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Magnificent in its Original International Cut Version
rblenheim26 October 2014

It was finally time for the great iconoclastic Hong Kong director to turn to martial arts in his intense and atmospheric telling of the great grandmaster teacher, Ip man, and he doesn't disappoint.

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.

A Wong masterpiece to put on a level with his finest work!

PS: One particular reviewer earlier criticized the editing of this film which, to me, smacks of putting down the film for not being more conventional. 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. "The Grandmaster" is, in fact, brilliantly edited. Wong is, if nothing else, a perfectionist in taking years to mold his assembled footage into his own personal rhythmic poem, idiosyncratically emphasizing downbeats and rests as precise as a great composer. What you see here is Wong Kar-wai's personal vision, take it or leave it. I wouldn't change a frame, or a single edit. It strikes me as a perfect diamond by this exceptional, if eccentric, cinema artist.
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Under-appreciated Gem, more Arts House than Action
CelluloidDog28 October 2014
The most under-appreciated films usually emerge later as gems, often 10, 20 or even 50 years later. For example, Citizen Kane didn't win an Academy Award but 20 years later, it was considered one of the greatest films made. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) was a critically acclaimed film when released but is really considered more of a gem today than 30-40 years ago. Like fine wine, films get better as they age. Once Upon in the West (1968) when released was celebrated in Europe but panned in the US. Twenty years alter, it is considered one of the greatest films ever made. The Grandmaster comes very close to these films.

The three reasons this film is panned: 1) People want action, the figure Ip Man represents action and this film breaks from traditional kung fu movies but in the same vein as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In essence, it is just as good as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There is plenty of action but martial arts fans want Jet Li, Donnie Yen or Michelle Yeoh. Hence, they will never give this film an 8, 9 or 10. Action is great, but it's second-rate to the true martial artist fan. 2), People find it complex. The plot is quite simple, really. I suspect it's more about reading prose and not realizing it's poetry. Plot is about Ip Man rising to the best in the South and to be challenged by the northern martial artists but war stops everything. half of the movie is about tradition and honor, not about martial arts. Definitely not about good guy beats up bad guy which draws most people's attention and praise. 3) Ip Man and Gong Er fall in a type of forbidden, unrequited love. It's bounded more by cultural beliefs than personal beliefs. But to many, this subplot slows or kills the action plot. But love isn't complicated, or at least we shouldn't see it that way.

On another final note, this film isn't about confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist. Rather, Ip Man doesn't really have an opposing challenge. His challenges are friends, as real martial artists become friends, as mentioned. They test each others' skills and build respect for each other, much like the test fight with Razor. It is the pretenders who fight, like Ma San. It is about honor and respect, not about violence.

Movie fans who want a real martial artist star will prefer Donnie Yen in Ip Man (2008) which is artistically almost as good a film. In contrast, The Grandmaster is better written, better acted and better cinematography, but Ip Man with Donnie Yen has better fighting scenes. Keep in mind, Bruce Lee never made great films, they were rather B type films but people love his iconic charisma. Many will like the film for the star, not the quality.

So like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this film is mystical and really, martial arts is more a scenic subplot into a man and his world. Or what director Kar Wai Wong intended. Regardless, a question is that should one pan a film because of what it isn't? Or should one celebrate a film for what it is? A parent celebrates and loves each child, regardless of how different. How can we celebrate this film?

1. It's slow but that gives a chance to watch the direction and cinematography which is exquisite. One doesn't rush through The Louvre, but savors the moment. It's quite masterful and poetic. 2. The screenplay and script. Brilliantly done. The dialogue is simple in appearance but every other line has a double meaning. Not since Once Upon a Time in the West has a simple dialogue taken on so many directions. The viewer has to focus on the words and what they mean. 3. There is beautiful scenes, significant cultural symbolism but it is broken down simplistically, most of the symbolism is cultural. It's not hard to understand, just place yourself in another world. It's not a simplistic film like Rocky. Quite the opposite but yet the plot is quite simple, if you realize it's not just about kung fu. Watching Master Gong Yutian practice in the snowy garden was magnificent. The brothel scenes with the martial artists was surprisingly a wealth of characters, costumes and sets. 4. Acting is strong with Ziyi Zhang leading and maybe overshadowing Tony Chiu Wai Leung. To some, that's not sensible: why not a film to showcase Donnie Yen with real moves? Bu Donnie isn't as somber an actor. We see the pain and modesty of Ip Man through Tony Chiu Wai Leung. The plain expressiveness of the actors casts a shadow over the difficult history, the winter months as Ip Man narrates. Ziyi represents the forbidden martial arts, the family secrets, the traditional view of outsiders. Hence she has an important symbolism. Ip Man represents the new, the invention of Bruce Lee and exposure of Wing Chun to the world.

The ending was slightly out of place given the poetry of the film. We didn't need Ip Man to give his final quote, although it was snappy, it was out of place. Perhaps, just a fade from the photo shoot with the young Bruce Lee.

Just watch and appreciate artistic quality. Real martial arts fans will appreciate the descriptions and dialog over different styles of martial arts. 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. Or one of the 50 best films of the decade. A gem. It just isn't a traditional martial arts fan film, rather an Arts House film.

I'm not sure whether to give this film a 8.5, 9, 9.5…but seeing the relatively IMDb scores (6.5 at this time), I'm boosting it to its rightful place.
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HK Auteur Review - The Grandmaster by Wong Kar Wai 一代宗師
hkauteur14 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
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!
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The 64 Empty Hand Moves (Red Boat Opera)
chaos-rampant23 June 2013
Surely, this is a compromised film. Years in the making, and has one foot in the blockbuster league which means it has to address a wide audience, satisfy investors and make a healthy recoup—in the Chinese market, it did. What both these mean is that Kar Wai had to set up artificial limits to his vision, then swim to real ones, limits he cares to meet as an artist, then see how swiftly he can move back and forth.

But let's not mince words here. Kar Wai is a cinematic master. And I'm sure I will remember this as one of the most interesting, most wonderful, most visual films of the year come December.

