Lau Kar Leung as Kung Fu Auteur and the Pedagogy of Martial Arts
In this paper, I study Lau Kar Leung as an auteur of the kung fu film. Lau was a contract director for the Shaw Bros. studio in Hong Kong from 1975 until 1985. While working under contract he directed seventeen feature length martial arts films. Lau Kar Leung’s career at Shaw Bros. can be looked at as a negotiation of two top down structures at work in his life. There is the top down relationship that the traditional kung fu master has with his pupils, and the structure of orthodox kung fu pedagogy in which the sifu or master is not to be questioned. This relationship can be seen in Lau’s films starting with Challenge of the Masters (1976). The second top down structure at play is the absolute dominance that Run Run Shaw exacted as the head of the Shaw Bros. studio. This paper is about the intersection of genre, the studio as author, and the director as author, and the tensions among all three registers. My main model for the director as author comes from Janet Staiger’s “Authorship Approaches” from Authorship and Film (2003) and her work on authorship as a sociology of production. As she explains it, the “authors are considered as taking up roles or functioning as workers” (Gerstner 41). In this approach you consider the authors role within the company or studio that they worked for and their relationship with the studio and its hierarchies. I focus on the reoccurring themes in Lau’s films, especially the master-pupil relationship and his pedagogy of martial arts through his films.
Assistant Professor Eric Pellerin is the Serials Management/Reference Librarian at Medgar Evers College, City University of New York. His research interests include genre theory, authorship in film, and Hong Kong cinema. He is the author of “The Simpsons and Television Self Reflexivity as Critique” from The Simpsons Did It! Postmodernity in Yellow, edited by Martin Tschiggerl and Thomas Walach. He is also the author of the forthcoming “Grind House Distribution of Kung Fu Films and Their Influence on Breaking’s Development” from The Oxford Handbook of Hip Hop Dance Studies, Oxford University Press, edited by Mary Fogarty and Imani Kai Johnson.