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'The Grandmaster': A Punched-Up Kung-Fu Saga
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

‘The Grandmaster’ Review
by Jordan Hoffman August 21, 2013 9:09 AM

How could something that is so gorgeous also be so damn dull? Well, where there’s a will, there’s a Wong Kar Wai.

The jazzy, experimental arthouse darling of the 1990s (‘Chunking Express,’ ‘Fallen Angels,’ ‘Happy Together’) fails to get out of his ’2046′/’My Blueberry Nights’ slump with ‘The Grandmaster,’ a strong contender for most boring picture of 2013. The version I saw is the Weinstein Company’s “American Cut,” not to be confused with the homegrown successful “Chinese Cut” or the intermediary cut that played at festivals like Berlin.

It can’t matter much. The only version of this movie that would ever be good is a zero-minute version, because there is nothing more done than listening to wise men blather on with false gravitas about honor and codes when all they’re actually talking about is nifty, choreographed ways to beat the hell out of one another.

In the 1930s, as Japan was invading China, the different styles of kung fu were determined by geography. North of the Yangtze was one way, and south was another. A great visionary known as Ip Man (that isn’t a superhero moniker, it’s his actual name, like Ipstopher Man) decided to marry the two styles in order to better defend his country.

This is visualized through a long series of pointless sparring matches in a palace with many floors. I will grant ‘The Grandmaster’ props for its tremendous fight scenes. (The action sequences were overseen by Yuen Woo-ping, whose credits include ‘Drunken Master,’ ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Kill Bill.’) These fights, however, have zero dramatic heft, because we know no one will get hurt, and we also know the outcome.

Ip Man will incorporate what he’s learned into his own style, but if you aren’t a black belt yourself, it will just look like run-of-the-mill movie kung fu. More to the point, between each fight there’s more yammering as more lifeless, droning characters get introduced. Despite title cards explaining how they are all related, it is still confusing. I found it impossible to care about any of them because they all act half-dead, almost daring the audience to fall asleep. There’s hardly a moment of levity in the whole production, not one breath of air.

At the one-hour mark the Japanese army takes over, and Ip Man flees to Hong Kong. For a minute the action picks up as we see him join a training school as a teacher, but the movie gets sidelined with a baffling flashback. One of the women with whom Ip Man sparred in the first half (Ziyi Zhang) gets into a lengthy brawl with some other dude, and by then all you can do is just watch the scenery.

It’s very beautiful scenery. The production design is top notch throughout. Then at the end, Zhang, with tears in her eyes (about something, God know what), says, “how boring life would be with no regrets.”

I beg to differ.

Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen in the New York Daily News and on Badass Digest and
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Diving Into the World of 'The Grandmaster' With Wong Kar-wai
By Hillary Weston , August 21, 2013

It’s a restless moment. Wong Kar-wai keeps his head give me a chance to stay away. But I could not, for too much interest. He turns, takes off his sunglasses, and tells me he hates me. It’s a bizarre and memorable first encounter between me and the beloved director, but in time, he pats my backpack and reveals that he was only joking—he doesn’t hate me. I can once again breathe. We continue.

But if there’s anyone you wouldn’t mind sharing an unusual moment with, it’s the man who has crafted some of the most achingly beautiful and imaginative films—love stories that have eternally stained your heart. Whether it's his kinetic and melting watercolor portrait of love’s longing with Chungking Express or the lurid and languid impossible desire of In the Mood for Love, Kar-wai’s oeuvre paints a delicate balance between the elegant and the sensual, filled with still moments that reverberate with the soul’s cry for that which it cannot obtain.

As an obsessive and meticulous filmmaker, we inhabit the world’s of his films as if being absorbed into their presence, offering us a portal into a very specific place and time that not only oozes with emotion but the sounds and textures of his characters' existence. And with his latest film, the decade-spanning kung fu epic, The Grandmaster, we see Kar-wai venture back into Ashes of Time territory, but with a far more powerful and impassioned look at not simply one man’s journey but the legacy of an artform.

Telling the story of legendary master of Wing Chun and the mentor of Bruce Lee, Ip Man, The Grandmaster is a film six years in the making—and as it has been cut from it’s original Chinese version to meet US requirements—may continue to evolve with time. Inspired by the life and times of Ip Man, the film takes us through the golden age of Chinese martial arts. Played by the brilliant Tony Leung, whose career has become synonymous with Kar-wai’s, we see him fully embody Ip Man with precision, stepping into a role unlike any we’ve seen him take on before.

Last week, I got the chance to sit down with Kar-wai to discuss his attraction to the world of martial arts, diving headfirst into the unknown, and capturing the essence of the past.

Questions & Answers (Q & A):

Q: This film is an obvious departure from your most recent films yet still feels right at home with your work. Was martial arts always a subject of fascination for you?

A: I wanted to do something very different from what I’ve been doing. I’ve always been fascinated with Chinese martial arts, but actually I never had the chance to practice. I always saw on the streets people going to martial arts school, but in those days parents didn’t encourage kids to practice kung fu. So at the end of the film there’s a scene with the kids standing in front of the Ip Man school, and in the film it’s Bruce Lee, but it could be me. I was always thinking, what’s so mysterious about this king fu and are they really that great? I think because of this film, I can walk through this door and find out exactly what is this world of martial arts.

Q: Did you also want to tell, not only a personal story, but one about the legacy of martial arts and the effect it's had on Chinese culture?

A: Yes, that’s right. There are so many kung fu films made before this, and most of them, it’s about who is the best fighter and about revenge. But most of the time it’s about the hero or the technique, and in a way, I wanted to make a film more than that. I needed to find an angle, and a big part of the Chinese martial arts tradition is about passing on the torch and about the legacy. This is an angle that can give me perspective, which can make this film original or different from the others.

Q: Your films always play with the passing of time in an interesting and fragmented way. Not on in the arc of the story as a whole but in each moment, which lends itself here perfectly. What did you see as this film’s relationship with time?

