Richard Bernstein, in today's NYT Week in Review section is a bit late to the Kung Fu Panda critique. I do not often toot my own horn here but I was on this a month ago. And in the meantime enough has been written about the movie to cover just about every angle. Maybe this Times piece signals the end of it....finally.
Bernstein recycles some quotes and points that have already appeared in various sources. But here is a statement that I missed (OK: I haven't been looking all that carefully. I'm not at all convinced that this flick has any cultural staying power...):
“Besides borrowing a number of sequences from classic kung fu movies in China, the animated comedy grasped the essence of our culture,” Lu Chuan, a young Chinese movie director, wrote in a much noted commentary in China Daily.
This is ridiculous. How can Lu believe that an utterly pedestrian kid's film can somehow grasp "the essence of our culture." Please. Chinese culture, in all of its depth and complexity, is so much more than a slacker Panda getting in touch with his inner Kungfu master. Why make so much out of a cinematic non-entity?
Bernstein makes another observation:
Certainly the movie’s themes do evoke some important Chinese elements, not all of them as obvious as the panda. Overriding the whole story of Po and his triumph over his own bungling nature is a recognizably Buddhist sensibility; it is embodied by the Shaolin Monastery-like setting, where spiritual enlightenment is fused with the mental discipline and mastery over the self that are prerequisites to enlightenment.
Why no mention of Taoism? Why only recognize the later Buddhist influence? Where is the love for Taoism, people? I guess I am still the only one out there arguing for the Taoist interpretation of the movie.
The China Beat also did a Kung Fu Panda post this week. Haiyan Lee argues that it violates certain of the conventions of the standard Kung Fu film genre. To which I would respond: don't worry, it's a kid's movie. But Lee ends the post with a line that puzzles me:
In this sense,Kung Fu Panda is a disarmingly cute and merry
face of the global modernity that has made it impossible for anyone to
lay claim to beloved cultural symbols as inviolable national patrimony.
In this sense,Kung Fu Panda is a disarmingly cute and merry face of the global modernity that has made it impossible for anyone to lay claim to beloved cultural symbols as inviolable national patrimony.
Why, I wonder, would we expect anything like an "inviolable national patrimony" under conditions of intensive globalization and deepening of the capitalist world-economy? There are no "inviolable national patrimonies" anywhere. As Marx predicted: "all that is solid melts into air,all that is holy is profaned..." - national patrimonies included.
To finish this absolutely last consideration of Kung Fu Panda, I was amused by Roland's use of the theme of the movie (at least his interpretation of the theme of the movie) to defend himself against his detractors (click the link and scroll down to number 011).
I guess we're all Pandas now....