Taking the best of the “Hong Kong way” and the “Korean way” of how action is shot and choreographed is something I’ve been stuck on for a while. Take a Hong Kong Shaw Brothers film like My Young Auntie. The choreography is complex, focusing more on martial art “ideas” than real moves. And it’s made shot-for-shot, since each angle has its own purpose. Fight scenes like this would fail miserably if shot for “coverage”. There’s so much subtlety, almost entirely so, that shooting for coverage would be a waste of time and basically break everything.
Then there’s the Korean film City of Violence, where the emphasis is on big moves, not subtlety. If I had a behind-the-scenes clip I’d put it here instead, but the DVD reveals that they shot this scene with long takes and cut them together. Like Ed says, it’s like a “play”. With a crowd of 50-something extras there aren’t many other options (just working with 15 in Rise And Fail was hard enough!), but the result is a frenetic pace that give off an effect of the heroes being overwhelmed. You’re not supposed to care what moves they do, they’re just in danger.
How best to utilize the two styles? How do you let the audience in on your martial art secrets like My Young Auntie while creating the high stakes drama of City of Violence? Or is one style simply better than the other? I’ve always favored the Hong Kong style of shooting because it gets the audience’s head into the choreography rather than just their hearts, but with the more realistic ‘big’ moves from a Korean film you can still create a dangerous environment which can excite the viewer. Blending the two is what we’ve tried to do.
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