The 1966’s avant-garde film, Come Drink with Me moved towards Director King Hu’s contemporary aesthetic style, when paralleled to Wuxia Pans in that time. Hu was recognized to start a revolution with Come Drink with Me, establishing the “New School” aesthetics for Kung Fu. However dated special effects and editing would appear, to current viewers, the successful feature practically reinvented a standard for producers in the cinematic sphere. Hollywood action later popularized Hu’s editing and innovative techniques within martial arts pictures.
Adaptations were applied to remodel the iewing experience of action cinema; firstly, enhancing the use of editing, camera movement, anamorphic lens and choreography. Kung Fu became the spectacle in marital arts, which became self-awareness in Hu’s action films. David Bordwell argues that the repetitive use of wire-work for certain combat stunts, formed an element of fakeness in martial arts performance on screen (Bordwell, Pg 32). But, viewers aware of the technical object of wires used to generate the spectacle of kung Fu stunts; avoid the direct association with special effects.
Hu validates the beauty of martial arts by other techniques to distract, or draw ttention towards the new style of Kung Fu. Hu cast Cheng Pei- Pei, a former ballet dancer as leading role Golden Swallow. Taking Beijing Opera as his aesthetic inspiration, instead of casting an actress with a martial arts background. Pei-Pei achieves gracefulness in Come Drink with Me, as “Hu championed a particular style of fight choreography that centered on the concept of “confrontational stillness”: during fight sequences, kung Fu masters remain very still while fighting, making only minimal movements with their arm” (Funnell, Pg 32).
Audiences anticipate the next sequence of action in these oments, sub-consciously aware of the many layers Hu uses in the productions of action films. The Use of wire-Fu has become a very influential technique for modern martial arts films (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon). A major evidential scene that captures the necessity for wire- work; is the night at the Inn, where Golden Swallow (Cheng Pei- Pei) caught in a dispute with the bandit gang that are holding her lost brother imprisoned; guided by Drunken Cat (Hua Yueh), she escapes the entrapment.
Hu used the inn as a primary location in many of his wuxipian. Thematically, the inn makes ense for his wandering martial artist, but, as a stage for combat” (Marchetti, pg 150). The mise-en-scene is highly important, providing space for the combatants to move freely and air bourn acrobats can are performed in several cinematic planes. Pei-Pei (Golden Swallow) enters the theatrical space, in male costume, accompanied by the traditional orchestra, thunder piercing the atmosphere.
The camera tracks her movements in wide-shot, her eyes scanning the space, “A birdcage prominent in the foreground underscores the fact that Golden Swallow could be walking into a trap” (Marchetti, pg 151). Regardless of the surrounding danger Pei-Pei sits central in the anamorphic lens; forcing viewers to be heavily aware of Smiling Tiger’s intentions behind the invitation of pouring the drink. Pei-Pei fingers her fan and chopsticks, an obvious notion that these props will later be used in combat. Hu’s wide-shots became a cinematic occurrence, as widescreen allowed to capture more within a single shot. Hu relies on mise-en-scene, cinematography, and editing to enhance the dynamism of ‘confrontational stillness’ in Come Drink with Me”(Funnel, pg 32).
The main illustration being the Inn scene, Pei-Pei is surrounded y an intimidating group of males, they appear impossible to defeat. Unexpectedly, the attackers are shown to be pierced -in Close up- with Pei Pei’s dagger that evolves into a battle of swordplay with the opposing gang. Continuing the fight, a Long- shot reveals the Inn that presents the submission of the surrounding gang, concluding her ability to conquer a room full of physically able men.
Editing merges the action not just symbolically- the dance as martial arts- but directly, by breaking down the movements into singular shots. As Pei Pei encounters her first fight in the Inn, a short sequence of movements to her verall defense is split into segments. Firstly, the throwing of alcohol in the man’s face, then retrieving her dagger, avoiding the blade thrown at her and then slashing the man. Through Hu’s editing style, the independent sequence of shots become one fluid movement. In particular Hu’s use of cinematography allows for the movements in fight sequences to appear graceful and dynamic.
