Movie of the Day – The 36th Chamber of Shaolin
July 27, 2012 Leave a comment
Now I have recently been watching the new trailer for The Rza’s kung-fu epic “The Man with the Iron Fists” over and over again. It’s basically a dream come true in that The Rza has finally made his throwback epic to the days of Shaw Brother studio classics. If you haven’t seen the trailer, I suggest clicking on the link I provided and indulge in what will be greatness. With that said I went to back to my extensive collection of movies and picked out today’s film because why the hell not. The Rza’s movie isn’t due out for a while and I need a kung-fu fix like a junkie, so why not watch the grand daddy of all kung-fu films with The 36th Chamber of Shaolin.
Liu Yu-te (Gordon Lau Kar-fai) is a gentle ethics scholar until his family and friends are brutally slaughtered by a band of Manchu troops. Vowing revenge, he ventures to the fabled Shaolin temple hoping to become a one-man martial arts killing machine. Rechristened San Te, his first year at the temple is spent largely doing menial chores. His begins training during his second year, which involves passing through 35 chambers where he learns the finer points of kung-fu through grueling and excruciating tests. After a year of training, he moves on to learn about weapons. He soon proves to be the finest student in the history of the temple, mastering the entirety of the training in mere five years. He is cast out of the temple, however, for wanting to teach his skills to the masses. Once out of the temple, he assembles a team of fighters and sets out to get revenge. ~ Jonathan Crow, Rovi
This is widely considering one of the best kung-fu films around and having seen it multiple times, I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments of those in the kung-fu community. 36th Chamber isn’t hyped up for the fight scenes, historical back story or even the acting (although Gordon Lau is a badass). The film is best remembered for taking that lovely film trope of the montage and expanding on it to the point where it becomes the film itself. The focus of the film is on the intense, somewhat accurate representation of the training that the Shaolin went through. Instead of our familiar montage edits where we see the span of a few days go by to a sweet electronic tune, showing the progression of skills being developed in a short amount of time, we actually dive into the training itself.
The crux of the film is the exploration into the different chamber of the Shaolin training and how each chamber is tuned to one particular skill. It’s fascinating watching a training montage that actually shows this slow progression and how San Te begins to develop into more than just a pupil who wants to avenge the wrongs he has encountered. Sure, watching San go through very specific chambers is satisfying in the way that kung-f enthusiasts get to see the inner workings of the Shaolin, but it’s about the development as a leader and future disciple, the training is just a means to develop the character into a well rounded human being. It’s incredible to watch Gordon go through the sessions, becoming the best pupil possible. It highlights the care and intensiveness of the training, not just skimming through it as the film pushes along to it’s final confrontations.
For kung-fu fans, this is the really the movie that has it all. The care and showcasing of the shaolin ways are impeccable and meant to build up the legend of the training. I mean there are countless movies that all have the fighting style incorporated into the movies, but now you get to see the groundwork of the style. I must admit that 36th Chamber is downright incredible to watch. Gordon Lau is mesmerizing as you watch his skills develop over time and he has that tenacity that makes watching this movie exciting. 36th Chamber really kind of set the bar high in terms of what a kung-fu movie should be and that spirit lives on through a lot of different kung-fu movies that idolize what The 36th Chamber of Shaolin did for them.