Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Grandmaster (2013)

The Grandmaster • Yi dai zong shi • 一代宗師 (2013)
The Grandmaster • Yi dai zong shi • 一代宗師 (2013)
Genre: Action • Biography • Drama
Director: Wong Kar Wai
Starring: Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Cung Le, Hye-kyo Song, Chen Chang
Language: Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese
Duration: 130 min.
Rating: 7.7
Summary:
A chronicle of the life of Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man.
The Grandmaster is the tenth feature film from Shanghai-born, Hong Kong-based writer director, Wong Kar Wai. It is based on the life story of Ip Man, the martial arts grandmaster who is known for popularizing the Wing Chun style of Kung Fu, and for having taught the legendary Bruce Lee. It premiered out-of-competition as the opening film at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival.

Wong Kar Wai's first film in five years—one which took almost that long to shoot—is, as anyone who has seen his work before would expect, a visually breathtaking experience from the first frame to the last. Working once again with long time collaborator William Chang (editor and production designer on all of his features), and for the first time with cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd (who began his career with fashion commercials), the film is one glorious set-piece after another, captured with intensely stylized camera-work that emphasize its beautifully executed action sequences, precision choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping.

The Grandmaster • Yi dai zong shi • 一代宗師 (2013)

Veteran actor Tony Leung Chiu Wai (who spent several years in training for the role) plays the central character of the film, narrating and leading a meandering story that begins in Foshan (a city in the Guangdong province of Southern China) in the 1930s, and takes several detours in space and time, before following him as he flees the Communist regime to Hong Kong in the 1950s, where he would establish his first school.

Most biopics try to cram more than enough material for a trilogy into a two hour running time. In the midsection of the film, Wong takes that a step further. Making a curious narrative decision that splits the focus away from Ip Man, to that of Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi, in an excellent film-stealing performance). She's the highly skilled only-daughter of an aging master from the Northeast (Wang Qingxiang), whose story of honor and revenge proves to be even more interesting and emotionally gripping than Ip's. Then, before all is said and done, the storyline forks yet again to introduce another tangentially related character, the fascinating and enigmatic martial arts master, The Razor (Chang Chen), who makes a bone crunching impact that leaves you wanting more, due to his very little screen time.

The Grandmaster • Yi dai zong shi • 一代宗師 (2013)

Good or bad, the result of this fractured and complex storytelling, is a nostalgic and romantic film that breaks convention and ends up being less about any of its characters or their lives, but instead becomes a love letter to a vanished way of existence and a time gone by. The real story here is about Kung Fu, its practitioners, and the unique styles forever lost in a rapidly changing world. Many wonderful styles are put on display and it's very apparent that every sequence was rigorously rehearsed to perfection.

However impressive and exciting as it is for it's dazzling visuals and attention to detail. It lacks the emotional engagement found in his best works, such as In the Mood For Love (2000), and Chungking Express (1994), and we can't help but hope that there will one day be a redux that expands on some of its narrative dead ends. But as one character says near the end, "How boring would life be without regrets?".
Bonjour Tristesse
The Grandmaster • Yi dai zong shi • 一代宗師 (2013)

The Grandmaster • Yi dai zong shi • 一代宗師 (2013)

The Grandmaster • Yi dai zong shi • 一代宗師 (2013)

The Grandmaster • Yi dai zong shi • 一代宗師 (2013)

The Grandmaster • Yi dai zong shi • 一代宗師 (2013)

The Grandmaster • Yi dai zong shi • 一代宗師 (2013)

The Grandmaster • Yi dai zong shi • 一代宗師 (2013)

The Grandmaster • Yi dai zong shi • 一代宗師 (2013)

10 comments:

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I really, really, really want to see this. I hope it's a major step-up from the disappointment that was "My Blueberry Nights" which I thought was Wong Kar-Wai being very derivative of himself.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Rating of 7.7 seems quite promising. But, I will only be reading your review once I have watched it... will be back as soon as I am done with it :-)

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I just saw this trailer recently and was very intrigued!! I need to see more from Wong Kar Wai anyway and having Tony Leung here certainly makes me want to see it more. Great review Bonjour!

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Fine review! I really feel these are films I need to check out more. My movie watching resume would show a huge void. Now if only I could figure out a good starting point.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Looks like a decent watch, I'll catch it if it comes by. I don't think I'll put it in the 'musts' list but it won't be hard to look out for anyway.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I'd say it's more of a step sideways, I doubt you'll be disappointed, but it isn't the masterpiece we all hoped for.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Sounds good Murtaza. Thanks for stopping by.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Thanks Ruth. I think you'll enjoy this. Look forward to your review.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Hi Keith. I can offer a ton of suggestions, but can you clarify what you mean by 'these films'? Chinese films, Martial arts films, Wong Kar Wai films, what in particular are you looking to get started with?

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Excellent review! Ah, your thoughts on the film echo others - visually brilliant, lacking in emotions. Not that this will stop me since any Wong Kar-Wai film is a great film. As far as I'm concerned Chungking Express, Fallen Angels and In the Mood for Love are impossible to top.

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