are actually two versions of this metaphor. The more popular version is 飞檐走壁 ( fei yan zhao pek – thanks to KL for enlightening me) which I found in many websites. But I managed to find one (here) which gives a Cantonese pronunciation that is similar to that which my mother taught us.


thedeadcockroach said...

You could subscribe to Shaw Classic on SCV where they show all the old HK wuxia movies from Shaw Brothers.

fr said...

One scene I could think of is a masked intruder in black moving swiftly across the rooftop of the palace with the mission of assassinating the emperor.

The pipa tune, The Ambush, heightens the excitement.

Joseph Wong said...

You can catch some of these movies on youtube. Of late, I have been watching segments of the Wong Fei Hung movies from the 50s and 60s featuring Kwan Tak Hing. I am also learning to play the theme song of the movie, the very familiar 'On the General's Mandate' on the electric guitar. That version would be from the movie 'Once upon a time' featuring Jet Li as WFH.

Zen said...

All these ground-to-wall-to-roof wuxia movements, especially for older films (cantonese in particular) were highly exaggerated, but Ang Lee made them more credible by making the fighters dashing along the walls in a zig-zag manner, before reaching the roof-tops. He was actually targeting at an international audience, western in particular. With a good story-line, skillful display of fighting technics, involving fists, palms, kicks and an assortment of weapons used. He also selected the right choice of actors and actresses. All these factors contributed to the smashing success of the film.

Selatke said...

When I listen to this pipa classic, the scene that comes to my mind is that of an army being ambushed on all sides. This is obvious from the title, which literally means “ten directions ambushed”. It is similar to my association with a dying swan when I listen to the cello classic “The Swan”.

If you listen carefully, it is not difficult to imagine the sounds of clashing weapons and the neighing of horses being simulated by the pipa. It describes the last battle fought around 202 BC between the armies of the Han warlord (founder of the Han Dynasty) and the Chu warlord.

I can’t imagine someone stealing into a big house at night and creating such a racket!

The only technique I hope to learn when I was young watching all those Cantonese black-and-white sword-fighting movies is the use of “flying dagger” (飞刀). It would enable me to throw up a dagger and it would go after my enemy miles away and kill him before flying back to me!

You can watch more than 500 Shaw movies produced during the last 50 years, including the gongfu movies, in HD and all stored in one single device in the ZiiEagle Treasure Box by Creative, at a price of $1,299.

As regards the two characters 檐 and 簷, the first is the standard simplified character, and the second is a variant.

Lam Chun See said...

Setlatke. You are able to picture an army battle scene becos you know the title of the music. As kids we just hear a short section; usually the front part during the movie, and my recollection is always a night scene like I described.

Spend $1k plus and watch 500 old movies? No thanks. The old movies are like the ice balls; good only for reminiscing; not for actual consumption.

peter said...

My wife told me TVB HK uses the Internet platform for current serials broadcast. You can download and then play-back on the TV.

Now I discovered SinTel mioTV on Channel 50 which previously offered bundled Cantonese from HK/Mandarin movies has now decided to move the Cantonese movies to another channel and bill us one more time. This is crab after we paid extra for Channel 50 just 6 months ago. Singtel MioTV calls this enhanced customer service. There goes my Ip Man kungfu movies.

Looks like government agencies and privatised agencies have no qualms to ask for money. Next time, I should also ask for payment. Volunteering is a dirty word these days.

....... said...

A friend commented that for western movies, people are dashing from tree to tree. For Hindu movies, people are running from tree to tree. As for Chinese movies, people are flying from tree to tree.


Lam Chun See said...

But in recent years, many Western movies feature super heroes who fly or swing from sky scraper to sky scraper. e.g. Spider man.

SEO Services India said...

yes you are right Lam, I love old super heroes because they have capability to do every stunt and they had also.

Mariam Freame said...

Since time immemorial (or, ever since pop culture was born) ninjas have been jumping on roofs. There's no need for transportation. They can hop from rooftop to rooftop and get to their destination easier. Oh, how I wish I have their skills too.