A: In most of the films, the characters live for the time. And in most kung fu films, you need to make the hero more heroic—you always have a bad guy, there’s opponents and something they have to fight with and for. But when we look at the story of Ip Man, it’s not about a physical opponent, it’s really about time that he has to deal with. He has to fight with time and he has to fight with ups and downs of his life. When you look at his life story, he was born when China was still in the Imperial time and he went through the early days of the Republic, the civil war and then the Japanese invasions, the second civil war, and later on ended up in Hong Kong. He was born with a silver spoon, but at the end of his life he almost lost everything except the commitment. So it’s an interesting story and it’s something I think will bring a new perspective to the audience.

Q: There’s a gracefulness and lyricalness to your style of filmmaking, and especially in the way people use their bodies. And with this film, that’s taken to the highest degree with the fight choreography. It’s so skillfully done and precise, it feels almost like you’re watching a ballet. Was there a particular way you wanted the fighting to be portrayed aesthetically?

A: One thing I noticed when I was doing the research—because I spent three years on the road and attended hundreds of demonstrations—with all these great martial artists, no matter if they are 60 years old or a normal person like a teacher or a worker in the train station, when they do the demonstrations it’s always very elegant, it’s a different presence. The Chinese martial arts is more about the balance, not just the balance of the body, but also the internal balance. And when you look at the form, it’s not when they’re moving but when they’re posing, it’s already very elegant. So when you look at the choreography of this film, we wanted all the action to be authentic. It’s not just going to be wire or a show or trick—if Tony plays Ip Man, all his movements should follow the rules. And in a way they’re very beautiful to look at, but in fact, if you know the skill, all these moves are actually very deadly.

Q: Can you tell me about working with Tony on the film? He's someone you’ve worked with many times now, you’re work very closely linked with one another, so what was the preparation process like?

A: I think it’s two sides. First of all, I think audiences have seen many films about Ip Man and things in those films, you see Ip Man the fighter, but when you look at his story, he’s not the typical fighter, he’s coming from a very rich background. People who have seen him, and when you’re doing interviews with his students or family, he doesn’t seem like a fighter at all, he’s very elegant and almost like an intellectual or a teacher. So it’s very difficult to cast someone for Ip Man just by casting an action star because you need to have all these layers and this elegance, which I was sure Tony could deliver.

A: But the problem was, can he deliver actions, can he fight? So this is something that, for me, was the biggest challenge for Tony. So when I proposed this role to him, he wanted to do it because he’s never done any action film before and he’s a big fan of Bruce Lee and it was a big opportunity for him to prove himself to be the master of his idol. So in fact he went through three years of training and broke his arm twice. But the thing is, without this training, it’s not really about action. The training is so intense, you have to do it daily for four, five hours and with this training you know the discipline of a martial artist so you know exactly how to sit, how to react, how to move. I think that’s a very, very important process with him.

Q: And in having the relationship that you two share, I’m sure that helped in building the trust needed to push himself to where he needed to go as Ip Man.

Of course it’s the trust between us and also it’s something that is a journey for himself. The first time he broke his arm, it was totally by accident in rehearsal and the thing is, he was at his peak at that point because he was fresh from the training and he had full confidence to perform the first action scene. But somehow he broke his arm during the rehearsal yet never thought about quitting. He said that means this journey was something he had to finish, so he had a cast on his arm but he was always on set, he was always going to be there to support the picture.

Q: There’s a meticulous beauty to all of your work and with this film you had to build an entire world. The set design, costumes, everything was so stunning and detailed. Having worked on the film for many years, did you have a wealth of visual references and research that you build from?

A: When we were doing the research on this film, we realized that basically there’s not a lot of visual references from that time because in those days taking pictures was something that was very expensive. The only archive reference that we have is always about group photos—either family photos or photos from a party or a meeting—very formal. And that’s why when I looked at it, I thought maybe there’s a way to structure his film like photo albums. Every chapter with the group shots, and I said the character of Ip Man, he comes from a very rich family and also like Gong Er is from a very important family. So they actually belong to a class which doesn’t exist today, it’s more like aristocrats. So these people, they are very meticulous about the look and they are very disciplined and elegant and well-educated. I just wanted to make sure that it’s right, because every detail—the costumes, the way they behave, and even the set—I haven’t seen any martial arts films correctly or precisely that capture that essence.

Q: Had the idea to make a film like this been brewing in your mind for a long time, even when working on your previous films?

A: Yeah, but I knew it was going to be a huge world because you have to rebuild the time. The time has three chapters—one in the south in the 30s, and then 40s in the north, and then the 50s in Hong Kong, so basically it’s an epic film and martial arts is not something that I have done before. So the process is like: you want to have a swim in the winter but you know it’s very cold, it’s freezing so you just walk around the swimming pool and it takes some time, so eventually you just say, okay I’ll jump in.

Q: The theme of complex love is something that you’re clearly taken with and something that translates to audiences internationally—everyone understands what it is to yearn for someone or lose their chance at love—but with this film, the themes are more centralized.

In a way, in this film, there are certain things that are very universal. The family values and the responsibilities in front of the most critical feelings, the relationship between daughters and fathers, and family honors—those can be easily understood by everyone. And the relationship between Gong Er and Ip Man, I won’t say it is purely physical or just because they are man and woman. In fact, it’s like a mutual appreciation because they are from the same background, they are like two grandmasters playing chess. And it is something that they feel find in each other and it is a comradeship. At the end of the film when Ip Man has this long goodbye, I don’t think it is only to a friend or a lover or someone you admire, it is also a farewell to his past and the best time of his life.

Q: There’s been much discussion about the distinctions between the original Chinese cut of the film and the trimming you had to do for the US. What was that process like and how did you go about finding a way to make it work for you?

A: The original version of the film is like two hours and ten minutes, but we have an obligation to release the film in the United States within two hours. So for a lot of people, it might be a relatively simple process just to cut it short and trim it and take out some scenes. But I find original, the structure of the original version, is very precise. If I’m going to take things out and simply cut it shorter, the film doesn’t feel right for me. So instead I’m thinking, maybe I should tell the story in a different way. Without doing just the trimming, I replace some of the scenes with unseen footage and to build a story in more focus from the perspective of Ip Man and his time in Hong Kong before the reunion. I think for the US audience, because they have a long history with the genre—besides Chinese audiences the American audience is basically the expert of king fu film—we can just make it more simple with captions and focus more on the meat of the story between these two martial artists.