Right off the bat, you should know that if you want the clean, rousing version of Ip Man you should go to the Donnie Yen films. It's a legend anyhow, most martial arts stories are (especially the Chinese), embellished in the telling. So if you want 'truth', you're looking in the wrong place to begin with. 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.

But the notions are powerful, and this is likely what attracted Kar Wai to a film about him.

So the artificial limits here are the kung fu movie, a type of narrative deeply embedded in the national character. So we get familiar history as the backdrop, Civil War, Japanese invasion and so forth. The film will be familiarly lush and operatic for the Chinese. It also means we get fights, we do—some marvelous ones. It means we get the heroic portrait—the good vs evil sifus, tied to contrasted history, tied to the passing of tradition. The kungfu plot revolves around preserving the secret 64 moves and avenging the old master's death, usual tropes in this type of film.

But he sets all this up in order to break it, that's what Ip Man's talk about breaking the cake represents in his standoff with the old master of the northern school, contrasted to his belief that it should be whole—metaphorically referring to a strong, unified China, the same obsession with fabricated harmony that powers both the political and martial arts narratives over there.

This is what Kar Wai does, he breaks the harmonies.

Not so much in the fights: Kar Wai plays with them like a master painter fools with paint in commissioned work. He plays with speeds, textures and choreographed impacts but does not radically push the language like he did in Ashes. Ashes really was a radical break in temporal experience, wonderful stuff with many layers. Here, we experience fights cleanly, in a way that will satisfy the broad audience.

He breaks the heroic narrative: in his worldview, time does not linearly build to the 'big fight', it happens with one third of the film to go and Ip Man is not in it, what should have been a dramatic death happens offscreen, history is glimpsed off the streets, we get flashbacks and forwards, abstraction and long visual poetry. And the 64 moves are never passed on. All that fooling with structure is a way of loosening limits of genre and tradition, inherited limits to vision.

But what is really worth it here, is watch him swim to meet his own limits—multilayered reflection on memory as living space for the eye.

In martial arts terms, that means soft, yielding to inner pull, to the hardness of fights, politics and quasi-mythical narrative. It means every hard narrative thrust in the name of tradition, country or lineage, becomes an anchor he uses to submerge me in visual exploration of feelings. In visitation of spaces of desire, flows. Sure, it is not as successful as previous projects, because the fancy fights and exotic settings get in the way, jarring me from a tangible experience. But it's still pretty much the same wonderful swimming, each thrust of the hand creating turbulent patterns in water.

For instance, the daughter waiting in the train station to avenge the old master is the anchor. But between that first shot and the decisive encounter, we get a wonderful current of images; cooking smoke at night, snow, refracted light through windows, children running. These are not of the story, but snow flakes of remembrance the air drags in. The cut from statues of Buddha to grainy footage of bustling Hong Kong is one of the most thunderous edits I've seen. And the entire last third of the film is purely a Kar Wai film; all about unrequited yearnings, ashes of youth in a gilded box.

So spliced inside the kung fu comic-book is a sort of Mood for Love where again we had the contrast to 'hard' fabrication in the writer of kung fu stories.

It is muddled, because you can't have crispness when the whole point is a fluid recall. Tarkovsky is 'muddled'. But it's so lovely overall.

The coveted moves as the excuse for the man and woman to meet attempting touch, the Taoist pushing and yielding of hands to be close.

They are empty hand forms, in that there is nothing to be grasped beyond the shared flow. It is all about cultivating sensitivity, listening, placement in space.
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Wong's signature themes and artistic flourishes are still very much alive, but 'The Grandmaster' lacks a focused narrative for a compelling exploration of Ip Man's life
moviexclusive18 January 2013
"Don't tell me how good your skills are, how brilliant your master is and how profound your school is. Kung fu - two words - one horizontal, one vertical. If you're wrong, you'll be left lying down. If you're right, you're left standing. And only the ones who are standing have the right to talk."

For all intents and purposes, the film began as a biopic of one man – to be more specific, Ip Man, the influential kung-fu master who was instrumental in spreading the Wing Chun style around the world and who was perhaps better known for being Bruce Lee's master. But in the midst of exploring Ip Man's life, Wong must have been suddenly struck by the thought - What exactly makes Ip Man so special? Or even better, why should a movie set in the golden age of martial arts be solely about one grandmaster?

And so, despite Leung's omniscient voice-over, 'The Grandmaster' is in fact not about Ip Man alone. Be warned therefore, if you are expecting a movie focused on Ip Man, because you're likely to be sorely disappointed – as Tony Leung reportedly is – that you're likely to know more about the Man from the Donnie Yen films.

Indeed, the narrative is the film's biggest handicap, though to be fair, it only becomes apparent later on. The first half-hour begins strongly with a rightful focus on Ip, and key highlights include his initiation into martial arts by his master Chen Heshun (Yuen Woo-Ping) and his loving marriage to Zhang Yongcheng (Song Hye-kyo). Ip's first challenge would come with the arrival of Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang), a venerable kung fu master from northeastern China looking to consolidate his power in the southeast even as he retires.

After Ip goes on to win the battle of minds with Gong, the latter's daughter Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi) stands up to challenge Ip yet again in a bid to restore her family's reputation. That duel also marks a turning point for the movie, which shifts away from Ip and explores the vendetta that ensues between Gong Er and her father's power-hungry protégé Ma San (Zhang Jin) against the backdrop of the Japanese occupation of China.

Against the better advice of her elders, she forsakes her betrothal to avenge the death of her father at Ma San's hands, which culminates in a thrilling battle set at an old railway station in Hong Kong one New Year's Eve. Where is Ip Man's involvement in all this? Admittedly there is little.

Though Wong does bring Ip back into the picture towards the end of the film, his audience is likely to have grown too emotionally detached from the character. 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.

In fact, throughout the film, Wong offers little insight into the person of Ip Man. What might have been a meaningful portrait of his relationship with Yongcheng is lost when the latter is practically forgotten in the second half of the movie. We learn little too of Ip's relocation to Hong Kong, and how he built up his reputable school for Wing Chun. All things considered, a more coherent portrait of Gong Er actually emerges from the movie.

