I Am Bruce Lee
An uplifting look at the life of a cultural icon.
A documentary about cultural phenomenon, and the biggest martial arts movie star of all time, I am Bruce Lee aims to gather testimony from both those who know Lee during his tragically short life, and from figures in the sporting, martial arts, and other cultural arenas that have felt the influence of the man.
A standard talking-head set up, interspersed with sections of archive footage, the film initially feels almost too reverent, throwing any ideas of objectivity out of the window early on, with a fanboy enthusiasm for the life and work of a truly great movie star. Whilst this is initially a little jarring, the enthusiasm the filmmakers and interviewees clearly have for their subject is infectious, resulting in an effectively feel-good documentary that is difficult not to like.
As with any film of this type, there are naturally weak links. Some of the talking heads feel a little out of place, and whilst the intention is clearly to gain a wider cultural perspective of Lee’s influence, you do get the feeling that you could live without Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas going into why he loves Bruce Lee. Others are similarly incongruous, but none are a total waste of time. Highlights of the bunch are certainly Gene Lebell and Ray “Boom-Boom” Mancini, two fellow fighters (from different disciplines) who speak with refreshing candour amongst the sentimentality that occasionally threatens to take over.
Some thrilling archive footage is wheeled out, and apart from the usual clips of Lee’s movies, we are treated to some interesting screen test videos and revealing interviews from Lee’s early life. The aim of this film certainly seems to be to get to know the man behind the legend, and a slight casualty of this is the philosophy that Lee embodied, with Jeet Kun Do a fascinating martial art that is rather skimmed over.
An enthusiastic, loving look at a truly inspirational figure, I am Bruce Lee is hard not to enjoy. A few weak links and an occasional lapse into hyperbole nag away, but this film remains an absolute must-see for Lee fans.