Q: So you're happy with it then?

A: I’m very proud of this.

Last edited by Sandy on Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lessons from 'The Grandmaster': Wong Kar Wai chronicles life of legendary martial artist Ip Man

Aug 21, 2013

-By Daniel Eagan

The Grandmaster, the latest film from Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai, explores the life of Ip Man, a celebrated martial artist and teacher who died in 1972. This is the fifth movie about Ip Man in as many years, but as can be expected from Wong, whose works include In the Mood for Love and 2046, The Grandmaster approaches its subject obliquely, with an arresting attention to atmosphere.

A native of Foshan in Mainland China, Ip Man helped popularize wing chun, a school of martial arts, in Hong Kong in the 1950s. He is remembered today primarily for having trained Bruce Lee, the most famous martial artist of the past 60 years. For Wong, the key to Lee's appeal is not just that he was a superb fighter, but that he was a well-educated, civilized one.

"When you look at Bruce Lee's interviews, you can see how much Ip Man influenced him," Wong says in a Manhattan office. "And what's interesting about Ip Man is that he wasn't even supposed to be a fighter. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, a kind of aristocrat. He was elegant, very formal, from a class that doesn't exist today."

The director refers to rival Ip Man movies indirectly, pointing out how authentic The Grandmaster is. He complains that other filmmakers portrayed Ip as a movie character. "They have him fighting the Japanese, which is pure fiction, just to make him more heroic," he laughs. "I thought an audience would like to see that wing chun is not just about kicks and punches and beating people up."

To Wong, what made Ip so intriguing is how he responded to the political and social turmoil in China at the time. "He experienced so much," he explains, "the early days of the Republic, the Japanese invasion, civil war. He lost everything, even his two daughters starved. He suffered all this, but all the time he's not fighting a physical opponent, he's fighting with his time, he's fighting with the ups and downs of his life."

In The Grandmaster, Wong and his longtime production designer William Chang Suk Ping (working with Alfred Yau Wai Ming) had to recreate everything from a pre-industrial Foshan, with its drab monotones and hidden luxuries, to a vibrant, post-war Hong Kong filled with sun-bleached pastels. Chang spent years collecting fabrics, wallpaper and props. (Chang also edited the film with Benjamin Courtines and Poon Hung Yiu.)

Even more important, Wong insisted on getting the fight scenes right. "Lately you see all these kung fu films, they are like show," Wong says. "They are over-the-top, all effects and tricks. Viewers end up doubting Chinese martial arts. Is it just for show? Does it work?

"I'm a big admirer of Lau Kar-leung," Wong continues, referring to an influential martial artist and director in the 1970s. "He had a very specific style of kung fu film, really hardcore because he came from a martial-arts family. His films are very precise, very authentic. From them you learn his wisdom and philosophy, as well as his skill. And I thought, I hadn't seen a kung fu film like this for a long time."

Wong met with master action choreographer Yuen Wo Ping, whose work stretches from kung fu classics in the 1970s to more recent Hollywood productions like the Matrix and Kill Bill movies. Wong insisted on a style of fighting that avoided wirework and impossible stunts. Making Yuen's task more difficult was the fact that the film's two stars, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Ziyi Zhang, had no serious martial-arts training.

Leung, who has starred in seven Wong Kar Wai films, says enthusiastically, "This is my most enjoyable movie with Gar Wai," using the director's nickname. "I knew my character from the first day of shooting, which I never experienced with him before. We never talk or meet on the set, I never watch the video playback, we don't even work with a screenplay, a complete screenplay, although I know he has one. But we are good friends for over twenty years now. If he knows what he wants, then I trust him."

The actor trained for four years before shooting, working with Duncan Leung, who met Ip Man through Bruce Lee, and his son Darren. "I used to think kung fu was just fighting techniques, defense, things like that," Leung says. "But it's very much like meditation, how to have a mind free from emotion and desire. It's about training your mind to achieve harmony with your opponent. You don't anticipate, you don't expect, you don't decide anything, you just follow your opponent's movements."

Wong quotes a Chinese saying, "'To fight is to kiss.' You have to get very close, you have to be confident, your whole body is pressed against your opponent. And there is this stillness—it's easy to trick the audience when you are moving, dancing around. The most difficult part is the pose, it has to be flawless. You move your hand like this," he says, demonstrating, "and it has to be flawless."

Wong decided to open Happy Together, a romance set in Buenos Aires, with a prolonged lovemaking scene, "so we could get the sex out of the way and let the viewers concentrate on the story." Here, he opens The Grandmaster with a nighttime fight that pits Ip against a dozen opponents. "We all know Tony is a good actor, but the people coming to this film will be asking, 'Can he fight?' So we had to make this scene right."

"It was a nightmare," Leung laughs. "I told Gar Wai this was the most difficult scene in my acting career. We have to do a master shot, so that means I have to fight like ten guys from the end of the street to here, and I'm feeling all this pressure, I don't want it to be an NG [no good] because of me. It's already difficult, and then he decides, 'It would be better in the rain.' Very heavy rain. Water this deep," he says, holding his hand above his ankle. "And I can't wear normal shoes because William Chang says the camera will pick them up."

The scene required 30 consecutive nights of shooting. "We slipped all the time," Leung remembers. "It was freezing cold, and we had to keep our costumes on all night long. After 30 days, I've got headaches, a runny nose, I'm taking all kinds of pills. When I get back to my hotel room, I'm catatonic."

About Gong Er, the role his co-star Ziyi Zhang plays, Leung jokes, "She is bad, a totally bad woman." But for Wong, "Gong Er and Ip Man are two sides of a coin. She's a fictional character, but based on the many great woman martial artists at that time. She's from the north, and represents the Bagua school of fighting. Like Ip Man, she's not supposed to be a fighter, it's a choice she makes, based on her beliefs and her loyalty to her father. The difference between them is that, unlike Ip, she decides to stay in her own time."

