This Is Kung Fu Review
This Is Kung Fu is a rather entertaining documentary exploring the various forms of Chinese martial arts and – as the cover proudly informs us - somewhere in the mix Jet Li is featured as we see a performance from him aged just eight-years old followed by some footage of his training with the Beijing National Team. Oh, and a brief look at his home-life when celebrating his nineteenth birthday!
One third tourist video and two thirds martial arts exploration this documentary dates back to the mid-eighties and features a running narration which is sadly quite poorly translated making some of the facts on display hard to follow. That aside though what you can expect is a myriad of Chinese martial art forms demonstrated by a variety of performers, both young and old, male and female and with a few choreographed fights thrown in for good measure to demonstrate how the different forms can be used against each other and multiple opponents. Particular highlights involve the numerous weapons on display from the short sword to the three-stick and the more expressive techniques such as monkey and drunken styles. Pitching the latter two against each other in combat allows for an entertaining fight while just prior to that you can enjoy eagle vs. snake.
Due to the fact that what you get here is nothing but constant demonstrations of the various styles in - for the most part - non combatant situations you'll require a general appreciation of the martial arts and its performers at their peak to find this documentary an entertaining watch. But if you do then rest assured there is plenty to enjoy here right up to a look at the national tournament with some quite stunning footage of professionals at work, while the often outdated and occasionally sexist narration helps to raise a few smiles above and beyond the physical demonstrations on screen.
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Presented in 4:3 this documentary was most likely shot with the aspect ratio in mind, so even if it should be in widescreen (the frame does occasionally feel cramped, but never obtrusively so) there are never any glaringly obvious signs of bad cropping taking place. The quality of the actual transfer is generally poor at best, with some footage holding up better than others but never providing anything above worn VHS tape quality. This being a standards conversion doesn't help matters along either.
The audio tracks available are Mandarin and Cantonese Stereo and 5.1 offerings. The former is the language I went with and would appear to be the original dialogue (this being a Chinese documentary), while the choice between Stereo and 5.1 is largely superfluous with neither offering any real differences. All of the audio options are adequate without ever being great, while the optional subtitles are as previously mentioned something of a hindrance featuring a very broken and poorly edited translation and some dubious English dub style translations such as "Don't bull shit, just watch". That's right, inane swearing in a documentary narration!
Extras are the same as all the other 55th Chamber releases, a trailer (in this instance a UK Promotional Trailer), previews of other titles and web links.