One of the good things that come out of having a DVD club as a neighboor is that a good relationship can be established between the club owner and its customers. It can be very educational both ways. People talk and thus learn more, open up their minds and broaden their horizons. The key here is both ways.

Today I asked Martin to give me something Chinese with lots of action and martial arts. He responded with “Azumi“. The name rang some bells in my mind but nothing to specific. Anyway, I’ve got a bit suspecios, because “Azumi” doesn’t sound like Chinese. It sounds like Japanese. But I didn’t say anything, because I wasn’t that sure anyway and Martin already saw the film.

Than I watched it. It is a nicely done traditional Japanese action. Unfortunately, I don’t like Japanese movies very much, but I enjoyed it non-the-less. Lots of blood, sword fights, and excellent photography. Light needs some work (with three or four shadows from the same person under a sun – its too much). Music sucked. It was too Western. American even. The story was pretty simple and straightforward, but don’t take my word on it, because I watched it in Japanese with Greek subtitles and these are two languages which I have yet to learn.

I’ll rate it as a 7 out of 10. If you like Japanese films, I am sure you’ll give it more.

Now that I am through with the movie, I will add a few points on HOWTO diffirentiate regular Chinese action from regular Japanese action.

  • IMDB. The easiest of all is of course to look the film up at IMDB. Both the country and languages can give you the idea.
  • Sound of the language. In order to hear the difference, I bet, it is enough to watch two Japanese and two Chinese movies in a short period of time. Chinese sounds like “wing” and “tounge”. Japanese sounds like “kimono” and “banzai”. There is a difference.
  • Production. Regular Chinese action movies look and feel cheap. Japanese look and feel expensive, stylish, and thought through.
  • Martial arts. Chinese fights are mostly fiest fights. They use body and rarely any weapons. If they do, weapons usually occupy small part of a fight and might be changed several times (stick, sword, gauntlet, knife, stick, sward, etc). Japanese are most exclusively use swords. Sometimes you can see ancient rifles and canons. Chinese fights are always longer. Plenty of hits and styles, lots of moving around the scene. Japanese fights are usually short, samurai-type – kill with as little movement as possible.
  • Blood. Jananese movies are all bloody as hell. Every time there is a fight, there is a kill, and blood is fontaining out of the dead body in all directions. Chinese films rarely have any more damage than a bloody running nose. Sometimes you can hear the sound of breaking bones, but almost never you can see one.
  • Photography. Japanese films are filled with excellent photography. You can make posters out of almost every screen capture. Mountains, lonely house, man and woman inside the house, expensive aesthetically perfect samurai swords, etc. Chinese movies have very poor photography. If they show any scenery that is for the only reason to introduce it to the audience so that the following fight on that ground would be easier understood.
  • Pace. Japanese movies are slow and dramatic. There are lots of pauses between events in the film. There are many moments when there are no people at all in the frame. Or even if there are few they don’t move. Chinese films are fast. There is always someone moving, someone coming, or someone fighting. If only a single person is shown he or she is most probably practicing kung fu.
  • Drama. Japanese movies are way more dramatic. Orphans are pretty usual. Building up character and strength for revenge are usual. All friends and relatives of the main character are usually dead by the end of the film. Closing scene can make you cry – evil is conquered, but there are no good people left except for one tired and exhausted character who doesn’t care about good anymore. And has hands covered in blood. Chinese movies on the other hand are much lighter. People rarely die. In the end, evil is conquered and made fun of by the main character and one or more friends and relatives of his/hers.

Why did I write all of that? Because it is important to know that not all martial art movies are the same (I didn’t even touch the Americans now). People who like martial art movies usually like either Chinese or Japanese. I have yet to see someone who loves both equally. And although I can appreciate a good Japanese movie, I still prefer Chinese for the lightness and fun that they bring.

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