A journalist friend has a fb status asking us who our cinema heroes were when we were teenagers. She's writng an article about The Hunger Games apparently. As some of us have replied, cinema was not a big thing for teenagers in the 1970s. Like the music of the time, movies were aimed at young adults who were the people with disposable incomes in those days.
I quite liked young adult cinema but the passion I shared with my friends was for the films of Bruce Lee. Passion is the right word too, I felt them.In the above clip Bruce Lee sums up his own appeal very well: he had emotional content. What he achieved was not just physically impressive it was beautiful.
He was a tremendous show-off, as anyone so agile and with such a wonderful body was bound to be. The characters he portrayed were modest, self effacing even and slow to be provoked, frustratingly so, considering that one had paid to see him fight not shuffle away. What eventually provoked him was blatant injustice and unabated villany
His heroes and plots had more in common with the Hollywood of D. W. Griffith than that of Arthur Penn. Part of that ethos was respect for women, and not just women he wished to impress. In The Big Boss he is restrained from fighting by a promise to his mother. In Enter The Dragon he is seeking revenge for the rape and murder of his sister (played by Angela Mao, no meek Mary Pickford herself).
One of the biggest shocks of my teenage years came while I was watching Way Of The Dragon in the Odeon, Panton Street. It was an afternoon showing (I've always liked cinema in the afternoon). In the half empty cinema there were two pretty Chinese girls sitting.behind me. The climax of the film is Bruce Lee's fight with Chuck Norris. It takes place in Rome, and with heavy handed irony, the Colosseum. Bruce Lee liked to think of himself as a subtle auteur rather than a pretty boy who could box. Finally Chuck Norris is on the ground, vanquished but still he struggles to get to his feet. Bruce Lee shakes his head. By the warrior code it will be dishonour for Chuck Norris not to get up but he if does, by the warrior code, Bruce Lee will deliver the coup-de-grace. As the wounded Chuck Norris rose I heard one of the Chinese girls hiss "Kill him!". That was not something about women I wished to learn.