Sorry for missing last week’s screening log folks, but as you know, things can get quite crazy. My one note of interest is that I refuse to write anything on Girls because pretty much every other person on the Internet has done so. I will say that I thought the first two episodes episode are fantastic, and everything you need to know about the show’s relation to its characters is said in that first shot, and that during Hannah’s AIDS monologue all we can see is her face. This is a girl who is clearly unaware of her surroundings, not a prophet.
-Police Story, 1985. Directed by Jackie Chan. 35mm projection at Film Society of Lincoln Center.
-Bird, 1988. Directed by Clint Eastwood. 35mm projection at Film Society of Lincoln Center.
-Frenzy, 1972. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 35mm projection at IFC Center.
-Mouchette, 1967. Directed by Robert Bresson. 35mm projection at Brooklyn Academy of Music.
-Numéro Zéro, 1971. Directed by Jean Estuche. 35mm projection at private screening.Ever since The Raid: Redemption left a sour taste in my mouth, I’ve been thinking about how to construct an action sequence. Action, like all other moments of cinema, must be comprised of beats and motions. Like ballet, the choreography is not just there to serve itself; it must serve a greater purpose in the narrative, or at least create a progression leading to a climax.
It wasn’t until I saw Jackie Chan’s Police Story did I suddenly realize what The Raid had done so wrong with its action. The two films begin very similarly with a group of police receiving their orders, as they must raid criminals involved in bad business. But this is how Police Story goes. It starts out as a cat and mouse game as the cops slowly infiltrate the shanty village where the gangsters are meeting. Someone gets spotted, and soon it’s a back and forth shootout through the narrow corridors. The gangsters make it to their cars, and suddenly it’s a car chase (including a sequence Bad Boys II clearly steals from). Then Jackie Chan chases a bus on foot and then chases them down a mountain. And finally it’s a bus vs. Chan showdown.
This all happens in the first twenty minutes of Police Story and was so thrilling and constantly exciting that the audience suddenly applauded at the sheer audacity of it all. What you may have noticed in my description is that Chan, as both superstar and director, constantly changes the stakes of his scene. The Raid clearly has sequences that go that long, but they simply continue the same actions over and over. Chan understands that like ballet, there’s a rhythm and pace to action, and one must tell a story within an action sequence, not just show action.
I don’t want this to be simply an angry rant against Gareth Evans’s flick. He knows something about choreography and visually captures everything in a way that other action directors have failed to do—spatial coherence is not an easy thing to do. But I hope whatever project he follows up with can learn to take action as not just an interlude, but as a narrative within itself. It’s what made Jackie Chan more than another kung fu actor thirty years ago.