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Movie: The Grandmaster (2013)
Genre: ,
Director: Kar-Wai Wong
Date of Release: 30 Aug 2013
Duration: 130
IMDB Rating: 6.6/10
Movie review score

About The Grandmaster (2013)

This is undoubtedly a new kind of martial arts film, that looks closely at the “art” part of martial art, something that has its roots in Confucius’s way of ancient Chinese life. If you’re right, you’re left standing. Breathtaking does not do it justice. Wong Kar-Wai wanted to pay tribute to Ip-Man, a master of kung-fu and Bruce Lee’s mentor. 2. The screenplay and script. “The Grandmaster”, in my opinion, missed this golden opportunity to satisfy the thirst of martial arts fans on these aspects. Nonetheless, Zhang easily trounces Leung in the film’s dramatic scenes, the former’s combination of grit and vulnerability making Gong Er a more compelling figure than Ip Man. Rating: 3 Memory is a funny thing. The martial-arts scenes are grand and epic though and I’m sure fans of the genre will be more than pleased. Knowing that a WKW movie is never straightforward story-telling, I know his will be different from all others but wonder how different will it be compared to his “Ashes of Time”. It was not how many fights a man won that made him a grandmaster, it was how he thought and what he did to contribute to Kung Fu. It’s not only about Kung Fu, but also about the self view, the world view and, believe it or not, going down to the earth – seeing others. While , Gong Er takes the way of revenge after her father is wrongly murdered . For people who are familiar with the basic concepts of Wing Chun, Baqua, Xingyi and Baijquan, it’s quite the rare visual treat as bigger movements usually bold better for on screen fight choreography. Like fine wine, films get better as they age. Both are challenged by life and face up to them in unique ways by digging into their roots of being disciplined kung fu students. Like it or not, first movers always have an advantage. Nonetheless, both Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi also perform impressively given their lack of a martial arts background, the months of training to get them prepared physically for their respective roles paying off in the grace and confidence by which they execute their moves. This clearly was made for a Chinese audience who would know the history and characters — and who would appreciate important regional differences. I highly recommend this film. Ip defeated her father in an honourable contest and she wants to recover the pride of the Gong family. The nature of the tragedy has so many ambiguous overtones it bleeds into an open life, which I presume to be a requisite for any of his films. Just watch and appreciate artistic quality. *Behind* is a train that starts and by the end of the fight (and causing the end) it is racing. The southern community elects Ip Man, the shining newcomer, up for the challenge. Gong Er fights to honour her fathers name. Fights , attacks and exciting combats very well staged by expert fighters , the result is a strong entry for art martial buffs . They face off in an encounter that is all choreography and zero fighting. Director Kar Wai Wong establishes his signature style of kinetically-paced story-telling through sumptuous imagery , leading to international critical acclaim . He is 1st Chinese to win the Best Director Award at Cannes film Festival (1997) for “In the Mood for Love” and has directed several successes such as ¨My Blueberry nights¨, ¨2046¨, ¨Happy together¨, ¨Fallen Angels¨ and ¨Chungking Express¨. And , of course , this ¨The Grandmaster¨ that was official submission of Hong Kong to the Oscars 2014 best foreign language film category . Although he is charismatic enough, he fails to expand his Ip Man character with a satisfying emotional center other than looking cool or broods a lot. Sometimes it is difficult to put aside expectations of what one wants a film to be in favor of what the actual film on the screen is. It’s quite sad to see what could have been another classic Wong Kar-Wai movie-in-the-making turns out to be a disappointment.

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Where is Ip Man’s involvement in all this? While both Leung and Zhang have experience in action movies, they are not Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh. There is plenty of action but martial arts fans want Jet Li, Donnie Yen or Michelle Yeoh. xxx (2 days later! People like that actually existed, I knew from my parent’s generation. The ¨Grandmaster¨project was announced almost 10 years before its final release, due to director Kar Wai Wong’s endless perfectionism. the only thing I would say not good enough is, the movie is only about 2 hours long. The film follows Ip Man’s years during the Second Sino-Japanese War, in 1938, struggling through poverty with his family. Leung and Zhang are good at portraying this, far better than at the actions department. However, if you are not familiar with the subject matter, you may find it difficult to get emotionally involved. Wong Kar Wai is very interested in presenting these traditions, and similar to how he’s filming the action, it’s like he’s trying to keep a record of it. It strikes me as a perfect diamond by this exceptional, if eccentric, cinema artist. Against Ip, it’s more a matter of pride and “face”. The young vs old; tradition vs ability; love vs duty; humbling vs trailblazing. Keenly aware of the actors’ limitations, Yuen goes for elegance over spectacle. I’ve been in training of a sort and unable to view serious movies, so it was difficult to arrange for this, and the anticipation built. Fast forward to 2013 (after a string of delays and whatnot), THE GRANDMASTER has came and gone with mostly favorable reviews and successful box office runs. Tony Leung did not give me any surprise aside from the action scenes. I nearly panicked when the cover of the DVD reads, Language: Cantonese. This is what I call a real movie. Of course, narrative was never a strong suite in Wong’s films, which typically were mood pieces boosted by his signature artistic flourishes. First Crouching Tiger is more wuxia than kung fu, as it is about swordfight and you do not know any style of kung fu used in the film (are they really Wudang? But the point seems to be the transitions one to another, the movement from one world-view to another. It shows in his work. So if you want ‘truth’, you’re looking in the wrong place to begin with. The cinematography also harks back to the beauty of black and white films, although this film is in color. Even the fight scenes were more dance or ballet than simple fighting but with technique and flow rarely seen. This film won’t be really in a Top 100 list of greatest films, but it comes close and should be in a top 250-500 list of great films. The cut from statues of Buddha to grainy footage of bustling Hong Kong is one of the most thunderous edits I’ve seen. About Ip Man, you should know that the fighting style he is supposed to have originated called wing chun, at least as taught now, takes some old Taoist notions about softness and intuited flow and creates a uselessly complicated and scholastic system of study. Director Wong seems to want to send a message, martial art or romantic emotions related, perhaps both.

