Leave it to Hong Kong maestro Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood for Love) to reinvent both the historical biopic and Chinese kung fu action movie in one fell swoop. This is a staggeringly beautiful movie, designed and shot with precision and sensitivity to show both the action and the drama in telling detail. The story of one of the most iconic martial artists in Chinese history, the film is lush and involving even as it's also somewhat overly complicated and hard to engage with.
It starts in 1936, when northern master Gong (Wang Qingxiang) travels to the south to investigate reports about Ip Man (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), who just might be the future of kung fu. Intrigued, he offers Ip the chance to become the grandmaster. But Gong's daughter Er (Zhang Ziyi) feels like this is an insult to her family. Then in 1938 Japan invades, and Ip refuses to collaborate with the enemy, which separates him from his wife (Song Hye-kyo) and children. Although Gong's heir Ma San (Zhang Jin) does make a deal with the Japanese, which strongly offends Er's intensely held code of honour. More than a decade later Ip tracks down Er again in Hong Kong; she's working as a doctor while Ip is teaching martial arts. His newest student is the young Bruce Lee.
This story is told through a series of epic hand-to-hand battles, each of which is choreographed in a specific style suitable to the combatants. These details may not be clear to unschooled audience members, but the way Wong shoots and edits the scenes is seriously striking. With lush photography by Oscar-nominated Philippe Le Sourd, the fight scenes have astounding detail, often slow-motion close-ups that make each encounter refreshingly lucid. They're also never overwrought, designed to show the skill of the fighters rather than the usual blood and death. And while Leung gives the film a strikingly cool centre, it's Zhang Ziyi who breathes real passion into the story, lighting up the screen even when she's standing silent and still
Continue reading: The Grandmaster Review
Could 'The Grandmaster' u-surp some of the bigger names at the Oscars? We think so.
Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster? Chances are, you haven't heard of it. As the Academy were preparing to decorate Ben Affleck and his Argo team in January, the acclaimed Chinese filmmaker was about to kick off the Berlin Film Festival with his latest martial arts movie.
Set in China at the time of the Japanese invasion in 1930s, The Grandmaster stars Wai's regular muse Tony Leung Chiu Wai as the kung-fu master and Zhang Ziyi as his rival. The highly stylized and visually spectacular picture is a story of "honor, principle, betrayal and forbidden love."
It spans the tumultuous Republican era that followed the fall of China's last dynasty - a complex period of time rich for filmmakers to tap into. Wai filmed on location, and the snow-swept landscapes of Northeast China, juxtaposed with the subtropical south makes one of the most stunning films of the year.
Continue reading: Why Wong Kar Wai's 'The Grandmaster' Could Storm The Oscars [Trailer]
The 2013 Berlin Film Festival kicks off on Thursday (January 8, 2013) with the premiere of Wong Kar Wai's epic martial arts movie The Grandmaster, set in China at the time of the Japanese invasion in 1930s. Starring Wai's regular muse Tony Leung Chiu Wai as the kung-fu master and Zhang Ziyi as his rival, the stylized picture is a story of "honor, principle, betrayal and forbidden love," according to Reuters.
Wong, who is also president of the jury at the film festival this year, said he wanted to get beneath the surface of martial arts with the movie, "Grandmaster' is a film about kung fu. It tells you more than the skill. It tells you more about these people, martial artists, the world of martial arts. What is their code of honor? What is their value? What is their philosophy?" The original idea for the movie was first announced over a decade ago and it took the filmmaker a rather laborious four years to make, including rigorous training for both Leung and Zhang. "There is a spiritual side of kung fu and that side cannot be learned from books or by fact-finding," said Leung, 50, "It grows spontaneously. So that's why I had to practice four years. You can only achieve that thing through practice."
The Grandmaster will screen to a star-studded audience in Berlin, including Matt Damon, Anne Hathaway, Nicolas Cage, Jude Law and Catherine Deneuve. It's main competition at this year's festival comes in the form of Damon's 'Promised Land', Steven Soderbergh's 'Side Effects' and Iranian drama 'Closed Curtain'.
This time, Tony Leung's Chow Mo-Wan is far from the repressed creature that he played in Love, eternally suffering for the married beauty living in his apartment building. Mo-Wan is now going through all the highs and lows of numerous affairs in 1960s Hong Kong, playing out almost an entire history of love within the space of one film. The title comes from the number of the apartment next to his, wherein reside a number of women with whom we will see him become entangled over the course of the film. 2046 is also the name of a science fiction serial he scribbles down (part of the dues he pays as a struggling hack writer), scenes of which we see acted out, watching its hero endure an eternal train ride away from the mysterious place called 2046, where everybody goes to reclaim lost memories and never returns from; except him.
Continue reading: 2046 Review