Fighting without Fighting: Kung Fu Cinema’s Journey to the West

by Luke White, REAKTION BOOKS; 1st edition (13 June 2022)

In the spring and summer of 1973, a wave of martial arts movies from Hong Kong ― epitomized by Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon ― smashed box-office records for foreign-language films in America, and ignited a ‘kung fu craze’ that swept the world. Fighting without Fighting explores this dramatic phenomenon, and argues that, more than just a cinematic fad, the West’s sudden fascination with ― and moral panic about ― the Asian fighting arts has left lasting legacies into the present.

The book traces the background of the craze in the longer development of Hong Kong’s martial arts cinema. It discusses the key films in detail, as well as their popular reception and the debates they ignited, where kung fu challenged Western identities and raised anxieties about violence, both on and off screen. And it examines the proliferation of ideas and images from these films in fields as diverse as popular music, superhero franchises, children’s cartoons and contemporary art. Illuminating and accessible, Fighting without Fighting draws a vivid bridge between East and West.

‘An expert and ambitious narrative that spirals outwards from the advent of Kung Fu in ’70s Hong Kong and Hollywood to encompass a wide historical, geographic and ideological scope in which Bruce Lee is a persistent presence, and has the last word.’ ― Barry Curtis, Professor at the University of the Arts, London and author of Dark Places: The Haunted House in Film

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