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The film looks at his early years till he set up his martial arts school in Hong Kong. To some, that’s not sensible: why not a film to showcase Donnie Yen with real moves? I prefer a film that takes care of its basics well, before venturing into the visual/special effects (what I consider icing on the cake). In any story involving Ip Man, the basics should be the man, his family, his time and his Wing Chun. Set in 1940s Fushan, Canton province, the martial arts community, lead by Gong Yutian from the north, is retiring and holds a challenge to select an heir to bring southern martial arts to the north. She challenges Ip to a dual and this sets up another amazing scene. Director Wong’s movie, on the other hand, underplays these elements to a level approaching insignificance. The action is real and human, not the usual Hollywood fakery. No, this is a story about legacy. In fact, throughout the film, Wong offers little insight into the person of Ip Man. While there are many scenes (including the special effects) that are indeed very captivating – e.g. those at the train station involving the duel of Gong Er and San – these effects quickly became a major muddling distraction for me, to an extent that I felt like the film has overrun in length in its appeal to audience. Or even better, why should a movie set in the golden age of martial arts be solely about one grandmaster? She is hot blooded with a mind of her own and a unique penchant for interpreting her fathers words to drive her individuality. Admittedly there is little. Tarkovsky is ‘muddled’. But it’s so lovely overall. It means we get the heroic portrait—the good vs evil sifus, tied to contrasted history, tied to the passing of tradition. Wing Chun kicks are never aimed above the knees, used mainly to demolish the opponent’s footwork. )has come with him and she has her own way of looking at things. I believe the story would be more than perfection if Wang didn’t have to cut another 2 hours film to fit the length of commercial copy. He plays with speeds, textures and choreographed impacts but does not radically push the language like he did in Ashes. For one, I am surprised to see that the script chose to focus on something other than Wing Chun – the so-called “64 forms”, a kind of martial art – and revolve around the relationship between Man and Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), with a rather strange majority of screen time placed on Er. In fact, I strongly suspected that the “Grandmaster” in the film is actually Gong Er and not Ip Man (and perhaps this film will be so successful in this respect that there will be another film on Gong Er?) I believe audeince is in for the story behind Ip Man, Wing Chun and Bruce Lee, not “64 forms” or the fictitious Gong Er. It is clearly focus misplaced. A scene towards the end that portrays supposedly the last time Ip met Gong Er is infused with the director’s signature sense of longing and regret as the latter reveals her feelings for the former, but how that bears relevance to what Wong is trying to say about Ip or Gong Er’s tumultuous lives is too obscure. The plot is quite simple, really. Every character in the film is driven by this single motivation and each take it to different places. But let’s not mince words here. We see the pain and modesty of Ip Man through Tony Chiu Wai Leung. Wong Kar-wai brings the poetic beauty of his “In the Mood for Love” to this Chinese action genre and executes it with a precise rhythmic heightening reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah at his best, while bringing out the experience of living through the Japanese invasion of China during WWII. The cast is magnificent, especially Tony Leung as the Ip man and Ziyi Zhang as Gong Er who perfectly embodies a kung-fu mistress trying to avenge her father. Shigeru Umebayashi is in good form here but he does not have the opportunities of In the Mood for Love kind of grandstanding. I am not sure whether these effects are specially chosen to mask the fact that Tony Leung is not a martial artist, but applying these on veterans such as Zhang Ziyi – who has learn some martial arts before – is a waste of talents. One doesn’t rush through The Louvre, but savors the moment. In the flicks that the market has seen so far, the movie makers had to enlarge elements that will sell tickets (and I don’t blame them for it) such as the riches-to-rags predicament or the patriotism sentiments. The cinematography is sublime, each shot dazzles us with its perfection. Ip Man had defeated her father, Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang) in a battle that was as much about philosophical ideas as combat. Not so much in the fights: Kar Wai plays with them like a master painter fools with paint in commissioned work.

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