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Thread: LUK SIU FUNG: adapted duel or novel's NON-duel?

  1. #1
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Default LUK SIU FUNG: adapted duel or novel's NON-duel?

    Gu Long's LUK SIU FUNG: THE DUEL is one of his most popular and successful works, but the climax has always been a bit anticlimatic. Some say it's "deep" or "artistic", but really, most wuxia fans who crave wuxia ACTION simply felt let down after the big buildup for the duel between Sai Mun Chui Sheut and Yip Goo Sing ended with a description of a single sword stroke that lasted about a half page. I think most readers were expecting more (maybe it's satisfying at some highbrow, artsy-fartsy level, but when you set up a fight between champion swordsmen, people might actually expect a FIGHT).

    Gu Long was kind of able to get away with it in the novel (some people thought it was great), but in a TV series/film, it would be a disaster. Consequently, each TV/film adaptation that has been made of THE DUEL features a lengthy battle between Sai Mun Chui Sheut and Yip Goo Sing.

    In this case, do you believe that the adaptations actually delivered the goods much better than the novel did?

  2. #2
    Senior Member junny's Avatar
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    I think first of all, a reader shouldn't read Gu Long with a Jin Yong mindset. Different authors have different styles and different treatment of the word wuxia. If you read Gu Long with a Jin Yong mindset, you're bound to get disappointed because there are no prolonged fights or explanations on certain techniques, for example.

    Having gotten that out of the way, the duel between Ximen Chuixue and Ye Gucheng was not anti-climatic. If anyone bothered to actually read the novel or get hold of a translation instead of relying on TV/movie adaptations, one would actually realise that the fight took approximately three pages worth of text. Of course, not all of those pages were about the swordplay, there was stuff about the tension between the swordsmen, how the people watching them felt, what was at stake after all that brouhaha with the imperial guards and the emperor.

    One reason why TV or movie adaptations on Gu Long have never been truly successful is that they focus too much on creating drawn-out duels and less on what really mattered in the novels. That is, they went about it with a Jin Yong mindset. How do you capture on camera the speed of Ximen Chuixue's swordplay? The speed of Li Xunhuan's dagger? You can't. It's up to the reader to imagine how swift, how deadly these people and the weapons they wield are. And that's the fun part of reading.

    As a purist, I know for certain that the adaptations will always fail to measure up to the novels, because 1) they are going about adapting with the wrong mindset, and 2) they are focusing on all the wrong things.

    Gu Long talks about wuxia in his own way. He focuses on the techniques, but most of all, he focuses on character development. You may not agree with the characters he has created, but in his best works, they display depth. Readers can relate to these characters because they are more human, they display traits that normal, ordinary people can understand.

    Take Li Xunhuan for example. Why do people sympathise with him? They understand how painful it is for him to let his loved one go to the man who saved his life. They can empathise with his actions, even if they may not have agreed with them. And Lu Xiaofeng's womanising ways... again, not something that receives universal recognition, but not an unfamiliar male trait.

    I'm tired of people expecting a whole lot out of Gu Long adaptations and then blasting them for not being up to mark. These expectations were wrong in the first place. You want to see swordplay, fine, but don't complain if it ends after a few seconds, because that's all it will take upon literal translation to the big screen.

    Duellists take a break too (Miao Renfeng and Hu Yidao fought days on end, but they had toilet and meal breaks, I'm sure). And movie adaptations are never able to capture the full essence of a novel, much less Gu Long's, because within that limited time span, they can only focus on a few things, and leave out others that may have an impact on the story but do not fit into the limited time span. TV serials have more leeway, but even they do not carry everything onscreen. Certain things in the novel just do not carry across well into adaptations.

    So you watch adaptations if you just want some entertainment for a few hours, not if you're hoping to see the stuff in the book make a mirror-image leap onto the big screen. That's impossible and unrealistic. People really ought to adjust their expectations and learn to be more broad-minded where the interpretation of wuxia is concerned. And please, read the novel.
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  3. #3

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    The novel was better, hands down. Sure it was only one move in the novel, but the novel went into deep analysis about the reasons, emotions, and intentions behind that one exchange. As I'm sure I read somewhere, sometimes life can be defined by just one moment, and the actual duel in the novel captured it. Two of the greatest swordsmen of their generation had their life and their craft defined, not by a series of moves, not by a prolonged period of time, but by one move, by one moment. It's pure, it's climatic, it's perfect. Sure, it maybe "artsy fartsy", but for 2 men who only know fatal moves and never ever leaves any room for compromise or retreat, it's the only way. Besides, reading wuxia for action is like watching Charlie's Angels to find out whodunit.

    Also, in reality, Jin Yong doesn't describe his fights in great detail either. Most fights are either settled right away (GJ and GWM's single exchange) or he'll describe general developments amongst the competitors along the way (H7G and OYF's fight on Peach Blossom Island), but very rarely does he go into great detail. So, at least in that aspect, Jin Yong isn't that far away from Gu Long. Liang Yu Sheng, on the other hand....
    Last edited by Moinllieon; 07-26-05 at 06:49 PM.
    春花秋月几时了,
    往事知多少?
    小楼昨夜又东风,
    故国不堪回首明月中.
    雕栏玉砌应犹在,
    只是朱颜改.
    问君能有几多愁,
    恰似一江春水向东流.
    --南唐后主,李煜.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Candide's Avatar
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    The novel was better. I'm known here for hating GL's way of "they stared at each other for 2 hours, the guy on the left won" fighting description and his trend to screw up endings, but I think the Duel's final battle was quite well done. In fact, I'd say that it's the only ending or fight that GL didn't manage to screw up completely.

