Yuen Woo-Ping’s Once Upon a Time in Shanghai
Seeing the asskicking new teaser trailer for Yuen Woo-ping's latest project, Once Upon a Time in Shanghai, was not only extremely impressive and enjoyable, but for those of us who grew up on action movies - really delivered a hard-hitting ‘blast from the past’. For me (and hopefully others as well) it gave memories of the old-school Kung Fu seen on late night TV and VHS while growing up. Yuen Woo-ping, the legendary director and action choreographer best known for classics like Drunken Master, Iron Monkey and Once Upon a Time in China has boldly put together what looks to be to great throwback to the old ways of constructing and shooting action. With so many other filmmaking styles on offer today, his approach is untarnished, untamed and sticks to its guns (or fists!).
Intricate, complex choreography which shows off the grace, style and ferocity of its players has always been a trademark, as well as shooting the action nice and wide, framing it well - never missing a beat and always appreciating the longer takes. Without doubt this allows audiences to better appreciate the quality of action on offer and best showcase the talent of the stars. These days other approaches have been adopted too, such as heavy use of slow-mo, or the infamous ‘shaky cam’, which some may not favour. Arguably each style has its own role and given the right context, all this stuff can work well.
Nevertheless, it’s nice to see a filmmaker like Yuen Woo-ping still working and delivering the results. What’s more – he doesn’t bow to trends or styles and, just as the work reflected his approach and vision over 30 years ago, the impression given today is of an old-school filmmaker who’ll continue working his own way and setting his own course. A bit of inspiration we could all take on-board.