Kung Fu 'Sifu' Lau Kar-leung

Screen/Society Film Series:

October 1 - October 4, 2018
Rubenstein Arts Center, Duke University
Curated by Hank Okazaki

Used in Chinese martial arts communities, the Cantonese word, “Sifu,” refers to a skillful person or a master, with additional connotations of “teacher,” “tutor,” and “father-figure”.  Celebrated Hong Kong fight choreographer and film director Lau Kar-leung (1937–2013), aka Liu Chia-liang in Mandarin, was himself a kung fu master in a line of southern Hung Fist practitioners tracing back directly to Wong Fei-hung (1847–1924), the legendary martial artist and folk hero whose life has been fictionalized in over 100 films, including Lau’s own Instructors of Death AKA Martial Club (1981). As a choreographer, director, and actor/performer, Lau Kar-leung himself took on the role of kung fu “educator” for his audience, embedding kung fu demonstrations in his opening-credit sequences and exploring the master-disciple relationship through breath-taking and grueling training sequences, most famously in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin AKA Master Killer (1978). And as film scholar David Bordwell writes, "instead of using kung-fu to keep local cinema going, [Lau] used cinema to document and preserve traditions he venerated" – adding the role of cultural archivist to those of entertainer and educator.

Courtesy of Celestial Pictures Limited.  35mm film prints provided by University of North Carolina School of the Arts Moving image Archives.
Sponsored by the Program in the Arts of the Moving Image (AMI).


martial club imageMonday, Oct 1 @ 7pm
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin AKA Master Killer

(Lau Kar-leung, 1978, 116 min, Hong Kong, 35mm)

Lau Kar-leung and Gordon Liu Chia-hui’s most celebrated work is a quintessential, all-exhaustive course in Shaolin kung fu. Liu plays San Te, originally a commoner on the run from oppressive Manchu officers. Taking refuge in the Shaolin temple, he devotes himself to the most rigorous kung fu training ever seen on screen.






36 STILLThursday, Oct 4 @ 7pm
Martial Club AKA Instructors of Death
(Lau Kar-leung, 1981, 102 min, Hong Kong, 35mm)

Gordon Liu Chia-hui plays a young Wong Fei-hung, the legendary kung fu master. Liu displays his remarkable combat skills in an ingeniously choreographed duel in a narrow alleyway that remains one of the best action sequences ever filmed.






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