Wong shot The Grandmaster over a three-year period, in part because of unavoidable delays. Leung broke his left arm twice, for example. The director filmed all the action scenes first, saving the dramatic material for the last six months.

"We shot on film," he says, "because three years ago a lot of people were still working with film. Then one day I received a letter from Fuji, 'We are sorry to tell you this will be the last shipment because we are not going to produce the film stock anymore.' So it seemed like a good time to wrap the picture."

Wong completed a version for Asian audiences that ran a little over two hours. His U.S. contract with The Weinstein Company called for a shorter cut. "For many films you can just cut shorter, take out some scenes. But the structure of this film is very precise, so you can't just cut or trim."

The director prepared an entirely different version for the U.S. market, replacing some scenes and concentrating more on telling the story from Ip Man's perspective. "I skipped some of the build-up, certain introductions, and I showed more of his time in Hong Kong."

Soft-spoken, dressed casually and wearing his ever-present sunglasses, Wong grins and jokes frequently. He downplays the six years of work he put into the project, deflecting attention away from his methods. But when he describes specific scenes, you can start to appreciate the focus and determination he brought to filming.

But even Wong appreciates the essential contradictions in kung fu films. He remembers an argument on the set between wing chun and bagua trainers. "Ip Man always used a simple form, basically the shortest distance between two points is the straight line. But the bagua master said the straight line is not the fastest, the bagua timing is faster. And Duncan Leung points out, if these fighters are that good, they're not going to be fighting each other for fifteen minutes. But then we wouldn't have a movie."
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tony Leung Is a Foxy Grandmaster

By Amie Barrodale

Wong Kar Wai’s new movie The Grandmaster is about the Chinese Kung Fu master Ip Man, who is played by Tony Leung. Ip Man, you may know, was Bruce Lee’s martial-arts instructor. You also may know, particularly if you have seen Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love, that Leung is a fox.

He is also a peculiar genius of expression. In In the Mood for Love, he expressed, just with his eyes, all of the rapture of unconsummated love. In Chungking Express, where his character is not bright, but still handsome and charming, he changed his eyes, and they appeared, somehow, slightly dim. In The Grandmaster he somehow has the eyes of a spiritual master. I don’t know how he does that. He is a genius, and—to reiterate—he is a fox. I am married, and I know it sounds improbable to the unmarried, but I don’t think about anyone romantically except for my husband. However, when I interviewed Leung, after it was over, for just a moment, I dropped my chin into my palm.

VICE: Gong Yutian, northern China’s grandmaster, has declined challenges from grandmasters from the south. He accepts the challenge from Ip Man, but when they meet, they do not fight at all. Instead, Gong Yutian asks Ip Man to break the cake in his hand. Why?
Tony Leung: At that time, China faced internal fighting as well as Japanese invasion. Gong Yutian was looking for a suitable ally, in order to unify China. The cake was a symbol, laden with meaning. Understanding its significance was part of the test. The challenge, then, was that the outcome of the match had heavy symbolic consequences. If Ip Man were to default, reject, fail, or even winning the challenge, each would be problematic. But none of those exactly happens: Ip Man takes a hold of the cake. The two masters each hold it for a moment. Ip Man lets go, and a few moments later, the cake crumbles by itself from built-up stress. Ip Man shows that he is more than an equal, while still being an ally.

VICE: At a tea shop in Hong Kong, a Thai Chi master Ding Lianshan lights Ip Man's cigarette, and from that, he knows that he would have liked, if he were younger, to spar with Ip Man. In his words, he says that Ip Man has "got the gift.” How does he know that?
Tony Leung: He watches the way that Ip Man moves. While experts do not necessarily flaunt their expertise, they can read it in the fluent motions of another expert.

VICE: What was your training like in preparation for the movie?
Tony Leung: It was like torture. Hours and hours under the sun, six days a week for months. And that didn't stop once we began principle photography. Of course, I knew Wong Kar Wai wouldn't settle for just memorizing a few fight moves, but I hadn't expected how difficult it would be to build up the fundamentals. In the end, I think it paid off.

VICE: How did your basic awareness change with training?
Tony Leung: This is what I mean. It's possible to fool even a trained eye over a short period of time, but in Wing Chun, in order for it to look right, angles, positioning, and timing all have to work together just the right way. There really was no shortcut. I just had to train until it became second nature. Now, it would probably be hard to unlearn it.

VICE: You hold a gaze in a particular way in the movie. I noticed it immediately and later read in Vanity Fair that you felt you could not have looked that way without training. Where does that look come from?
Tony Leung: I think it comes from having sense of self-confidence in a confrontational situation. Of course, this is the movies and not real life, and I am just a student. But you have to start somewhere, and I was fortunate enough to work beyond forms and techniques, and do a little light sparring, which literally opens your eyes to the vastness of kung fu.

Check out this animated series inspired by Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster that takes you through the key martial arts styles that defined China and the world of kung fu.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'The Grandmaster' Review: We Need More Bones Breaking to Wake Us Up

By Shiryn Ghermezian, EnStars | Aug 21, 2013 09:47 PM EDT

With visuals so spellbinding and enough fast-paced martial arts fights that your eyes cannot keep up with, it comes to a shock that The Grandmaster turned out to be dull.

Produced by the Weinstein Company, the biographic drama tells the story of martial arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee. The film begins in South China, 1936, but takes you around the country showing the turbulent times and the hostility the countrymen felt toward the Japanese.

The riveting visual effects are expected for a household name in the industry such as the Weinsteins and work well to amplify the film's kung fu battles, but there is not much else capturing your attention. The film opens with music that gets you in the element - strong drumming mixed with a tender violin that has your heart pounding - but that captivating element is gone once the story itself begins.

The fight scenes, which are excited to watch for technique and seeing them beat the hell out of each other, are wasted because they don't hold your attention until the end. In fact, fight scenes drives the entire story from start to finish with nothing else in the passenger seat for support. The brawls also don't do enough; don't go far enough to amaze the viewer.

