Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I thought my eyes deceived me. As I watched "Warriors Two" last weekend, the first time in many many years, I realized that the setting looked rather familiar. Rather Korean. And then it dawned on me. They weren't in China at all, but Gyeongbokgung. In Seoul, Korea!
I knew some kung fu films were filmed in Korea. Bruce Lee had originally used a temple in Korea (I forgot which one) as the location for "Game of Death". King Hu shot some of "Legend of the Mountain" on what appears to be Bukhansan. And many players in the industry in the 70's where in fact Korean, such as Casanova Wong and Jeong Chang-Hwa (director of "King Boxer" aka "Five Fingers of Death"), but I never realized how much of a role the small country played in the development of kung fu films.

It only make sense. After Mao had everything that looked remotely "feudal" burned to the ground, there weren't any places left too film. And that's if you could film on the mainland. Chances are you had to film in Hong Kong, choosing between the vast but still repetitive looking Shaw Brothers Studios, the occasional set built in what I imagine was the New Territories or the city streets themselves. Some, like King Hu, shot in Taiwan. And Korea, it seems, was a third option. Without access to studios like Heng Dian in Zhejiang that had yet to be built or the Forbidden city itself, Gyeongbokgung was probably one of the only large scale structures in that vicinity (at least to my knowledge, and I have been known to be wrong. This whole blog could be wrong). And in the 70's, Korea was still recovering from the Korean war, so the trade of locations for money was probably a pliable option. So why not shoot there?
My only real complaint I guess, is that knowing what it is now, sort of takes away from the movie. I mean, why is Sammo Hung practicing Wing Chun in what is obviously a Korean palace from the Joseon Dynasty. Did the Hong Kong people not care? Or, with the lack of any access to real structures of that kind (at least at that point), did they not know the difference. Then again, I didn't know the difference until I actually visited Gyeongbokgung.

No comments: