DVD Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey
An in-depth look at the life of a legend, this documentary charts the rise to fame of Bruce Lee, chronicling his career in loving detail and presenting archive footage of his final, unfinished film, Game Of Death.
John Little’s documentary looks at the life of Bruce Lee, the martial arts actor and cultural icon. Beginning with his childhood, we see Lee learning Wing Chun under the tutelage of Yip Man and participating in unsanctioned brawls on the rooftops of Hong Kong. Lee later moves to the West and opens up a dojo, coming under fire for teaching his own modified version of Wing Chun to non Orientals.
Taking a keen interest in philosophy and constantly striving to innovate within the martial arts arena, Lee’s activities bring him to the attention of TV executives, who cast him as sidekick Kato in The Green Hornet. The show is a huge success, both in the US and in the East, and Lee is soon brought to China to act in fight films for Golden Harvest. Lee’s success encourages him to pioneer a new fighting style known as Jeet Kun Do (the way of the intercepting fist) and focus his attention on his burgeoning acting career.
Returning to America, he begins to cultivate his own cinematic style. His stardom grows, reaching its peak with Enter The Dragon, a film that was sadly released posthumously…
Bruce Lee’s life and work have long since passed into myth. He lives on, not only through his films, but also his enduring influence on the martial arts genre and popular culture as a whole. His photos still adorn bedroom walls all over the world, and his idiosyncratic approach to martial arts cinema remains a blueprint for the majority of modern fight films.
While he cannot be attributed with any form of genre creation, he is certainly responsible for the West’s love affair with Eastern fighting, his crossover appeal solidified by Enter The Dragon, a film that would have made him a global superstar had he lived to see its release.
Rob Cohen’s 1993 film Dragon: The Bruce Lee story offered up a stylised version of Lee’s life, taking true events and imbuing them with the kinetic energy of Lee himself, as an homage to the ‘little dragon’. It deftly mixed OTT action with the usual biopic tropes, and it remains one of the most potent depictions of its subject’s career.
John Little’s informative and reverent documentary offers an incredibly detailed look into Lee’s world and, while it works as a great companion piece to Cohen’s film, it quickly becomes evident that a stylised aesthetic is hardly needed to depict the extraordinary life of Bruce Lee.
Little begins, appropriately enough, at the end of Lee’s life, focusing on the principal photography of Game Of Death, a film that was intended to marry the philosophical ideology Lee had intended to communicate throughout his career with his versatile approach to the cinematic presentation of martial arts. If this documentary has a key failing, it’s that not much focus is placed on Lee’s final days, but since this is a celebration of his life and career, it’s hardly necessary to focus on its abrupt end.
His navel gazing forms the perfect soundtrack to footage of him in action both on and off the silver screen.
The documentary then segues to Lee’s arrival in the West and the controversy surrounding his decision to teach students of different race, presenting candid interviews with Lee’s wife, friends and former students, as well as archive footage and photography from the time. It’s a treasure trove for fans and Little manages to be informative and engaging without resorting to the maudlin traditions of a posthumous biopic.
Particular focus is placed on Lee’s philosophical leanings and his navel gazing forms the perfect soundtrack to footage of him in action both on and off the silver screen.
Then there’s the presentation of a previously shelved climax to Game Of Death, which serves to form a twenty minute microcosm of Bruce Lee’s idiom. The philosophy is there, the po-faced ruminations on the nature of combat and the pioneering sense of variety that he brought to the traditional martial arts set piece.
Of course, this being a ‘70s East/West crossover project, there are times when it’s almost too ropey to bear, and while Lee’s application of his own auteur-like signatures is admirable, they often become tedious and detrimental to the pace.
Aside from that, the rough cut sequence forms a touching and appropriate coda to this exhaustively detailed documentary, and the fights themselves are brilliant technical showcases, particularly when Lee shows off his nunchaku skills and battles his gigantic former pupil, Kareem Abdul Jabar.
John Little’s documentary a loving disquisition of an enigmatic cultural icon, combining archive footage, home movies and candid interviews alongside the climax to Game Of Death, further proof of Lee‘s skill and star power. This an informative documentary that any fan of Lee, or even the genre in which he plied his trade, should seek out.
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