Rather than regard it as a Ip Man biopic therefore you'll be better off seeing it as Wong's philosophical musings on martial artists. Fans of the auteur will recognise these familiar themes from his previous works, but Wong's treatment is still unparalleled in conveying regret, longing, and unspoken desires – whether is it Ip Man and Gong Er's mutual affection for each other, or Gong Er's lament for a life less fully lived.

Le Sourd's visuals are also particularly ravishing in the action sequences, designed with much imagination and flair by veteran choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping. The opening sequence that sees Ip Man take on a whole gang of men along a rain-soaked street is filmed with utmost clarity on the beauty and precision of the moves, with the subsequent duels between Ip Man and Gong Yutian as well as Gong Er equally breathtaking to behold.

Keenly aware of the actors' limitations, Yuen goes for elegance over spectacle. 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.

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. The fault of course isn't Leung's alone, as his usual penchant for nuance and understatement unfortunately working against his portrayal in a narrative that pretty much relegates his character's account as a marker of the passage of time.

Of course, narrative was never a strong suite in Wong's films, which typically were mood pieces boosted by his signature artistic flourishes. These trademarks are still very much alive in 'The Grandmaster', which is easily one of the most beautiful kung fu movies ever made. But plot plays a much more important role here than in Wong's other films, since it is ultimately through Ip Man's experiences in life that we come to understand his deeper introspections. This is where Wong's film stumbles, relegating Ip Man to a sideshow instead of placing him front and centre – and given all that hype and expectation of Wong's Ip Man biopic, the cut we see here can only be regarded as a disappointment.
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Art and poetry.
playbobbie1323 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Rarely have I seen a movie with such a marriage of art and poetry. It seemed like studying a paining at depth while hearing a poet/teacher tell a story of his life. Ip's story and his connection to Gong Er was operatic. I was engrossed to the end by the performances. The direction and cinematography was the best I've seen in a long while. The long, slow scenes were perfect for the story as it was told mixed with a soundtrack that was appropriate throughout. I truly enjoyed this movie and I will add this to my private collection as a movie I will want to return to again and again. Even the fight scenes were more dance or ballet than simple fighting but with technique and flow rarely seen. I highly recommend this film.
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A Film This Beautiful Needs a Libretto, Not a Story
McCamyTaylor9 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The reviewers who say that this movie does not have a story, are absolutely correct. This is essentially an opera disguised as a movie. Absolutely beautiful to watch, perfect editing, music, costumes, set. However, if you are not familiar with the subject matter, you may find it difficult to get emotionally involved.

My suggestion: before you watch this film, watch "Ip Man" a wonderful movie that covers the events that take place before "The Grandmaster" and which develops the character of Ip Man, Bruce Lee's master, so that you feel that you know him, the way we all "know" Robin Hood or King Arthur or any other western cult hero.

Then, when you see "The Grandmaster" you will be so familiar with Ip Man's myth that you will not need any exposition or plot or story in order to enjoy what is probably one of the most beautiful films that I have seen in years. Breathtaking does not do it justice. I was riveted. If I close my eyes, I can still picture some of the more memorable images.
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A masterpiece that is not getting the recognition it deserves
zken10 September 2013
When I see a movie like this I remember the joy and awe I experienced as a child. I would walk out of the theater with a feeling like I had a secret experience. I had seen into the soul of the film maker and I had captured a talisman that would be mine forever.

Such is the awe and joy at seeing this, one of the most stunning and beautiful films ever made, from my point of view. Each frame is poetry, art and loaded with meaning. The entire cinematography of the film is like a lightning bolt to the heart of the viewers.

It is certain that a film like this could never be made here or in any Western country. And the fact that this masterpiece will be ignored here in the US and even disparaged right here on IMDb, is a story that I do not have the time or patience to go into. Let's just say that all of those who are not going to this film because of this negativity are going to miss one of the most stunning movies of the last 25 years.
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Extremely beautiful to look at but also also a tad too hard to follow and uninvolving.
Hellmant24 February 2014
'THE GRANDMASTER': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

Critically acclaimed Kung Fu epic about legendary Chinese martial-arts master Ip Man. Ip Man was the Wing Chun grandmaster and his most famous student was Bruce Lee. This film chronicles the years leading up to his success as a martial arts teacher. It stars Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as Ip Man and Zhang Ziyi as Gong Er, his main love interest. Kar Wai Wong directed and co-wrote the movie (with Jingzhi Zou and Haofeng Xu). Wong is famous for directing and writing other popular Hong Kong period piece dramas like '2046' and 'IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE'. I'd rate this flick about the same as Wong's others; I thought it was extremely beautiful to look at but it's also a tad too hard to follow and uninvolving.

The story focuses as much on Gong Er (Ziyi) as it does Ip Man and follows a love story between the two as they keep in contact for many years following a fight for Gong's family's honor. Ip Man had defeated her father, Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang) in a battle that was as much about philosophical ideas as combat. The film follows Ip Man's years during the Second Sino-Japanese War, in 1938, struggling through poverty with his family. It also focuses on Gong Er's attempt at vengeance against the man who murdered her father, Ma San (Zhang Jin).

The story is told in a very disjointed way and it was really hard for me to keep up with what was going on in it. I often find these epic Hong Kong Kung Fu flicks to be dull anyway and wasn't too interested in seeing this one. It did get mostly good reviews from critics though and it's nominated for two 2014 Oscars (in Cinematography and Costume Design). It definitely deserves those award nominations and is very breathtaking to look at. I also think Zhang Ziyi is one of the more beautiful and sexy women in cinema today and she gives a great performance here. I'm not sure how I feel about Leung Chiu-Wai as an actor, he's not bad in this movie but I didn't really learn to care for his character much at all. The martial-arts scenes are grand and epic though and I'm sure fans of the genre will be more than pleased.

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Casey's Movie Mania: THE GRANDMASTER (2013)
caseymoviemania21 April 2013
Wong Kar-Wai's 10 years-in-the-making of the so-called Ip Man biopic is exquisitely photographed and blessed with some dazzling fight choreography, but THE GRANDMASTER is mostly a scattershot mess of unfocused direction.

