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The Asian ApertureYoung Bruce Lee (2010)
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, May 4, 2013    Share

Long before he kicked and punched his way into our hearts and became the first Chinese star on a grand international level, Bruce Lee , was just another child growing up during 1940’s and 50’s Hong Kong. From a script based on memoirs from Bruce’s younger brother, Robert, comes the latest biopic that shows what Lee’s life might has been like. Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story focuses more on his time in Seattle and various locations in California from Oakland to Bel Air but is weak on the early years. Finally those years can be enjoyed by movie lovers everywhere.

Lee Hoi-chuen, played by Tony Leung Ka-fai, (not to be confused with the mega star, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai who was in John Woo’s Hard-Boiled and Chungking Express,) is seen in full makeup in the beginning, performing Chinese Opera in San Francisco, CA. Hoi-cheun was a well known and loved star. During his US tour, his wife went into labor and gave birth at the Chinese Hospital in nearby Chinatown on November 27th, 1940, the Year of the Dragon. For some reason the movie gets this part wrong and lists a different hospital. You would think with Robert and sister Phoebe’s involvement this should have never happened. The Lee family would have known the correct hospital name. Despite this, Lee Hoi-chuen rushes to his wife, Grace, after the delivery and with the help of a doctor, the baby is named Bruce.

The family quickly returns to Hong Kong and settles into a luxurious apartment right on the bustling thoroughfare, Nathan Road. The Lee household is huge with numerous children, servants, maids, and lots of friends hanging out. Bruce’s grandmother, who feared a family curse affecting all male children, gave Lee the girl’s name Sai-fun meaning small phoenix in order to trick the evil spirits. His mother named him Jun Fan that means to return again because she felt he would one day go back to the land of this birth, the US. Years later when Bruce became a sifu in Seattle he called his school, Jun Fan Gung Fu. Gung Fu is the Cantonese pronunciation of Kung Fu. Growing up in such a crowded household must have been stressful for the young Lee. Ever resourceful, Lee would find a quiet place to hide and read books for hours and hours. According to his future wife Linda, Bruce would be absorbed into whatever book he was reading with complete concentration that nothing could break. This skill would help him out in his Kung Fu training.

Right from the start, Bruce Lee, even as a small child, caught the eyes and hearts of the little girls of Hong Kong. They became his fans and cheered him on when he began acting in child comedies that would be like how American audiences fell in love with Macaulay Culkin in the Home Alone movies. All his brothers and sisters were supportive of his acting and he even had fans seeking out autographs. He ran around the streets of Hong Kong, stealing food from merchants, getting into fights, and being the true leader of his small circle of friends. Then something terrible happened in 1941. Japanese planes flew overhead and soon Hong Kong was under Japanese occupation. The young Lee would stand on the roof of his apartment shaking his fights at the Japanese planes. Years later when he adult movie career was starting, the Japanese were often the villains. This all comes from his experiences in these early years.

Soon he would grow up to be a teen showing off his dancing skills at the local joint. When all his buddies failed to get the prettiest girl to dance, Bruce was the coolest; he walked up, smiled, and grabbed her hand, with no effort at all. One of the reasons he is so admired is that he could do the impossible and make it look so easy.

During one get together with his buddies and girl pals at the dancing joint, he was challenged by a British boxer. The boxer walked into the place and changed the record that everyone was dancing to and put on American Rock ‘n Roll. Bruce wanted to hear his music so he agreed to fight outside to not ruin the place. The boxer got off one good punch when Bruce was distracted by checking out a pretty girl walking to him. He friends held him back as the boxer laughed at him and walked off. This made another lasting impression because he felt that Westerners looked at him as inferior and he always felt this need to prove he was just as good. This can also be seen in his adult movies as several of his opponents are foreigners. The next day his life would change for the better.

Bruce Lee’s childhood friend took him to a local Wing Chun boxing gym and introduced him to his first real Kung Fu sifu, the legendary Yip Man. He would train with Yip Man and the teachers until he left for the US. Something happened to him during this time. He became obsessed with being the best in Kung Fu. For years he had no real focus, other than acting, and now he was determined to be unstoppable. He would run uphill and practice for hours on a Muk Yan Jong, the Wing Chun wooden dummy, used to develop speed and to practice trappings on the wooden beams that stick out like arms.

Young Bruce Lee does a great job of showing what 1950’s Hong Kong life would have been like. It shows what a fun loving and physically active teenager could accomplish when he focused and put his mind to it. On the other hand it has a running joke about Bruce not being able to ride a bike and not wanting to learn. There are numerous photos of a teenaged Bruce Lee riding a motorcycle and in later years cycling was part of his workout routine. I’m not sure why this was in the script. Again, this is a detail that could have made the movie better by sticking to the facts and something the family should have corrected during the scriptwriting stage.

I could go on and on explaining various aspects of Bruce Lee’s early Hong Kong years but that would lessen the experience for movie fans. It is better to experience it for yourself and as Bruce Lee taught his Jeet Kune Do students, “absorb what is useful.”

So by all means give Young Bruce Lee a look. With Hong Kong currently producing excellent biopics like Ip Man, the story of Yip Man, Bruce’s teacher, Young Bruce Lee is the next place in the chronology. You owe it to yourself to see how a skinny teen wearing glasses transformed himself into what many people consider the greatest martial artist of the 20th Century and a true modern hero.

Highly Recommended

5 out of 5 Stars (I saw it for free on Youtube.)

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2013 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2013 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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