Honor, reputation, family struggles and a hint of love engross the lives of the lead stars Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Ziyi Zhang as Ip Man and his lover/friend Gong Er. The characters all talk in riddles about codes of honor and discipline, which is also a bore to listen to for 123 minutes. There is a line about the symbolism of breaking a cookie that really went over my head.

It is also impossible to care of these characters or connect with them, which almost dares the audience to fall asleep in the theater.

There are title cards explaining how the story progresses but the main story is as follows: when Japan was invading China, the different styles of kung fu were determined by geography with north of the Yangtze one way and south was another. A great martial artist known as Ip Man married together the two styles and mastered them, becaming a visionary in the field.

When the Japanese army takes over Ip Man flees to Hong Kong. He joins a training school as a teacher and puts on a good show when he fights some of the students to prove his expertise. In town he reunites with Gong Er and the only other exciting part from there on is part of a flashback where she gets in a fight with a guy trying to steal her family's honor.

Throughout the film you only watch the beautiful scenery or the swift motions of the hands and legs as the characters battle it out - though they never battle it out to the death, which again, is boring.

Gong Er says growing up "the sound most familiar to me was that of bones breaking." We understand martial arts takes discipline but oh, if only there were more bones breaking in this film.

Last edited by Sandy on Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:28 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Exclusive Interview: Wong Kar Wai on The Grandmaster

Filmmaker Wong Kar Wai describes the years of work that went into The Grandmaster’s “hardcore” fight sequences.

August 20th, 2013 Fred Topel

So, I totally won Comic-Con. I’m not going to be modest here, other people may have interviewed superheroes or cosplayed all night long, but I met Wong motherfuckin’ Kar Wai. The U.S. cut of his martial arts film The Grandmaster played at midnight on the last full night of Comic-Con, and at a cocktail reception at Nobu (Japanese, but who’s counting?) Wong sauntered in like he owned the place. I was granted an audience with the legendary filmmaker to talk about his depiction of Yip Man, the martial arts master also portrayed in Donnie Yen’s films as Ip Man, and the man who taught Bruce Lee.

CraveOnline: I understand The Grandmaster took five years. Was that primarily in shooting or editing?

Wong Kar Wai: No, no, we had to spend three years on the road, for the training sessions and the shooting actually took 22 months. You know Tony Leung, right? He’s a very good actor but he never practiced martial arts. Look at him [in the film] and you’ll know why it takes three years.

CraveOnline: In Hollywood they do the three or four months training so they can do The Matrix or Kill Bill fights. Why was it important to you to go even further?

Wong Kar Wai: Because The Matrix is sort of like action, but more like a show. To be in this film, they have to be really doing everything by themselves. There’s no special effects. There’s no doubles. They’re not doing the martial arts only in the close-up. Just imagine for the first scene of Tony, he’s going to fight with Cung Le, the world champion in MMA. And also I think it’s important for them to go through this. It’s not only about the skill. They have to manage the skill but at the same time they have to understand the manner and the spirit of a martial arts master.

CraveOnline: Were you concerned that Donnie Yen was doing a series of movies about Yip Man also?

Wong Kar Wai: No, because actually when we announced this, that Ip Man franchise came before us. I think it’s good to have films telling the story of Yip Man but in a way, we all have different approaches.

CraveOnline: Of course. There have been so many movies about Wong Fei-Hung and they keep making those. Why do you think it took so long for Yip Man to become one of the legendary film characters?

Wong Kar Wai: Because in this film, it’s not only about one character. It’s really about the martial art world. We always call the film “Once Upon A Time In Kung Fu.” This is telling the man and his time and I think that’s a very different approach. I think in this film, it’s a kung fu film, for a lot of audiences this is the first time they really have an understanding, not only who is the best fighter but also why martial arts, Chinese martial arts has a long history and it’s so important.

CraveOnline: In the sequences in the rain and in the ice, it’s not just about the fighting. How did you want to photograph the fighting in ways we’ve never seen before?

Wong Kar Wai: The funny thing is, because we want this movie, all the action scenes to be very precise. Because we have so many different schools, they’re from the north, they’re from the south, it has to make a difference. It has to be authentic. So we have all these masters from that school on set. For martial art masters, they would say, “Well, actually a real master would never fight ten moves or five moves. It’s always one punch, one kick and that’s it. And it’s so fast, sometimes you don’t even have time to get it.” But it’s so difficult for us, you can’t make a film with only one punch or one kick, so you have to analyze the whole mechanics of that move. So you have to explore shooting with different angles and also different speeds, and that’s hard.

CraveOnline: Did Yuen Woo-ping teach you a lot or did you push him to do things he’d never done before?

Wong Kar Wai: Both. I think we are pushing each other and I think it’s a very memorable collaboration. Just imagine for Yuen Woo-ping, working on a film for two years is something he hadn’t done for years.

CraveOnline: Was it fun to shoot these elaborate fight sequences?

Wong Kar Wai: It is because just imagine you spend like a month on the first scene, the rain scene and two months on the last action scene where Zhang Ziyi is fighting at the train station. We are shooting it somewhere in the north, in a remote town outside Shenyang and every night is -20 [degrees]. It’s so cold that we could only have a few setups every night.

CraveOnline: Did you use CGI for the scenes where Zhang is being pushed into the speeding train?

Wong Kar Wai: Yeah, we had to. We only used CGI for that purpose. Otherwise, for the rest of the film, all the action basically is really hardcore.

CraveOnline: Is there wirework where you have to remove the wires digitally?

Wong Kar Wai: Yeah, because sometimes when you have to enhance an effect, like someone gets punched and he has to fly away, you have to use wires because Yuen Woo-ping is a very, very good action choreographer, not only for the effects but also for the safety. He’s very concerned about the safety of not only his cast but also all the stuntmen on set.

CraveOnline: There’s a nice surprise at the end of The Grandmaster, some bonus fights in the credits.

Wong Kar Wai: Right.