When director Wong Kar-Wai first announced the project way back in 2002, I bet a lot of die-hard fans are eager to see how the critically-acclaimed art-house director is going to do a big-screen treatment of the legendary Ip Man. 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. However, after finally watching it, I must say that THE GRANDMASTER turns out to be an overrated effort after all.

Likewise, Wong Kar-Wai is always meticulous when comes to distinctive visual flair. Philippe Le Sourd and Song Xiaofei's sumptuous cinematography is nice to look at, while beautifully framed Yuen Woo-Ping's fight choreography with such balletic mix of slow motion and various camera speeds. The rest of the technical credits are equally ace -- ranging from its elaborate production design to its detailed costume design. On the plus side, the first half is particularly engaging. As for the cast, Zhang Ziyi excels the most as the hotheaded, yet emotionally frustrating Gong Er.

The second half is hastily stitched together, while burdened by terribly inconsistent pace. It's understandable that Wong Kar-Wai's movie is always fragmented but this time, THE GRANDMASTER is way uneven yet unfocused. Another biggest problem here is the sudden change of focus from narrating Ip Man story to Gong Er story. If that's not insulting enough, the introduction of Chang Chen's The Razor character feels vague and needless altogether. Apart from Zhang Ziyi's exceptional performance, it's rather surprising to see the usually-reliable Tony Leung Chiu-Wai doesn't impress much as Ip Man. 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. Popular Korean actress Song Hye-Kyo is sadly neglected in a thankless role (thanks to Wong Kar-Wai for cutting off most of her scenes in the editing room) as Ip Man's wife, Zhang Yongcheng.

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. Strictly for die-hard fans.
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The BEST movie about the world of Kung Fu
AddamChu25 December 2013
If you want to see warriors, heroes, killers, fantastic actions, Kung Fu masters who can do the unbelievably anti-gravity flying, you should return the ticket and go watch whatever you can download from Netflex at home.

If you want to know why one became a grandmaster in the world of Kung Fu, while the others couldn't, why one Kung Fu style was widely spread and some others were lost in the history. This is the best movie to tell you the most and best.

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.

Perfect pictures, wonderful story, beautiful actions and music...the only thing I would say not good enough is, the movie is only about 2 hours long. 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.
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Dazzling, stylish and worth waiting for!
amit_imt200219 March 2013
What a beautiful film this is, there is not a single shot that does not ravish your senses.This is a Wong Kar Wai film about Ip Man, the almost mythical kung fu master who taught Bruce Lee for some time. Films on Ip Man have become a mini cottage industry but Wong Kar Wai looks at not just Ip but the culture that he grew up in and its stalwarts.Every once in a while a kung fu film breaks out of its confines of core Asian patronage and garners a worldwide fan following. Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Zhang Yamou's The Hero became an international sensations,The Grandmaster should join that small list.

The Grandmaster has been in the making for more than 12 years and is Wong Kar Wai's labour of love.Here he collaborates with his favourite Tony Leung and castes him, rather improbably, as a kung fu master.The film looks at his early years till he set up his martial arts school in Hong Kong.We see him as a boy enrolling at a kung fu school in Foshan,China and become the last student of a legendary teacher. He gets his shot at fame when a famous grandmaster from north, Gong Yotian, who is retiring, comes south and wants to appoint a successor who will carry his tradition forward and integrate the north and south schools.The southerners choose Ip as their man but he must prove his mettle in front of the old master.They face off in an encounter that is all choreography and zero fighting.Ip man passes the acid test of being a man of ideas and not just skill.This is a wonderful scene which sets the tone that this will not be another action packed martial arts film.

Gong Er fights to honour her fathers name. The grandmasters daughter Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi, in her last martial arts film!)has come with him and she has her own way of looking at things.She is hot blooded with a mind of her own and a unique penchant for interpreting her fathers words to drive her individuality.She challenges Ip to a dual and this sets up another amazing scene.They fight but it might as well be lovemaking.They float up in the air and circle each other like dancers more than fierce combatants.The memory of this dual will remain with them for a long time and Wong will show it to us again, this time with their noses brushing lightly.They part with great respect for each other.

Some of these scenes are staged in opulent gilded bordello's with elaborate opera performances. Ip's wife loves opera and he takes her to a bordello, and when Gong comes to meet her father and see his fight with Ip she asks him in wonder "Are you really going to take your daughter to a bordello?"He replies like the wise old master that he is.The winds of change in Chinese society were blowing long before the revolution.

The film follows the story of Gong and Ip as they go their separate ways. Both are challenged by life and face up to them in unique ways by digging into their roots of being disciplined kung fu students. Gong symbolizes female progress in a patriarchal society as well as the tragedy of eternal loss of knowledge because she vows never to teach her art after her father is betrayed by his protégée. This film was originally 4 hours long and Wong sacrifices a lot of detail to distill it into its current 130 mins length.As a result some strands of the narrative suffer, but each scene is so well constructed that we are willing to just soak in the atmosphere.

The master and his students, Bruce Lee was one of them. 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. Wong is more interested in the roots of kung fu and its place in Chinese history, especially in the first half of the 20th century when China underwent an overwhelming political and social change.While Wong's characters yearn for each other he perhaps yearns for a Chinese way of life that has been lost in the relentless pursuit of economic prosperity. Xi Fei's great film Woman of the Scented Lake also captured this change in Chinese society by using an ambitious rural businesswoman as its lens.

