The last decade of film programming in Denver has done wonders to fill the gaps in any cineaste's lexicon. And with the 2013 arrival of the Alamo Drafthouse in Littleton, with its focus not only on first-run films but special repertory programming as well, many underrepresented genres have returned to the big screen as part of a special series.
One of those is The 37th Chamber, which the Alamo launched in October to celebrate the golden age of martial art films. The series, which slates martial arts movies for the first Wednesday of the month, kicks off 2015 with the 1981 action comedy hit My Young Auntie -- in a 35mm film print. See also: Best Movie Theater for Comfort in 2014 -- Alamo Draft House
Made by the Shaw Brothers, the Hong Kong studio that churned out 80 percent of cinema's best martial arts films from the '60s to the 80's, the film was directed by action master Liu Kar-leung (Dirty Ho, Lady Is The Boss, Eight Diagram Pole Fighter) and stars the awesomely nimble Kara Hui, at the height of her career, in her 29th role in just five years as a Shaw Brothers action queen. Hui plays a young martial arts champion paying her oldest nephew a visit after the death of her husband, who runs into a clash of classes when a disagreement over her inherited estate causes a series of run-ins with unscrupulous relatives from the in-law side, best settled with punches and kicks.
According to Elijah Taylor, the 37th Chamber's curator and host, Auntie is not to be missed if you consider yourself any kind of fan of Hong Kong cinema. "If you're a fan of kung-fu, Liu Kar-leung has directed and choreographed some of the most amazing films in the Shaw Brothers canon and Auntie is a great place to start," he says. "It features a great cast including Kara Hui, Gordon Liu and even Kar-leung himself that balances serious action with fun comedy that never gets silly enough to throw you of some badass set pieces. The final fight scene is a masterpiece. It's very intricate and dense and a wonder to behold, especially on a big screen."
The 37th Chamber promises to dive deeper into the action pool of Hong Kong cinema in the coming months, with future titles TBD. Asked about the titular numbered chamber of the series, Taylor says: "One of the best films in the genre is The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, also directed by Kar-Leung, where a man works his way through a series of training chambers numbered in increasing ease 1 through 35 and in turn starts a 36th chamber to teach laymen basic defense and martial arts. Our 37th Chamber is even more simple than that, where anyone can come and watch others perform martial arts and examine it all for themselves, safe in their movie seats." Though at this screening, Taylor himself will participate in a pre-film martial arts demonstration. "So whether you want to learn some self-defense or just watch me get thrown around like a rag doll," he promises, "you're in luck!"
My Young Auntie screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 7 at the Alamo Drafthouse Littleton, 7301 South Santa Fe Drive. Tickets for The 37th Chamber are $7 and can be purchased at the box office -- or reserve your seat at drafthouse.com.
Dear Constant Reader, you can learn more about Keith Garcia on Twitter:@ConstantWatcher
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