May 08, 2002


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Lee's melees
By Patrick Macias


WHILE THE SAN Francisco International Film Festival runs a wayward course, championing Warren Beatty and screening a cut version of Musa the Warrior (half an hour shorter than the original Korean release), a wild, once-in-a-lifetime experimental cinema event known as The Junk Film is taking place just under the radar. Inspired by a muse the likes of which we can only guess at (presumably the same one that spearheaded last week's revival of The Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie), Four Star owner and film preservationist Frank Lee played mix and match with the final reels of nearly half a dozen unrelated martial arts films from the '70s and '80s. The result is a mind-bending, dizzying montage of high melodrama, furious combat, and freeze-frame final shots. Some of the films, such as Deaf and Mute Heroine and One by One, are Four Star favorites, but the majority of the clips (culled from such tantalizingly titled fare as Righteous Fist, Champion of Boxer, and Extreme Enemy) haven't passed through a projector gate in decades. Rather than frustrating viewers with an attack of random chaos, The Junk Film somehow invites an appreciation of the genre's singular charms. What emerges is an archetypal supernarrative about revenge, reconciliation, and regretful departure, cast with a surprising amount of severed limbs. Freed from a pesky three-act structure, images float by in a dreamlike haze; Chinese-Japanese race relations are explored with dialogue along the lines of "Let me kill you!"; a motley gang of anonymous heroes wanders off into the sunset to the stolen tune of a forgotten spaghetti western soundtrack. The non sequitur monked-out conclusion of 18 Disciples of Buddha, complete with weird weaponry, dry ice, and a Sid and Marty Krofft-caliber bird costume, hits like an opiate rush. The Junk Film, indeed. Feels good. Gimmie more.

'The Junk Film' plays Thurs/25, Four Star. See Movie Clock for show times.

Patrick Macias is the author of TokyoScope: The Japanese Cult Film Companion.