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Wire fu is used to describe a subgenre of kung fu movies where the stuntmen's or actor's skill is augmented with the use of wires and pulleys, as well as other stage techniques, usually to perform fight-scene stunts and give the illusion of super-human ability (or Qinggong). It is exemplified by the work of Tsui Hark, Yuen Woo-ping, and Jet Li. Hollywood has subsequently adapted the style for the American film industry. Almost all modern wuxia movies fall in this category. Not all martial arts films use wire work.
Typically, a harness is hidden under the actor's costume, and a cable and pulley system is attached to the harness. When live sets are used, wire removal is done in post-production. Another later-developed technique of creating wire fu is using a greenscreen and post-production special effects. Greenscreening the wire work is done for more complex stunts and camera angles. The actors are suspended in the air by green wires, which are then erased digitally during the post-production process. The process by which this was done in older (pre-digital) movies was to use film coloration techniques in a method similar to animation; artists (usually animators), would painstakingly go frame by frame over the raw footage and color in the wires to match the background.
Wire work is often used in kung fu movies to simply allow actors to perform stunts beyond their physical abilities. In some films, however (notably Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) it is used to create a more dramatic effect and adds magical realism to the world in which the film takes place.
Examples of wire fu movies
- Sister Street Fighter (1974)
- Fong Sai-yuk (1993) (Fang Shi Yu), also known as The Legend of Fong Sai-yuk
- Iron Monkey (1993 film) (Siu Nin Wong Fei Hung Chi: Tit Ma Lau)
- The Matrix (1999)
- Charlie's Angels (2000)
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
- Scooby-Doo (2002)
- Hero (2002)
- Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)
- Kill Bill (2003)
- Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003)
- House of Flying Daggers (Shi Mian Mai Fu) (2004)
- Rahner, Mark (2004-12-24). "Wire-fu flicks: Pouncing public, hidden treasures". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
- Shohini Chaudhuri (2005). Contemporary World Cinema: Europe, the Middle East, East Asia and South Asia. Edinburgh University Press. p. 125. ISBN 074861799X.
- "The Problem With Fx". Newsweek. Retrieved 2010-07-04.
- Crabtree, Sheigh (2006-12-17). "High-wire act raises the bar in fight scenes". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
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