    Btw...

    Take Li Xunhuan for example. Why do people sympathise with him? They understand how painful it is for him to let his loved one go to the man who saved his life.
    Well, I don't.

    They can empathise with his actions, even if they may not have agreed with them.
    Again, I don't.

    "Anything you can't say NO to is your MASTER, and you are its SLAVE."

    "I disapprove of what I say, but I will defend to the death my right to say it."

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Candide
    Well, I don't.

    Again, I don't.

    Well, you are a heartless Aussie bloke who wants to marry your cousin and tends to gardens, that's expected.

    Actually... Candide would relate to Li Xunhuan quite well, the young Candide anyways. Guess you must old...
    春花秋月几时了,
    往事知多少?
    小楼昨夜又东风,
    故国不堪回首明月中.
    雕栏玉砌应犹在,
    只是朱颜改.
    问君能有几多愁,
    恰似一江春水向东流.
    --南唐后主,李煜.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Candide's Avatar
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    I thought cousins are fair game with you Chinese? And yes I'm getting old and less philosophical, but more into real actions, like gardening.
    "Anything you can't say NO to is your MASTER, and you are its SLAVE."

    "I disapprove of what I say, but I will defend to the death my right to say it."

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Candide
    I thought cousins are fair game with you Chinese? And yes I'm getting old and less philosophical, but more into real actions, like gardening.
    Well, if they look sufficiently hot, I'm sure they are fair game to you... uh.. Vietnamese-German-Aussie-WhateverElseYouAre. But I see you are still into such silly moral things like upholding silly promises despite of your old age, I'm sure there's some correlation with Li Xunhuan there.
    春花秋月几时了,
    往事知多少?
    小楼昨夜又东风,
    故国不堪回首明月中.
    雕栏玉砌应犹在,
    只是朱颜改.
    问君能有几多愁,
    恰似一江春水向东流.
    --南唐后主,李煜.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Candide's Avatar
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    Yeah I kept that promise, and I hated myself for that, so you can see why I don't think very highly of Mr Li.
    "Anything you can't say NO to is your MASTER, and you are its SLAVE."

    "I disapprove of what I say, but I will defend to the death my right to say it."

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Candide
    Yeah I kept that promise, and I hated myself for that, so you can see why I don't think very highly of Mr Li.
    So in the end it is actually no more than self hatred that you've transported onto another?
    春花秋月几时了,
    往事知多少?
    小楼昨夜又东风,
    故国不堪回首明月中.
    雕栏玉砌应犹在,
    只是朱颜改.
    问君能有几多愁,
    恰似一江春水向东流.
    --南唐后主,李煜.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moinllieon
    So in the end it is actually no more than self hatred that you've transported onto another?
    Moin, stop bickering with Candide and finish translating The Duel. Then, we can have a clear cut answer!

    I'm dying to read the last few exchanges between Ximen Chuixue and Ye Gucheng in English. No pressure, no pressure.
    明月心跳起來,又回頭,嫣然道,你還要不要我帶上那面具?
    傅紅雪冷道,現在你臉上豈非已經戴上了個面具?

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by bliss
    Moin, stop bickering with Candide and finish translating The Duel. Then, we can have a clear cut answer!

    I'm dying to read the last few exchanges between Ximen Chuixue and Ye Gucheng in English. No pressure, no pressure.
    Well, if I wasn't putting up 10-12 hour work days everyday this summer that might have been in the cards....
    春花秋月几时了,
    往事知多少?
    小楼昨夜又东风,
    故国不堪回首明月中.
    雕栏玉砌应犹在,
    只是朱颜改.
    问君能有几多愁,
    恰似一江春水向东流.
    --南唐后主,李煜.

  12. #12
    Member Sepiraph's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng
    Gu Long's LUK SIU FUNG: THE DUEL is one of his most popular and successful works, but the climax has always been a bit anticlimatic. Some say it's "deep" or "artistic", but really, most wuxia fans who crave wuxia ACTION simply felt let down after the big buildup for the duel between Sai Mun Chui Sheut and Yip Goo Sing ended with a description of a single sword stroke that lasted about a half page. I think most readers were expecting more (maybe it's satisfying at some highbrow, artsy-fartsy level, but when you set up a fight between champion swordsmen, people might actually expect a FIGHT).

    Gu Long was kind of able to get away with it in the novel (some people thought it was great), but in a TV series/film, it would be a disaster. Consequently, each TV/film adaptation that has been made of THE DUEL features a lengthy battle between Sai Mun Chui Sheut and Yip Goo Sing.

    In this case, do you believe that the adaptations actually delivered the goods much better than the novel did?
    I actually thought THE DUEL was really well done and not anti-climatic. The tension was built up really nicely prior to the actual duel. GL focused on the tension, the moods of the duelists and their characters. Ironically enough, a single stroke is actually the most realistic description you can possibly write, because that is what happens in real life.

    If you want to talk about anti-climax, I think LUK SIU FUNG: Phoenix Nine Sky's ending takes the cake.

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