With over 200 films, at 64 years-old, Jackie is just getting started.
Enigma is the perfect word to use in connection with the life and work of Jackie Chan, the most influential martial arts cinema practitioner since Bruce Lee.
Chan’s creative history and output prompts serious questions for dedicated film scholars and obsessed fans. He is clearly in the mould of the great innovative auteur romantic storytellers, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, as a physical comedian/action stuntman, within the context of Chinese storylines and martial arts performance.
Yet immersion of his practice within the modern American studio system and resulting product has tended to polarise opinion about its calibre. Then there’s the issue of his much lesser known career as a singer with numerous records released.
The story of his life as artist and human being offered in his book does provide myriad answers to every possible question. His life is also the history of Chinese and American action film culture, a vitally absorbing tale in itself.
The central issue of this biography is one of identity and knowledge.
Chan has had many names applied to him, or chosen by him, at every point in his life. During his 10-year training stint at the China Drama Academy he had a different name; multiple names during his time with his parents in Canberra, Australia chosen by work mates; then the name he is famously known as now.
Chan was no great academic scholar. Literacy was a great weak point so different pathways of knowledge, lived and learned were and still are at the forefront of his life formation. It’s this fusion of life and a growing understanding that underpins a book offered in a very warm at ease, direct style. Yet there’s always the sense something is being carefully kept back. Chan’s honesty about himself is absolutely unflinching but he presents himself in such a way that deeper issues aren’t directly addressed.
In a sense, this accords with the book’s title, Never Grow Up. Ongoing learning and growth are the book’s paramount thread lines. There is no final point of ‘grown’ in Chan’s thinking. Those deeper issues hinted at would seem to need further consideration before expressing them.
Never Grow Up is a must have for those who want serious engagement with the mind of one of cinema’s greats.
Reviewed by David O’Brien
Distributed by: Simon & Schuster Australia
Released: December 2018
RRP: $39.99 hardcover, $22.99 paperback