The 36th Chamber of Shaolin ★★★★

This is part of the 30 countries challenge.

Very close to the usual kung-fu narrative of a good-hearted kid being wronged who then gets training to get his revenge. All of that is there, but the tiny addition of a discussion on whether taking part in worldly matters is necessary for a good Buddhist gives the story an extra dimension that makes it stand out more. The focus on transcendence is obviously the core of the religion, and with that the temple's kung-fu. The contradiction between teaching kung-fu and not wanting to hurt anyone looms over any Shaolin story, and it could really use a more thorough examination than is offered here. The mere mention of it, and significance of how this movie actually ends is a good start though.

Equally important is that all the fights and training sequences are spectacular and Gordon Liu is charismatic while still maintaining the serious and humble nature that is necessary to be credible as the super student. The thing I like the most is the zoom happy cinematography. Both quick little close-up reaction shots and longer reframing zooms to move about the scene without cuts. It's an always pleasant compromise between the dynamics of editing and the continuity of long takes.