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Review: First Man and King Boxer

Saw two films today:

  • First Man: Caught this one in IMAX—the ideal format for the experience, not only for the spectacle, but for the more intimate moments, as well. We witness the events leading up to the Apollo 11 moon landing through the astronauts’ eyes, which means we spend great deal of time trapped inside dark, claustrophobic cockpits. There are a lot of disorienting point-of-view shots and uncomfortably tight closeups (hairline-to-chin); director Damien Chazelle is as fascinated with the landscape of his protagonist’s face as he is with the grandeur of outer space—and because Ryan Gosling excels at understated, nonverbal performances, the journey is an emotional roller coaster ride from the breathtaking opening test flight to the climactic lunar touchdown.

  • King Boxer: This one was an IFC Center midnight screening—again, the perfect way to see it, considering the role it played in shaping the West’s obsession with martial arts movies (under its alternate title, Five Fingers of Death—and if that sounds familiar to any Tarantino fans, just wait until you hear the soundtrack). I’m not the biggest fan of kung fu cinema (I prefer wuxia—its spiritual cousin—and Japanese chanbara flicks), but this Shaw Bros. classic features only the finest ingredients: a tournament that pits a chivalrous hero against nefarious villains and jealous rivals, grueling training montages, deadly forbidden techniques, and a post-climax showdown with a particularly persistent henchman. It even throws in a love triangle and a handful of musical interludes for good measure! It definitely shows it’s age on occasion, but I’d still rank it alongside such genre giants as Heroes of the East and Master of the Flying Guillotine.

[Originally written October 21, 2018.]

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