Tag Archives: The Invisible Fight

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Black Metal Kung Fu

The Invisible Fight

by Christie Robb

Picture it: the Soviet-Chinese border, 1973. Three Chinese martial-artists dressed up like they are about to join John Travolta for a Saturday night at the discotheque,  wire-fu their way into Soviet territory and kick the shit out of some guards.

One of the guards, Rafael (Ursel Tilk) falls in love. With kung fu.

Determined to learn, despite the practice being banned in the USSR, Rafael tries to teach himself. Then, his car fortuitously breaks down in front of a Russian Orthodox monastery.  There, in a take on the Shaolin Monastery (birthplace of Shaolin Kung Fu), Rafael begins his true training, both physical and metaphysical.

Only in director Rainer Sarnet’s (November) movie, the trappings of Chinese kung fu are replaced with the long beards, black floor-length gowns, and gilt religious treasures of the Russian Orthodox aesthetic. And all the hand movements are derived from the symbolism of religious iconography.

The look is bright 70s pop art. The sound effects are cartoonlike. The music is Black Sabbath. The fight sequences are amusing and often manage to use food. (I’ve never seen someone weaponize a pierogi before.)

The only thing that got in the way of a thoroughly enjoyable movie-time was the sexual politics. The film really wanted to sort its female characters into the roles of either Madonna-mother or whore-demon. But maybe that’s more the Church’s issue than the movie’s. The kung fu surrealist comedy has the kind of video-store cult-classic vibes that would make for a great weekend watch with a group of rowdy friends.