CraveOnline: Where do those come from? Were they in the film and then taken out?

Wong Kar Wai: Yes, because we thought it would be interesting at the end to give a surprise to the audience. I especially like the line, “What’s your style?” It’s a classic line from Bruce Lee.

CraveOnline: Are we going to see those sequences extended or recut into the film on the DVD?

Wong Kar Wai: No.

CraveOnline: That’s it?

Wong Kar Wai: Yes.

CraveOnline: Was there any comparison between doing The Grandmaster and Ashes of Time?

Wong Kar Wai: Actually, they are quite different genres. Ashes of Time belongs to the genre called wuxia pian. It involves swords. To give you an example, it’s more like Lord of the Rings, fantasy with no historical background. The Grandmaster is something different. It’s a hardcore kung fu film based on the real figures and has an exact historical background. It’s different. There’s no flying. There’s nothing against gravity. All the action had to be done by the actors themselves.

CraveOnline: Zhang Ziyi has done a number of martial arts films. Did she have to retrain for The Grandmaster?

Wong Kar Wai: Yeah, because she has a background of Chinese dance so it’s much easier for her to handle the technique, but too bad she has to learn a technique which is a very tricky move, it’s always working in circles. The movement is much bigger than Yip Man which is very straightforward, always in a straight line. So she went through very, very hard training to be able to perform.

CraveOnline: Was it important to you to show a young Bruce Lee at the end of the film?

Wong Kar Wai: I thought that would be interesting because the reason I wanted to make this film and to tell the story of the grandmaster Yip Man is I believe many people follow kung fu films or Chinese martial arts because of Bruce Lee. And because of that, there are so many kung fu films around. Sometimes they misinterpret or misunderstand Chinese martial arts and they become chop suey. I wanted to give another perspective into kung fu and it would be interesting to tell the story through the man who trained Bruce Lee, and I think that’s the connection.

CraveOnline: There are some sequences in the U.S. version where there is text on the screen explaining some of the history. Does that bridge scenes that were removed for the U.S.?

Wong Kar Wai: Because it’s very hard to explain to the U.S. audience especially about the background and history and what exactly is the situations, so I thought it would be more effective to use these captions to tell the audience. So they don’t have to be distracted, they can focus on the story.

CraveOnline: Did you have to take some scenes out then to put those captions in?

Wong Kar Wai: Yeah, but I also added some scenes in.

CraveOnline: You have a way of doing slow motion that looks like nothing I’ve ever seen except Wong Kar Wai films. What is that kind of slow motion you do?

Wong Kar Wai: That’s what we call stop-printing. It’s basically you shot the image in 12 frames per second or even eight frames, and you double print it so you will have that effect.

CraveOnline: Why do you like that technique?

Wong Kar Wai: Because normally in slow motion, when you use slow motion you want to extend the movement so the audience can see clearly what’s happening. With stop-printing, it’s a way to carry the speed of it because everything is so blurred when they are moving. The only image that remains sharp is the one that’s steady.

CraveOnline: What are your favorite kung fu movies?

Wong Kar Wai: Grandmaster.

CraveOnline: Good call. Any others?

Wong Kar Wai: Well, I’m also a big fan of Lau Kar-leung’s films.

Last edited by Sandy on Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:29 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

August 21, 2013 Updated: August 21, 2013 | 7:15 pm

Wong Kar Wai talks kung fu-izing China’s past in The Grandmaster
By Ned Ehrbar Metro World News

Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar Wai takes a fantastical look at the history of his nation through the lens of kung fu with The Grandmaster, about Yip Man (Tony Leung), the father of modern kung fu who eventually taught Bruce Lee. But first, according to the film, he had to wrestle with China’s changing political climate and go through a lot of gorgeously staged fights.

Q & A

Q: This film is “inspired by a true story.” How much historical accuracy did you go for?

A: It’s quite accurate. The only thing I invented was the character of Gong Er (played by Zhang Ziyi). This is a fictional figure, it’s not a real person. But in fact this character is based on several remarkable women at that time. When China was going through the changes from the monarchy to the republic, there were a lot of great men, and at the same time there were also remarkable women coming from all walks of life. Before then women were taking a much more minor role. They had to be a good daughter, good wife, good mother, and at that point you see women trying to have their own rights.

Q: The film examines how kung fu used to be incredibly exclusionary — solely an upper class pursuit.

A: In the traditional sense, martial arts were not for poor people. To practise martial arts you needed to be extremely wealthy because you couldn’t do anything else. You had to practise — like, they had specific hours, like three o’clock in the morning and then three o’clock in the afternoon. Not too hot, not too cold. And then there are so many formalities. People visit you, you have to have a big party. When they leave, you have to send them with gifts. All these expenses, it’s a big thing.

Q: What does the Chinese film industry make of Hollywood films like Iron Man 3 participating more with the country’s filmmaking world and audience? A welcome growth or a threat?

A: I always find it very silly to say, “As we are invaded by Hollywood” because we’ve been in this business for a long time. The only thing that’s important is to keep the audience coming back to the cinema.

Q: What do you make of the rising importance of the global audience for Hollywood?

A: Now we see very clearly that the film industry cannot rely on a single market. Even for a Hollywood film, they cannot live on the domestic market alone. They need the international markets. So that’s why there’s more and more focus on the Chinese market, because it’s growing so fast. It becomes a major market for here, for everywhere.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Movie Review: Style and Kinetics Triumph in a Turbulent China

‘The Grandmaster,’ Wong Kar-wai’s New Film

The Grandmaster Ziyi Zhang is a kung fu contender in Wong Kar-wai’s film, opening Friday in New York and Los Angeles.

Published: August 22, 2013

“The Grandmaster,” a hypnotically beautiful dream from the Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, opens with curls of smoke, eddies of water and men soaring and flying across the frame as effortlessly as silk ribbons. The men are warriors, street fighters with furious fists and winged feet, who have massed together on a dark, rainy night to take on Ip Man (Tony Leung), a still figure in a long coat and an elegant white hat. Even amid the violent whirlpools of rain and bodies, that hat never leaves his head. It’s as unyielding as its owner.

