The thing about the production company logo of Shaw Brothers’ is that it appears carved into one side of a toughened-glass slab, while blue-pink light streams condense like cold water droplets on the surface of the other side. You are always expecting a martial artist to send a flying kick through it.
Filmmaking, taken at its face value, is an assortment of individually made (in ideal circumstances) directorial selections/choices (a selection is extracted from a number of available options; a choice is extracted from vacuum). The director is to play a field of innumerable options to finally arrive at a singular outcome – as such; the process of filmmaking may resemble the board game of Life: no matter which route you take, you are going to end up on the same existential highway made of plastic. As such, there are about a ten different ways to show how blood spills on screen (one of them being to show no blood spilling, just the infliction of the wound). One of ‘em is to do it how Sun Chung does it in Judgment of an Assassin (1977): when a character introduces the first of the two lone-wolf assassins of the film, David Chiang’s Heh Mo-Li, the film cuts to a scene where Chiang fights a number of studio-goons inside a studio-lot, killing them by slicing them open with his sword (not in an elaborate, amputational Tobisamuro Wakayama way; but in a brisk, swoosh David Chiang way). Instead of showing a blood-spill, or splatter or spray at the exact moment of the impact, Chung merely quickly cuts to a frontally framed quarter-second-long shot of a gravestone with fake-blood flowing down it. Each time Chiang kills another villainous sidey then, Sun quickly applies the basic tenet of the montage-theory: a photographic image as a stand-in for a theoretical idea (in this case: murder).
The Deadly Duo (1971) / Chang Cheh
The Shawscope is an incredibly wide monster (2.36, a decimal point over the usual) – its extremely horizontal nature ensures that a picture be composed along the x-axis more than along the y. A swift pan at this ratio can be quite a panoramic-view: a wisdom that Cheh Chang spectacularly imparts to one battle sequence in his largely tardy 1971 film, The Deadly Duo. The respective armies of the warring Sung (heroes, which means David Chiang is on their side) and Jin dynasties divide themselves rather civilly into sections of private warfare – so instead of a horde of Sungs against a flock of Jins, the battle is now conducted by groups, of six or seven soldiers each from the opposing parties, that dot the battle-scape. Chang ensures that the various groups together form a circle, and then, places his camera right in the middle of the formation. As the battle really erupts (film battle stages: taunts, close-ups of individuals, rushing in, eruption of wild warfare, a retreating, pensive shot of the destruction war leaves in its trail), Chang begins to swivel his camera on its axis – thereby creating a series of swish-pans that travel from one collective of warring groups to another – and filming, thus, his war as an interlinked series of personal victories and defeats. Slowly and slowly, as one group emerges victorious over their immediate opponent, they rush to the aid of their allies in the circular formation, thereby leading Chang to swivel back so as to keep track of them. The crucial difference between Ophuls and Chang: One films sequences of ceaseless restrain, and the other films sequences of completely untamed aggression. The crucial similarity: both do it La Ronde style.
A swish pan and so on and so forth…