The cinematography is sublime, each shot dazzles us with its perfection.The way Phillipe le Sourd photographs portraits is interesting, using very shallow focus with most of the screen dark.This builds a special intimacy with the characters and serves as a window into their noble souls.The background music is another Wong trademark and in this film too it amplifies and underscores the action with great sophistication. Shigeru Umebayashi is in good form here but he does not have the opportunities of In the Mood for Love kind of grandstanding.The Grandmaster is a film for every lover of cinema, not just for martial arts aficionados, and its a great way to discover the work of a Grandmaster of cinema who inspired the likes of Tarantino.Every artist is also a philosopher and so are Wong and Ip Man.
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Exciting as well as interesting art martial movie with violent combats , thrills and artistically shot
ma-cortes15 October 2014
This film tells the story of Chinese Martial Arts Master IP man , the most famous fighter of China and around the world ; this is the tale of martial-arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee . In fact , Bruce Lee trained in Wing Chun and later developed his own hybrid martial arts philosophy . IP Man was the founder and spiritual guru of the Win Chun . This luxurious Kung Fu film was marvelously filmed with good production design , colorful cinematography , spectacular combats and breathtaking scenes . The flick displays lots of violence , action filled , fierce fights though turns out to be overlong and some tiring . It deals with Ip Man's (Tony Leung) peaceful existence in Foshan , but his life changes when Gong Yutian (Wan) seeks a successor for his family in Southern China . Ip Man then meets Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang) who challenges him for the sake of regaining her father's honor . Later on , there takes place the Second Chinese-Japanese War , as Ip Man moves to Hong Kong and struggles to provide food and comfort for his family but they decease . While , Gong Er takes the way of revenge after her father is wrongly murdered .

Good film starring Tony Leung , based on the true story of the martial arts master IP Man . Tony Chiu Wai Leung trained four hours a day for a year in preparation for his role . This moving Chop-Socky displays drama , action-packed , thrills , and wild fighting images . It is an action-filled and violent film , being filmed in Shanghái , Foshan, Kaiping ,Guangdong, and Shenyang, Liaoning, China . Director Kar Wai Wong establishes his signature style of kinetically-paced story-telling through sumptuous imagery , leading to international critical acclaim . The picture is full of tumultuous sequences with frenetic action , surprises , fierce combats and groundbreaking struggles . The rousing fights with deadly use of fists , feet and palms ; actors exercised ¨Wing Chun¨ it is a Chinese martial art that emphasizes short-range practical combat with direct punches and blocks and low kicks , its practitioners are trained to quickly approach and engage opponents at close range , this can negate the longer range of taller opponents by attacking from inside their offensive perimeter. Fights , attacks and exciting combats very well staged by expert fighters , the result is a strong entry for art martial buffs . Amid the glamour and grandeur of the scenarios is developed an intrigue between Chinese-Japanese confrontation and about a fighter master who attempts to restore his name . Groundbreaking combats among Tony Leung , Ziyi Zhang and a lot of enemy fighters . Classic as well as impressive Chop-Socky in which wild fighting scenes provide an overwhelming view of Tony Leung/Ziyi Zhang's skills . Actors made their owns stunts ; some of the players got injured and to had to be hospitalized during the shooting , some of them suffered mild concussions during filming, after being struck several times during fighting scenes .

The motion picture was well directed by Kar Wai Wong , but some moments results to be a little boring and slow moving . 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 . 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 . The ¨Grandmaster¨project was announced almost 10 years before its final release, due to director Kar Wai Wong's endless perfectionism. Several other motion pictures about the Ip Man that were conceived after this announcement most famously ¨Ip Man¨ (2008) by Wilson Yip with Donny Yen , ¨IP Man 2¨ (2010) by Wilson Yip with Donnie Yen as Yip Man , Xiaoming Huang , Wong Shun-Leung , Sammo Hung Kam-Bo , Lynn Hung , Simon Yan and ¨IP Man 3¨ (2013) with Anthony Wong Chau-Sang as Ip Man, Gillian Chung , Jordan Chan and Eric Tsang , all of them were all released in the meantime.
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An Escape back in Time
bikirucl18 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
(An Impression instead of a review)

I regret missing this movie in a big cinema. After watching the freshly arrived Amazon purchased DVD last night, I still do not want to let go of the residual fragrant of the Grandmaster from the director, Won Kar Wai. It was as if I took a little trip back into a dream world, only got woken up all too soon. I want to go back. I have not had enough. I want to relive the journey again. And I want to experience and feel it all.

Much has been read before I watched the movie. Many has analyzed, dissected, and criticized the movie. They had not damped my anticipation. And still the journey was more than worthwhile.

I supposed it helps if you are Chinese or brought up in the Chinese culture. I speak and prefer Mandarin over Cantonese. I nearly panicked when the cover of the DVD reads, Language: Cantonese. Fortunately, the only language spoken on this disk is Mandarin.

Yes, for me nostalgia is a big part of the charm for the movie. It is more Chinese than the world I grew up in, and it exists only in dusty books and tales I read about. The color, the mood, the mannerism, and the language together played a symphony in my heart. Oh, the language and the richness of the words spoken... this is what I would go back for. The beautifully crafted words have layers of meaning and connotation. I was able to capture some but not all. Using the old language like that is pretty much a lost art in our literal modern world. How I wish I could have a sliver of the talent to craft words like that.

If you are able to let go and fall into the intriguing world of these masters you will be mesmerized by this epic journey into Chinese martial art world. I did.

xxx (2 days later!)

Still loving the Grandmasters after the second viewing. This time something else captivated me.

In the past, at one point, people actually kept their words, and lived according to a high moral standard. One would repay a single kind act with one's whole life. (Spoiler alert!) Like Gong Er's servant, who served and dedicated his life to both the father and daughter just because Master Gong saved him from drifting in the streets. People like that actually existed, I knew from my parent's generation. That world has vanished, except in movies like this. I revere the integrity of these people, and I mourn for bondage they carried, and the weathering of time.

I am thankful, for this movie keeps that world alive, if only for a couple of hours at a time!
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Real martial arts action
erinlale11 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is the martial arts movie that martial artists have been waiting for. The action is real and human, not the usual Hollywood fakery. Every stunt looks like something a person is doing, not something a video game character is doing. In that way it's like the early martial arts and action movies of the pre-CGI era. The cinematography also harks back to the beauty of black and white films, although this film is in color. The way the cinematographer handles light reminds me of noir films where every frame could be printed and framed individually and hung on a wall as a work of art.

