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I Am Bruce Lee

by Louise Adams
Monday Jan 28, 2013
I Am Bruce Lee

"The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering," says the prescient 137-pound martial arts master in the documentary "I Am Bruce Lee."

Director Pete McCormack timelines Lee's truncated life with clips from his iconic film and TV roles, and interviews with wife Linda, daughter Shannon, an array of sports stars from boxing to basketball, MMA to UFC, actors Mickey Rourke and Ed O'Neill, and a riveting 1971 interview with Pierre Berton where the intense and charming Lee intimately reveals his philosophy.

A popular child actor yet troubled street fighter, Lee moved to Seattle in 1959 and started teaching wing chun to Americans. Chinese practitioners didn't want their craft shared with outsiders, but Lee won the right to continue by taking down their champion in less than three minutes (perfectionist Lee was frustrated the defeat wasn't quicker).

While also fighting for respectable roles in movies, Lee gave martial arts to America, mixing in fencing, boxing, one-thumb push-ups and even his mastery of cha-cha dancing to create jeet kune do, the "style of no style" that embraced each practitioner's talents.

Lee's impossibly sculpted, sexy body and his ferocious intensity are the real deal -- he choreographed and executed every lightning-fast move himself -- yet his unmatched physical prowess belies his humanitarian impact, still felt after 40 years. He brought cultures together, represented the outsider for many minorities, confronted racism and neatly kicked its ass with an operatic ki-ya, managing to make violence a beautiful human ballet.

After becoming a movie star in his hometown of Hong Kong when America only offered him glorified coolie roles (like Kato), Lee died while making his Hollywood debut "Enter the Dragon." "My obsession is to make, pardon the expression, the fuckingest action motion picture ever made," he said. He did, and it premiered several months after his tragic death at age 32 of still-unconfirmed causes.

"What I do is the art of expressing the human body," he said, and did, like nobody else, before or since. Can you name another Asian-American leading man, even today?

"I Am Bruce Lee"

Louise Adams is a Chicago freelance writer at www.treefalls.com (and a nom de guerre).


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