The story of legendary Guan Yu crossing five passes & slaying six generals. He played a major role in the civil war that led to the collapse of Han Dynasty & the establishment of Shu Han of the 3 Kingdoms, making Liu Bei its first emperor.
Ip Man's peaceful life in Foshan changes after Gong Yutian seeks an heir for his family in Southern China. Ip Man then meets Gong Er who challenges him for the sake of regaining her family's honor. After the Second Sino-Japanese War, Ip Man moves to Hong Kong and struggles to provide for his family. In the mean time, Gong Er chooses the path of vengeance after her father was killed by Ma San. Written by
One reason for the long development time of the movie was that the film spent over a year in editing before director Kar Wai Wong was satisfied. See more »
Gong Yutian spoke to me about his last move: Old Monkey Hangs Up His Badge. He said the secret of that move was to turn back. I didn't understand his meaning at the time, I thought he was unable to keep up with changing times...
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HK Auteur Review - The Grandmaster by Wong Kar Wai 一代宗師
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. The southern community elects Ip Man, the shining newcomer, up for the challenge. Ip Man develops a friendship with Gong's daughter, Gong Er. The story crosses two decades as Ip Man and Gong Er stand the tests of life. The Japanese Army invasion of Fushan forces Ip Man into poverty and he resettles in Hong Kong. A mutiny within the Gong family sets Gong Er on a quest for revenge. In a time where age-old tradition is being replaced with modernity, how much can one uphold their principles? Who will pass on their lineage?
Who takes 14 years to make a movie? Wong Kar Wai is truly one-of-a-kind. He's the only filmmaker who can take unlimited time with financial support (the backers who most likely will lose their investment) and a team that is willing to plunge to the depths with him. It shows in his work.
Tony Leung's Ip Man is portrayed akin to a normal gentleman. I'm the biggest Donnie Yen fan in the world and as good as he was playing a dramatized version of Ip Man, Tony Leung's scholar-like image is closer to who Ip Man is in real life. On the kung fu side, Leung is not Donnie Yen but achieves the necessary physicality and fights more convincingly than the quick editing suggests. It makes me rethink how the actual Ip Man may have physically expressed himself, and I doubt he would have fought as aggressively as displayed in Donnie Yen's version.
This may be the best Zhang Ziyi role yet. She's never been more likable in any other role I have ever seen her in than here. Gong Er is the film's most relatable character, carries the most pathos and energizes the film by providing the audience someone to root for. When she fights, the stakes are high. There is a somewhat of a battle between fact and fiction within the film's construct. It's almost as if Gong Er, a fictitious character representing tradition, brings the traditional tropes of what one may expect from a martial arts film. While Ip Man, on the other hand, is married to historical fact and delivering the film's message.
The fights are filmed tightly, but for a reason. Wong Kar Wai is interested in the details of the movements: the little twists, nudges and arcs where one gathers power that are all specific to each style of Chinese martial arts. 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. For those who are not familiar, fear not! There is a sequence where the film presents these different styles. The over-saturation of Ip Man films really has limited the creativity to presenting Wing Chun as a martial art. It's safe to say most audiences know what Wing Chun looks like now.
It sounds as though there are a lot of qualifiers for one to understand the film. The world of the film exists within the martial arts community of an older time, where people lived with their own set of rules and traditions. 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. Characters speak in idioms with multiple subtext underneath (as martial artists do). That's a noble effort, but it may prove difficult for English speaking audiences.
A detail I noticed between the early promotional posters to the actual movie poster was that the early ones listed the film's title as The Grandmasters and the actual movie poster's title is named The Grandmaster. It makes me speculate that there probably was a story decision amongst the creative team whether the story should be solely focus on Ip Man or whether it should be about all three of the masters together. That was precisely what the narrative needed to decide on. Whether if I'm right or not, this is a case of a film that clearly has shot too much footage and was forced to be cut down upon its due date. The first cut was reportedly 4 hours and this really came apparent to me upon reflecting about the film. There seems to be a lot lost on the editing floor and unwillingly creates gaps in the narrative.
There is much to love about The Grandmaster. It is not a martial arts movie in the traditional sense in where its conflicts are solved by fighting. No, this is a story about legacy. It's about the deeply embedded Chinese Confucian value of improving the quality of life for future generations by passing on our culture and heritage responsibly. Every character in the film is driven by this single motivation and each take it to different places. To quote a line from the film, (I'm paraphrasing) "A martial artist's biggest enemy is life itself." Ip Man is a grandmaster not because of his physical prowess, but because he stood up to life (which was quite tragic) and kept to his grand vision of spreading Wing Chun. I really love the fact that someone made a film about this.
That's what ultimately won me over about The Grandmaster. It had a lot of heart, in how the film was made, it's microscopic attention to detail and in it's message. It maybe esoteric, and even downright alienating to some viewers, but the rewards are worth the effort!
For a more in-depth review, please visit my blog @ http://hkauteur.wordpress.com
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