The only reason I'm rating this a 9 instead of a 10 is that I sometimes found the plot confusing, especially in the second half of the movie. I understand that this is nonfiction so it's not going to follow the neat and tidy plot arc of a fictional thriller, but: SPOILER ALERT -- THE NEXT PARAGRAPH CONTAINS SPOILERS I think it could have been made clearer from the beginning exactly who is the title character (it isn't Ip Man, it's Master Gong) and who does the work of a hero in the plot (that isn't Ip Man either, it's Master Gong's daughter Er.)
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A focus misplaced. Lost opportunity for a film on a martial arts icon.
taooftri15 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Sadly speaking, "The Grandmaster" does not get a grand score from me.

Before this film, 3 movies have been made about Ip Man, with the first two by Donnie Yen. Like it or not, first movers always have an advantage. The prequel of Ip Man - "A Legeng is Born - Ip Man" - did pretty well, featuring a Wing Chun practitioner Dennis To. But, in my opinion, all these 3 movies did not sufficiently capture aspects of the Man's life stories that many fans are looking for - his philosophy about Wing Chun, how he took up Wing Chun, and, of course, his mentor-ship of Bruce Lee.

"The Grandmaster", in my opinion, missed this golden opportunity to satisfy the thirst of martial arts fans on these aspects.

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.

The fighting sequence is a major disappointment as well. Fighting sequence is barely 5 moves in total, with the camera zooming in on to the hands or legs and, which is my pet peeve, the overuse of slow motion and special effects that obscure the real beauty of the moves. 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.

Taking a step back, I suspect that the producers and director seemed to want to break away from the proved formula of story-telling about Ip Man and Wing Chun, and took risk in the script and even cinematography. However, I see traces of Zhang Yimou in the technique, which I neither am opposed to nor strongly encouraged. However, I think the director OVERDID on the special and visual effects, because, in my opinion, he may have wanted every scene and frame to be visually stunning. 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.

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.

Finally, the film applied another technique often seen in Zhang Yimou's films - the somewhat emotionally derived script with somewhat wooden expressions on its casts, with a hope to create an ambiance of mystery and helplessness (e.g. in a time that saw China fell into the hands of the Japanese during World War II). Personally, this technique is a waste of the acting talents of the likes of Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi.

"The Grandmaster" is clearly a focus misplaced.

I had higher hopes for anything Ip Man and Wing Chun.
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A different Wong Kar Wai
harry_tk_yung11 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Those who expect more of the same proliferation of Wing Chun grandmaster IP Man action-packed movies would be well advised to adjust said expectations. This is WONG Kar Wai.

Unlike aforementioned movies that unabashedly tried to milk every last dollar from the cash cow of IP Man kung fu action flicks, "The grandmasters", packaging ploy notwithstanding, is not so much an IP Man (LEUNG Chiu Wai) biopic as it would have the audience believe. I should qualify this statement by specifying that it is with reference to the 2-hour-plus version currently released, and not the original 4-hour version Director Wong has shot which hopefully will see the light of day via separate releases, including DVD.

In this movie, there are two stories, his and hers, and arguably more hers than his. Grandmaster Ip's life has been well documented in publications and does not really contain larger-than-life melodrama that movie makers would love to have. 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. Director Wong's movie, on the other hand, underplays these elements to a level approaching insignificance.

The plural in the title tells it all. It's the story of GONG Er (ZHANG Ziyi) that provides all the drama and melodrama. I confess that I do not know if she is real-life but even she is, there is far more scope for artistic creativity in designing the character than Grandmaster Ip, for obvious reasons. In the movie, she is the only martial artist who is Ip's equal (even with a hint of being a tad better). Her drama comes with a treacherous student who murders her father. Gong is engaged to be married (happily married, by all indications) but according to custom, in order to claim the legitimate right to represent the Gong family to revenge her father, she has to forego the marriage and stay single all her life. Don't ask me why. I do know that this is obviously stuff for heavy melodrama.

Between Gong and Ip, it's a different story which, you may not expect this, I'll draw a parallel in Possession (2002), the unfulfilled love between Victorian poets Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. The similarity is quite striking, if you start to think about it. In both cases, the man is married, the woman single. In both cases, then man and the woman are drawn together by a passion for an expertise they have in common, and both excel in. The difference is that Ash and LaMotte managed to enjoy, albeit fleetingly, the ecstasy of physical union in their affair while Ip and Gong's love for each other stays at a very subtle level. Leung and Zhang are good at portraying this, far better than at the actions department.

While both Leung and Zhang have experience in action movies, they are not Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh. Still, we have good action sequences thanks to first class choreographed and editing. People knowledgeable in martial arts will just have to accept the shortcomings. In trying to pay tribute to the Bruce Lee movies, this movie has its own "8 kicks" sequence deployed quite suitably at the point where Ip, trying to start a new livelihood in Hong Kong in teaching martial arts, wants to impress prospective students by showing his stuff. Unfortunately, kicking is nowhere near being important in the Wing Chun arsenal. Wing Chun kicks are never aimed above the knees, used mainly to demolish the opponent's footwork. But even an auteur like Wong is not immune to market forces, and Bruce Lee style head-level kick do sell tickets.

One thing puzzling me is the big duel scene between Gong and Ip. This one is very different from the hate-filled duel in which Gong has her revenge on her father's murderer. Against Ip, it's more a matter of pride and "face". Ip defeated her father in an honourable contest and she wants to recover the pride of the Gong family. This is the longest fighting sequence in the movie because beneath the beautifully choreographed action is another layer: the budding subtle feeling between the two, arising out of mutual admiration. Towards the end of the scene, they suddenly exchanged stance: Gong took on the Wing Chun style closed elbow positioning while Ip displayed the "Eight Gig" (nothing to do with IT technology whatsoever) open arm pose. I don't think this is an error. Director Wong seems to want to send a message, martial art or romantic emotions related, perhaps both.

