Academic journal article Film & History

The American Martial Arts Film

Academic journal article Film & History

The American Martial Arts Film

Article excerpt

M. Roy Lott. The American Martial Arts Film. McFarland, 2004. 248 pages; $49.95.

Capitalist Agenda

M. Ray Lott's The American Martial Arts Film is an attempt at academically establishing a new genre in what has become an already saturated collegiate industrial complex filled with scholarship geared towards text classification. This attempt, although somewhat viable even when consistently rehashed, becomes problematic only due to Lott's erroneous claim that his project "examines English language martial arts films in terms of both their historical development and their critical relevance" (1). Instead Lott, even when concise and seemingly knowledgeable in the creation of a proper generic framework, summarizes and simply states rather than critiques the American martial arts film, leaving the reader with less than a feeling of completion and satisfaction.

David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, although claiming that "[m]ost scholars now agree that no genre can be defined in a single hard and fast way" (52), define genre in their glossary of film terms as "[v]arious types of films which audiences and filmmakers recognize by their familiar narrative conventions" (479). This way of thinking, that genre is based in narrative convention, stems from, what Dudley Andrew recognizes as, formalist philosophic thought (107). But, Andrew extends the definition to "specific networks of formulas which deliver a certified product to the waiting customer" (110). Andrew acknowledges that there is a capitalist agenda associated with the production of genre pictures; an acknowledgement that is alluded to throughout Lott's text as well. However, Lott, rather than critiquing this point, which he suggests he will do, seems to pay homage to the capitalist agenda promoted by English speaking/American martial arts cinema, thus going against his proposed thesis.

Lott does make occasional astute observations, especially in his chapter on the 1980's, making the claim that mainstream cinema, and martial arts films in particular, have a "conservative tilt" (73) conducive to the Presidency of Ronald Reagan. …

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