Friday, March 31, 2017

Tears of the Dragon

I grew up a huge Bruce Lee fan.  As I've waxed on here before about him being a nice surrogate for the eradication of the bullying in my life as a kid from childhood to adolescent youngster.   He was gone long before I became a fan, as he passed away when I was two.

Not many two year olds attending screenings of "Fist of Fury", though that's probably something that should happen, if I have anything to say about it.

Bruce has become known for far more than his movie stardom as time has gone by.  He has become largely regarded for furthering martial arts beyond its "classical mess" status, creating a hybrid form of the science he referred to as Jeet Kune Do, which is still studied and taught today.  He was a deep philosophical thinker and many of his own creations are deeply felt and repeated.

Be Water, My Friend.

Emotional content, not anger.

He inspired me into the two plus years of martial arts study that I wrapped myself up in, not just the films I saw him in growing up, but reading "The Tao of Jeet Kune Do" and his famous letters and other writings about training your mind.  I've have engaged in some, and am still trying to incorporate more of the wisdom....

It's hard rewiring an old house, but not impossible.  I started in my 30's, and am still a work in progress.

But without The Little Dragon, I may not have even begun.

As a kid thinking back, I used to get sad when I'd remember that he was gone.  He was 32, and like Jimi Hendrix, Roberto Clemente, and Anton Yelchin, had a hell of a lot more to give.   If I think much about it, it can still tear me up to this day.  So I try to focus on the positives the man brought to the ethereal table in his flicker on this plane.

He also brought us his son, who was trying to carry on that flame.

Brandon Bruce Lee died on this date in 1993 from an unfortunate and unnecessary gunshot wound on the set of "The Crow".  That movie is demonstrably melancholy, and coupled with Brandon's passing while trying to bring James O'Barr's graphic novel on grief and recovery to life, the film contains power few movies have.  I can name maybe 3 other movies that have hit me in that place.

By all accounts Brandon was as wise as his father, if far less intense.  In interviews he had a calm demeanor coupled with a self-deprecating humor that was as charming as the smile he and his father both flashed like a sword.  He seemed to carry a more relaxed angle on life and peace, though I'm sure Bruce and he had the same views on where the world should be as a whole.

He didn't explode onto the scene as much as back into it.  After having the lead in one Hong Kong action film, "Legacy of Rage", he starred in an updating of the television series, "Kung Fu" (I won't go into the irony there) before roles in smaller films "Laser Mission" and "Showdown in Little Tokyo".   They were lackluster affairs that still showed his potential screen presence, if little else.

Then came "Rapid Fire"

Brandon was wicked good at Kung Fu.  he may not have been dad by a long shot, but he could get it done.  What Brandon brought to the table was choreography heavily influenced by legend Jackie Chan. I was excited by a martial arts persona more than I had since I was a kid.  Then I had read in an article that he had been given the lead in Alex Proyas' upcoming film, "The Crow".

He died without much shooting left for his character. That's why the film, after being in turnaround a couple of times, was finally finished and released.

There was no martial arts in "The Crow"... It was unabashed id.  Melancholy and rage dripped from every frame of the movie, and Brandon's death only seemed to burn it into the images on screen.  If there ever was a movie for a person so immersed in hurt, so unflagging in their sorrow, it's "The Crow".  It may not be medicine for when you feel that way, but at at least a person can know someone identifies with them when they're in that place.

It's uncertain to me if that's a good thing, though.  As powerful as "The Crow" is, it sadly acts as a reminder of how good Lee was.  He could act. He was far more than a martial arts icon.  His performance is on par with the rest of the film, morose, longing, and on the edge.

It seems to be grief encapsulated.  "The Crow" shows there is no answer for the wrongs of the world, why this young man had to die so young, on screen and off.  The film seems to underline the ridiculous uncertainty and ultimate unfairness wrought by the world, while being a vile, black example of it at the same time.

And then you remember his father died mysteriously of a cerebral edema himself in 1973, 20 years prior.  Two strange, unfair, out of nowhere losses of two people, father and son, who had so much to give and were just ready to start unleashing it on a global level.

As much joy as these two men gave me, the disappointment at what could have been starts to creep over it.

But I have to remember:  They wouldn't want me to think that way, they wouldn't want anyone to think that way.

So I don't.  Not for as long as I probably would have, had it not been for them.

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