Hu’s active interest with Beijing opera influenced camera movements and editing, creating the illusion that viewers are synchronized with the fighting on screen; comparable to observing dancer movements on stage. The camera tracks back t a distance to pursue her movement in contend with the new challengers. In the peak of mayhem, Pei Pei “appears to glide through her opponents, leaving a trial of carnage”. (Funnell, Pg 33). Though the problematic use of wires puncture audience believability, the focus remains in the spectacle of film seamlessness.
Choreography and camera movements intentionally emphasize the tension between characters; fast- paced action, to static pauses. The tension is also created as the camera falls away from the action; to emphasize the long takes and long shots that display the un-edited choreography and the amera placement. Essentially, the camera choreography appears fluid, as cuts are seamless in action scenes. Long shots suggestively wink towards the stage spectacle of Beijing Opera, allowing for wide frames to capture the elegant dance sequences in time with traditional drumbeats. Beijing Opera conventions; action as strategy and tactics; and above all, action as epiphany- the aim examining the moral character”(Teo, pg 119). References to Beijing opera occur, for example, the frequent use of masks; the drunkard, the military man, the evil assassin. Later discovered as the drunken cat, reveals to be a Kung Fu master; Jade-Faced Tiger appears gentle with face painted white (commonly a sign of a traitor in Beijing Opera) proves to be an evil assassin.
Golden Swallow, at last, disguised as a military man, is later discovered to be female. “Film makers turned to Chinese tradition not only as an alternative to progressive or left-wing cinema but also to cement their shared identity as serious intellectuals with a genuine concern for the national identity and traditional culture” (Rodriguez Pg 78). The association of Beijing opera act simultaneously with the films context, to visually tie viewers to Chinese tradition as an active ole in the development of feature action films. Though a warrior, she never loses her femininity (even when disguised s a male), and this is what distinguishes Hu’s female warriors and constitutes his break-through in the genre: the female sex is entirely comfortable as warriors and accepted as such by their male counterparts”(Marchetti, pg 141). I would argue, it is only the perspective of the audience in the late 60’s that would have experienced uneasiness; which acts as the foundation for why audiences readily watcher Pei- Pei, and credited the featured female protagonist.
The period Come Drink with Me displayed the inn bandits carelessly unaware Golden Swallow was a woman until the middle of the film, capturing Pei-Pei in elongated shots, are seen in lavish widescreen colour cinema; assumed too the audience had the same deceit. By appearing culturally androgynous, the film avoids the notion of limited cultures, reassembling the archival cultural entities. Masculinity is therefore transcended as leading roles played by women, were enough to shock audiences to gaze questionably at the aesthetic. “However, in addition to being emblems of competing visions of “China” allegorized as female, …
Golden Swallow also represent competing ideologies vying to occupy the moral high ground of an emerging global woman’s movement” (Marchetti pg 140). Evident in the revelation of Golden Swallow as female, the Inn scene highlights the importance of the character by centralizing her in the frame. The camera movement amplifies in tempo with the music, generally when a secret is uncovered. “Above all, Hu sought to undercut our expectations of Wuxia heroics even as he indulged mightily in the action form of the genre”(Teo, Pg 119). Hong Kong movies are continuing to use female characters as power, under the elly of revised editing.
The use of Wire-Fu- though visually obvious in the 1960’s- is a continuing technique used for modern martial arts directors. Come Drink with Me represents the reassembling of codes, various idioms and integrating techniques that were thought to be culturally, aesthetically, or cinematically mismatched. Ultimately the beauty of Chinese martial artistry grounded the movement of modern Western cinema. Characterized by Chinese traditions, Beijing opera being the focal point when analyzing King Hu’s filmic techniques; Masks were important to narrative and character assumptions.
This Opera Aesthetic became a norm to be followed; Come Drink with Me demonstrated the visual conventional formality as something to be admired and an influence to decades of martial arts practice, in action film. Witnessed throughout the feature, the Inn scene proved to match the importance of choreography of ballet to action filmmaking, complimented with Pei-Pei’s ease in performing complex martial arts sequencing. These concepts seem to be prominent over the use of Wires, evident in the equidistant of the film, where Pei-Pei seems to continuously defeat a mass of male fighters, disregarding gender roles.