Keep your eye on that hat, which retains its iconographic power even when Ip Man takes it off to, say, take down a roomful of opponents. The white hat may be an invention — in many archival photos of the real Ip Man (1893-1972), a revered martial-arts master, he’s bareheaded — but there’s a mythic air to the dashing figure wearing it. However much history informs this movie, “The Grandmaster” is, at its most persuasive, about the triumph of style. When Ip Man slyly asks “What’s your style?” it’s clear that Mr. Wong is asking the same question because here, as in his other films, style isn’t reducible to ravishing surfaces; it’s an expression of meaning.

It’s been five long years since Mr. Wong, one of the greatest filmmakers working today, had a new movie, and it’s a pleasure to have him back. His last, “Ashes of Time Redux,” released in 2008, was new only in that it was a reworking of his 1994 “Ashes of Time,” an elliptical meditation on memory in the cloak of a swordsman movie. Perhaps taking a cue from Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now Redux,” Mr. Wong returned to “Ashes of Time,” stirred it a bit and emerged with an even lovelier version of that signature work. If the first film definitively signaled that his interests transcended genre and conventional narrative, “Redux” largely felt like a necessary palate cleanser after “My Blueberry Nights,” his only English-language film and only dud.

“The Grandmaster” is yet another martial arts movie, though to describe it as such is somewhat like calling “L’avventura” a thriller about a missing woman. Arguments can be made, but would miss the mark. So would expectations of historical fidelity. Predictably, “The Grandmaster” is, given this filmmaker, less a straight biographical portrait of Ip Man and more an exploration of opposing forces like loyalty and love, horizontal and vertical, and the geometry of bodies moving through space and time. Ip Man’s experience as a martial arts master and even as a teacher to Bruce Lee are factors, but when Ip Man isn’t fighting, he transforms into one of Mr. Wong’s philosophers of the heart, one whose life is filled with inchoate longing, poetic observations and complicated women.

Ip Man, sometimes called Yip Man, was born as Ip Kai Man or Yip Kai Man. Mr. Wong makes him 40 when the movie opens in China 1936, and while the historical figure would have been somewhat older, it sounds better when, in voice-over, Mr. Leung explains that if life has four seasons, his first 40 years were spring. Ip Man practices a style of kung fu called wing chun, which is often translated as “beautiful spring.” In the film, his metaphoric season begins with him being called on to demonstrate his style for Gong Baosen (Wang Qingxiang), a grandmaster visiting from the Japanese-controlled north. Having decided to retire, Gong has arrived in Foshan, in the south, for a celebration and an exhibition of the local kung fu talent. His truer intention may be to find the worthiest martial arts successor.

During his visit Gong speaks about the historical rift between the south and north through their martial arts practices, a division that, however entertainingly illustrated in a series of fights, carries unmistakable urgency because of the Japanese occupation, the coming war and, more obliquely, the fissures of the 1949 Communist Revolution. “The Grandmaster” remains rooted in one man’s experiences, but it’s also, unmistakably, a portrait of his country. You don’t learn the names of Ip Man’s children, yet you do learn those of his martial arts adversaries, the good, bad and ugly who stand in for a divided China. His personal life, meanwhile, remains an exquisite abstraction — close-ups of his mournful wife, scenes of domestic bliss and of horror — with none of the visceral realism of his fights.

The fight scenes are by turns kinetic and balletic, and thoroughly sublime. Choreographed by the action maestro Yuen Wo Ping, each has a different cadence, inflection and purpose and, like the numbers in a musical, drive the story or bring it to an enchanted standstill. In one fight, Ip Man clashes with a brothel denizen wearing the tiny shoes of a woman with bound feet. Ginger Rogers only had to dance backward in heels. In another, he uses metal chopsticks to ward off a razor. His greatest opponent will be the old grandmaster’s daughter, Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang), a heartbreaking beauty who makes a loud entrance in Western-style shoes. Once she slips into traditional dress, she flutters into the air like a butterfly, her body arcing against Ip Man’s in an erotic pantomime of yin and yang.

Here, as in Mr. Wong’s earlier films, his sumptuous excesses — the lush music, the opulent rooms, the seductive drift, the thundering blows — both help tell the story and offer something more. When, for instance, Ip Man sits motionless while everyone rushes around him in fast motion, as if he and they were living in different time signatures, it’s an expression of radical isolation that’s so vivid it lingers after the scene ends. Through these different, obviously artificial speed settings, Mr. Wong isn’t simply showing you a man alone or a memorable picture of loneliness; he is also suggesting that this is what the experience of isolation feels like. Again and again in “The Grandmaster,” images become feelings which become a bridge to this distant world.

The version of “The Grandmaster” that opens on Friday is shorter and somewhat different from the one that has played abroad, including at festivals. Explanatory text has been added and some chronology ironed out, which may shed light on a few of the more lurching transitions. Although these changes are said to have been approved by Mr. Wong (consent that may have more to do with contractual obligations than happy compromises), it’s too bad that the American distributor didn’t have enough faith in the audience to release the original. Even in its altered form, “The Grandmaster” is one of the truly galvanizing cinematic experiences of the year, and while I’ve seen this version twice, I am eagerly looking forward to the original in all its unfettered delirium.

“The Grandmaster” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Mostly nonbloody martial arts violence.

The Grandmaster

Opens on Friday in New York and Los Angeles.

Directed by Wong Kar-wai; written by Zou Jingzhi, Xu Haofeng and Mr. Wong, based on a story by Mr. Wong; director of photography, Philippe Le Sourd; edited by William Chang Suk Ping, Benjamin Courtines and Poon Hung Yiu; music by Shigeru Umebayashi and Nathaniel Mechaly; production design by William Chang Suk Ping and Alfred Yau Wai Ming; produced by Mr. Wong and Jacky Pang Yee Wah; released by the Weinstein Company. In Mandarin, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 48 minutes.