For a WONG Kar Wai movie, "The grandmasters" is unusually traditional in its technique. The easiest form of story-telling is used: voice over from the protagonist. As well, there are periodic written texts appearing on-screen showing time, place and event. Story-telling is straight-forward with almost a complete absence of montages. But then his signature languid mood and camera work are still there.
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Simply the Best Kung Fu Film Ever Made
xinbuluan3327 January 2013
Some may say Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon (You can't beat its award score), other may say Zhang Yimou's "Hero" or Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury or Chow's Kung Fu Hustler if you like comedy. I would will say Wong Kar Wai's Grandmaster is the best Kung Fu movie ever made.

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?). Then comes Zhang Yimou's "Hero" with a classic fight scene between Jet Li and Donnie Yen which is simply the best sword-fight in film history, only to be matched by the classic fist-fight between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon. But I would say Zhang's film is too political in context and Bruce's top notch is more physical than spirit (and the whole of his top kungfu film is not satisfying).

Wong's Grandmaster wins in spirit, in style more than in physique and awards. With long research and a semi-documentary style film-making, Wong has made a film about kung fu in its naked self, i.e. in blood, in sweats and in tears (hard work, stamina, suffering, sacrifice and national / world heritage). I prefer the title "Grandmasters" instead of "Grandmaster" as the film is more about an age represented by many martial artists and styles in kung fu depicted and above all in Ip Man (Tony Leung), Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi) and Yixiantian (Zhang Chen). Though in order to make the film shortened from 4 to 2 hours, perhaps significant parts about Yixiantian has been cut out so that the film may look unfinished but the unfinished parts only makes one long for seeing more - its full form.

In martial art, it is always the heart that counts, or in this respect, any kind of arts, inclung of course film art. For filming the Grandmaster, Wong has justified himself a film director with a heart of a grandmaster, not only in China, but also in the world like Ip Man.
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Disrepectful to Master Ip
ilikecats-112 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I practice Wing Chun myself and I watched this movie with my master with great expectation. By now I think people are familiar with all the tricks the director gets - slow motion, close up, throwing in some classical music totally out-of-context, and closing the wandering plot with an abrupt ending that the director himself didn't understand. So, I don't even want to discuss the artisity about this film here. Kungfu-wise, well, let's just say my master and I would stick and be happy with Donnie Yan's series.

The reason I write this comment is that I feel the director has no respect at all to the person (Ip Man in this case) he tries to portrait. The way he makes up an extramarital affair with the imaginary Gong Er and force-feeds it to the audience is a total self-indulgence and egoist move. I wonder how Ip Man and his wife would have felt should they ever knew this. While it is common to spice things up for a movie about historical figure, it doesn't work and is definitely not appropriate to make up such story for a humble kungfu master in Chinese culture.

I hope with this movie, people could finally see how superficial and pretentious this director is. There is a reason he tries to procrastinates the release date of this movie (for how many years?), as he knows what a crap it is, especially after Donnie Yan's at-least authentic and respectful version.
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Great visuals but cumbersome plot
Gordon-1130 April 2014
This film tells the biography of a martial arts master, whose life is interrupted by love and war.

"The Grandmaster" starts off very visually stunning, as Tony Leung and the adversaries fight in the rain in an epic style. The water movement is so stylish that the expectation I have for "The Grandmaster" is immediately lifted up. Throughout the film, the sets are lavish and the visuals are consistently captivating. However, I find the plot a bit confusing and the pace far too slow. The romantic subplot feels cumbersome and too restrained, even though I understand that is the intention to parallel Gong's unspoken feelings. I find the story boring as a matter of fact. Tighter editing, and maybe the last half an hour cut would make the story less cumbersome.
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Art & Action blended at its best, first rate.
moviesbest30 August 2013
When Wong Kar Wai announced he will start to make a movie about Ip Man, a few followed, all made and shown with success before Wong complete his. 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". I will not write anything about the story or the script as I believe it will take some joy away from anyone who is going to watch it. I watched the original first released version. I am dumbfounded, especially with Zhang Ziyi(Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Memoirs of a Geisha, 2046)and Tony Leung's action. They are not Jet Li or Michelle Yeoh but in this movie, they fought so convincingly well that you will think they really know Wing Chun(a type of Chinese Kung-fu). For those who find Wong Kar Wai's past movies too stylish, artistic or difficult to understand, this one is different and most suitable for the general audience but without lacking in style or arts. If there is any complaint, it will be from fans of Tony Leung who may feel that he is overshadowed by Zhang, especially in the action scenes. Just like her Crouching Tiger movie, I believe she acted so well, so much so that the director kept more of her scenes for the final movie.(She is nominated for best actress in the coming China-equivalent of the Oscar). Never have I seen any movie in the past where an actress did so well in both action and drama scenes in the same film. Another actor deserved a mention is Taiwanese Zhang Chen; he is equally as compelling as Zhang in both action and drama here although his screen time is short. Tony Leung did not give me any surprise aside from the action scenes. As for the cinematography, editing and the rest, I think others have already raved enough. Go watch it before reading too much. This is what I call a real movie. It's meant to be seen, not read.
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The Three Flows
tedg16 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
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. Now I regret not having prepared better.

Filmmaking for me is calligraphy on water.

A filmmaker's art can be in the shape of what is written. Nolan, for example does well with this. It can be in how it is written. Kurosawa and Wells are good examples.

Or it can be in the nature of the *brush,* the instrument of capture itself.

Kae Wai Wong is the only living filmmaker that works in all three simultaneously.

So far as the story, I was lost much of the time. This clearly was made for a Chinese audience who would know the history and characters — and who would appreciate important regional differences. The unrolling was slightly non-linear but that was not a hindrance. Nevertheless, the three stories had power: a meditation on soulmates, a tragedy of lost/stolen tradition, an implicit history of cinematic fight styles. These are indeed treated as if they are fluid flows, only partly captured and disturbed by the looking. Some of the shifts from realistic to formalized (not unlike Herzog) underscore this.

Among the various threads on screen, the love story was what engaged me. Power in its restraint. A sort of noble but incomplete joy in the tragedy. Waiting to say little. Alone. 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.

Among the threads behind the camera, I found the strokes here to be novel. This is film about traditions being merged to create power, a power incidentally that spawned a choreographic tradition in cinema. It seems as if the partnership with the new cinematographer (after the rich relationship with Chris Doyle), is based on moving from one *style* to another.

