The Bruce Lee documentary Be Water is on ESPN with Righteous Rage

Bruce Lee

There's a small disconnect within the incontrovertible fact that the Lee documentary Be Water is airing on ESPN within the slot where the ten-part Michael Jordan series The Last Dance recently reigned supreme for five weeks straight. The channels plan to continue capitalizing on sports-deprived viewers hunger for docs about transformational athletes is certainly understandable they've already aired a two-part film about Lance Armstrong, and next week we're getting one about Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire but the intimacy, lyricism, and righteous rage of Be Water are miles faraway from the company, apolitical sheen and gabby back-and-forth of The Last Dance. Be Water doesn't desire a sports doc at all; you walk off from it convinced that Lee was an artist quite anything.

Directed by Nao Nguyen, Be Water follows Lees story via the voices of these who knew him, also as film critics and historians (we don't see any of the interviewee's present-day faces until the top credits) while nimbly weaving the martial artist and actors life with a broader context for his career and stardom. Be Water may be a Sports Doc With Righteous Rage

Passages from Bruce's diaries are read by his daughter, Shannon Lee. The title refers to Lees's revelation, which he claims happened as he rode a junk by himself as a teenager in Hong Kong harbor, punching the water in frustration, that truth thanks to fighting was to be like water. The softest substance within the world only seems weak, he observes. In reality, it could penetrate the toughest substance within the world. This led to a method of fighting that had the formal elegance, physical majesty, and artful unpredictability of dance. And watching it all close is intoxicating. At one point, the film cuts between Lee fighting Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon and Muhammad Ali fighting Cleveland Williams in 1966. Lee himself was fascinated by Ali, and while the moves aren't an equivalent, the energy certainly is; a personality emerges from the action, and therefore the fight becomes less about defeating an opponent and more a sort of expression.

Lee was ambitious, proud, even boastful. He had to be. it might not are possible to accomplish what he did by being shy or playing hard to urge. He wanted to become an Asian actor at a time when just about all-stars in Hollywood were white. Good-looking, charismatic, and enormously talented, he could get within the door, and obtain parts he loved the camera, and it loved him back but he still found himself running up against the racism of the movie industry and therefore the society at large. He refused to require roles that he considered demeaning to Asians. And he was denied roles that were tailor-made for him: one among the films most moving sections involves Lees developing the series that might become Kung Fu as a starring vehicle for himself, only to ascertain the lead role attend David Carradine. Interviewed about it at the time, Lee admits his frustration but also expresses understanding about the white executive's challenges. I don't blame them, he says. Equivalently, it's like in Hong Kong if a foreigner came and has become a star, and if I were the person with the cash, I probably would have my very own worries. Despite his conciliatory words, we will tell that this one hurts. (The show Lee envisioned, called The Warrior, was revived a few years later and premiered last year on Cinemax.)

The story of Lee is compelling enough to possess already fueled several fiction films, but Be Waters's structure is more psychological and emotional than it's biographical. It begins on his return to Hong Kong in 1971 and his two starring triumphs, the large Boss and Fist of Fury, then flashes back to his arrival within the U.S. in 1959, and his time within the early 1960s teaching martial arts in Seattle. The voice of an old Japanese-American girlfriend, Amy Sanbo, flashes back to the Japanese internment camps of war II, then further back to the arrival of Chinese in America. We don't hear much about Lees's early career within the Hong Kong movie industry until his future wife, Linda, learns about it herself when he takes her out one night to ascertain The Orphan, a 1960 movie which shes began to discover stars Bruce himself. That successively leads us into an extra biographical passage about Lees childhood and his early troubles as a teenager, which prompted his father to send him off to the U.S., which happened to be the land of Bruce's birth; his family had returned to Hong Kong when he was three months old. Along the way, we see Bruce's image fighting against a history of demeaning Asian stereotypes, from caricatures about coolies to condescending myths about model minorities.

There is only such a lot one can neutralize 91 minutes, of course, and therefore the film does play a touch coy with certain matters, including later rumors of infidelity and just exactly what quite a trouble Bruce got into as a teenager that prompted him to be shipped off to America (a question which has inspired numerous conspiracy theories). this is often a surprisingly intricate structure, but its also wonderfully smooth you are feeling like you're a part of an intimate, organic conversation a few complicated men and his times, instead of a lesson, or a boilerplate bio-doc. The film itself moves to await it like water.

Some interviewees suggest that the Lee myth won't have emerged had he not died so young; he was 32 when he gave up the ghost suddenly, likely thanks to an allergy to a painkiller hed been given for a migraine. Perhaps. His greatest success, Enter the Dragon, the film that might truly make him a world star, was released just days later and went stratospheric. In death, Lee became a worldwide figure, as transformative as Ali, or Chaplin, or, yes, Michael Jordan. But once you see his sheer charisma, his drive, his unfathomable talent also as his deep understanding of the way to use that talent, you realize that, had he lived, he alright may need become a good greater, more revolutionary figure.

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