We have a variety of cinematic perspectives, many of which are beautiful. But the point seems to be the transitions one to another, the movement from one world-view to another. Lyrical vision, always expanded vision. Slow eye jazz. Experimental rhythms. Typical to this filmmaker is a reference to this: the ultimate fight scene is photographed with four perspectives, each with a unique style. *Behind* is a train that starts and by the end of the fight (and causing the end) it is racing. The effect is amazing.

I am used to the patterns he used with Doyle, whose choppiness clipped Kar Wai's meditations. Doyle's drifting complemented Kar Wai's fixed meditations. Now, it seems he has a new worthy collaborator, a partner in exploring new mixes, new expressions. I don't know this fellow well, but of course have seen his work. From how well the thing is assembled, I imagine they have shot a 20 hour movie.

At all three layers, he references dynamic water.

Rating: 3
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Memory, mystique, mourning and mastery
dumsumdumfai29 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Memory is a funny thing. If you are a romantic, the further away you are, the better the original 'event' it seems. If you are a pragmatic, the tougher it is to swallow. Whichever you are, it becomes more unclear with each passing day.

It seems to me Wong KW has a lot to say in this one. But that is his norm but more than others I suppose. Although there might be a different version of this somewhere in the cutting room floor, I find this one more accessible, and has more of a storyline shall we say.

To me the story is the story of Kung Fu of an era, of a specific time frame. The monologue or dialogue oozes with wiki information. It makes the distinction of northern and southern style on the outset. And that is mighty important if you know Kung Fu. There are also many tradition, inklings, sayings, and practices seamlessly into the 30 or what not years of the story - the hay days of that art and more importantly the culture of this form.

All the, cliché shall we say are there but in a less fantastic but more romantic sort of way. The young vs old; tradition vs ability; love vs duty; humbling vs trailblazing.

The story also carry the age old plot of revenge within one's own clan, and the love story between 2 unlikely rivals through the eyes and life of Ip. But as the title suggests, it is about a grand master, the point-in-case of a lineage, the apex of certain spirit. But is it Ip ? To me it seems the main character is the daughter, Gong Er. She defeated the passive and reluctant Ip. She sacrificed her own life for and against tradition. She carried on the style, leadership and most of all grace of the clan.

In the same fight between the retired Northern master and the rebel student, the dialogue mentioned a particular move in relation to the importance of looking back. To my memory, this is an important theme in some of Wong's movies. Just as key to see Gong uses the exact same sequence to defeat the rebel in the train station sequence.

And in the final meeting between Gong and Ip, Gong displays all the wariness, weigh and dignity of a head master. Contrasting to Ip who latched on to the romantic notion of their past, unknowing to what had transpired.

In the dialogue, I belief it mentioned twice that there is the outer mask of style versus the inner strength. The outer gets the glory but the inner gets to do the dirty work (I can't recall exactly). But isn't that the jist of the movie ? Ip gets the billing, but Gong is the heart and soul of Kung Fu.

Indeed, life is but ashame if there are no regrets.
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Best Wong Kar Wai's movie since In The Mood For Love
levelllll52 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Since In The Mood For Love in 2000, I can't say that I 've really enjoyed Wong Kar-Wai's movies. I was indifferent to the extremely aestheticized romantism of 2046, and I found My Blueberry Nights cute, but disappointing. Wong Kar-Wai got the idea of The Grandmaster about ten years ago, and he started gathering material and information about it while he was shooting In The Mood For Love. There is some of In The Mood For Love in The Grandmaster. There are some shots that could go in either movie, a similar atmosphere and languor. Wong Kar-Wai wanted to pay tribute to Ip-Man, a master of kung-fu and Bruce Lee's mentor. He follows his life from the 1930s to the first part of the 1950s. His story mingles with Chinese history, as he experiences the last dynasty, the Japanese invasion, the civil war and the British occupation of Hong Kong, where he found refuge. We are very ignorant of this Chinese history here in France. In fact, The Grandmaster has nothing in common with a western movie, if we consider the word 'western' means formatted by Hollywood. It is a movie about martial arts, but it is not an action movie. There are good guys and bad guys in it, but no one wins at the end. The movie is not linear. It follows Ip-Man, then Gong Er, master Baosen's daughter. Just before the outcome of a fight or right in the middle of a scene, we move to another place, another character, another time. We move forwards, and then backwards. The movie's structure is so different from what we as western viewers are used to seeing that it's sometimes disconcerting. The dialogues, made of proverbs, metaphors and aphorisms, sound also somehow weird to our western ears. The aesthete, perfectionist, demiurge-eye of Wong Kar-Wai's camera wanders among details and around bodies. It is always moving, and its movements slow down time to better find what is going on here, in front of us, to better understand what is the mystery that is living. The characters are often behind something, a window pane, a sculpted grating, a veil, and at some crucial moment in their story, they are seen from above, stuck between two walls. The landscape is a setting made of details and objects to be broken, of windows smashed by a falling body. The fight makes us see what was not seen, the off-camera that was still here the whole time. At some point in the movie, Gong Er is visiting a whorehouse and she asks her father why he brought her there, and he answers something like "What you don't see still exists". Here is what Wong Kar-Wai's camera tries to show, what is here, in front of us, that we don't see. We're sometimes lost in the blur and the shivering of the image, but we must indulge in this loss, and take pleasure in it.
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Excellent movie
viewfrm21 September 2013
To tell you the truth I watched Grandmasters with my son. He had been pleased with the idea of another Ip Man movie but he turned out to be disappointed and did not watch the movie up to the end. On the other end I enjoyed the Grandmasters movie so much that I also made a pause after watching the first half. I just needed time to cope with my emotions. I was so full of feelings that I actually wanted a break. When I finished watching it finally I found it hard to determine with my impression. No doubt I was delighted but its nature was not very clear to me. Now I can say why I liked Grandmasters immensely.

First of all the movie is very scarce in events, the biography of Ip Man is shown in such little details that it would be hard to get the complete character picture. Read more at the movie section.
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