WITH: Tony Leung (Ip Man), Ziyi Zhang (Gong Er), Chang Chen (the Razor), Zhao Benshan (Ding Lianshan), Xiao Shenyang (San Jiang Shui) and Song Hye Kyo (Zhang Yongcheng).
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With some of the best martial arts fighting in years, "Grandmaster" connects as a biography of Bruce Lee's trainer, Ip Man.

Scott Bowles, USA TODAY 6:04 p.m. EDT August 22, 2013

When it comes to inspiring biopics, the story of Ip Man is about as big as Lincoln.

Since 2008, Ip Man, the famed martial arts trainer of Bruce Lee, has been the subject of no fewer than four films.

The Grandmaster (*** out of four, rated PG-13, opens in limited release Friday) marks the fifth and most ambitious yet, an historical opus that is equal parts ballet and biography, though the second component pales in comparison with the first.

Directed and co-written by estimable Chinese director Kar Wai Wong (Chungking Express, In the Mood for Love), Grandmaster has some of the most impressive martial arts scenes since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Like that Ang Lee Oscar winner, Grandmaster takes martial arts and turns it into a spectacular dance, one the actors trained years to learn. And it shows: The first hour of the film is as gorgeous as Tiger, with the plus of being a real story.

The film tracks Ip Man through World War II and his honing of Wing Chun kung fu, which he would make popular throughout the world. Set during the Japanese occupation, Grandmaster chronicles China's growing rift between martial arts masters, particularly Ip Man's deadly, minimalist "Southern" style and the flashier "Northern" style of fighting.

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Tony Leung plays the title role, and he's spot-on. A favorite of Kar Wai Wong (he starred in Love), Leung has the stillness and intensity to give Ip Man the quiet confidence of a guy who could kick Bruce Lee's butt.

But the discovery of the film is the stunning Ziyi Zhang (Memoirs of a Geisha, Crouching Tiger). As Gong Er, the daughter of a rival grandmaster from the North, she is utterly convincing as a warrior who understands the philosophical principles of the martial arts, as well as the practical ones that break your nose.

There are scenes of gorgeous brutality that would make Quentin Tarantino salivate, and at its heart, Grandmaster is an art film. A slow-motion fight in an ornate brothel is cinematic poetry.

Unfortunately, Grandmaster can take the stiff cadence of an art film, too. Characters speak elliptically about the art of fighting, and the film has been cut drastically from its original four hours, giving the final hour a choppy, hurried feel. And there are dramatic elements of the real man's life, including the death of two daughters, that go all but ignored in the film.

And, like Lincoln, Ip Man has become lionized, if not deified, through the years. Grandmaster is no exception: In some scenes, it looks like Ip Man is literally walking on water.

But that will matter little to fans of Ip Man and the art he practiced. Stylish and well-acted, Grandmaster is a martial-arts film that has found that tricky balance of martial and art, and it connects more often than it misses.

USA TODAY review: *** out of four
Stars: Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang
Rated PG-13; runtime: 2 hours, 10 minutes; Opens in limited release Friday
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Review: Wong Kar-wai's 'The Grandmaster' has great martial arts style
'The Grandmaster' from Wong Kar-wai stars Tony Leung as Ip Man, who trained Bruce Lee. It's a sweet feast of martial arts action.

By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic

August 22, 2013, 3:51 p.m.,0,111957.story

"The Grandmaster" is like a meal of all desserts, with maybe the tiniest bit of protein thrown in. You'll feel decadent enjoying it, but everything is so tasty, it would be foolish to object.

An exercise in pure cinematic style filled with the most ravishing images, "The Grandmaster" finds director Wong Kar-wai applying his impeccable visual style to the mass-market martial arts genre with potent results. He's found a way to join the romantic languor of his earlier films like "In the Mood for Love" with the fury of Bruce Lee.

Working with his alter ego, actor Tony Leung, and an impressive Ziyi Zhang — and leaving the action choreography to the masterful Yuen Woo-ping ("The Matrix," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") — Wong indulges in mythmaking on the grandest scale.

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It is Lee's real-life martial arts teacher, the legendary Ip Man, played by Leung, who is the grandmaster of the title. Though nonfans are likely unaware, we are amid an Ip Man revival: Several films and a TV series have come out of China about this master of the Wing Chun style, and a new film, "Ip Man: The Final Fight," will soon be in theaters as well.

Already Wong's biggest hit ever in mainland China, "The Grandmaster" has, with his approval, been slimmed by 22 minutes for American audiences. The director says that with this cut, the film has been "finessed into more of an emotional, human story."

The narrative has been tidied up with the addition of intertitles explaining Chinese history, a new voice-over read by Leung, and on-screen character identifiers, all intended to make the story clearer to those not already in the know.

All this matters less than it might because the narrative turns out to be "The Grandmaster's" least essential element, serving as little more than a way to link the string of action tableaux that are the film's raison d'être. (Indeed, when people are talking, their dialogue leans heavily on aphorisms like "a well-matched opponent is like a long-lost friend" and "mastery has three stages: being, knowing, doing" — musings that would not be out of place on the old David Carradine-starring "Kung Fu" TV series.)

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The saga begins in 1936, and though Chinese martial arts schools have traditionally been divided into north and south by the Yangtze River, a northern master named Gong Baosen (Wang Qingxiang) has headed south to the city of Foshan to seek a rapprochement before he retires.

Ip Man, as it turns out, is the most respected name in the southern school of Wing Chun. A family man and gentleman of leisure who's devoted himself to the martial arts, he hangs out in the Gold Pavilion, the local brothel and gambling den where, the saying goes, many a man has "entered a prince and exited a pauper."

Before we really find out much about Ip, we see him in action. "The Grandmaster" opens with the great man, wearing his trademark snap brim white fedora, taking on a crowd of martial artists who, for no apparent reason, attack him in a driving rainstorm. The scene is a pip, as well it might be: It took 30 successive nights of shooting to get it right.

Leung engaged in martial arts training for three years to prepare for this role. It paid off not only in the imperturbable self-confidence he brings to his movements but also in how effective he is in one particular sequence where masters of four martial arts styles — hong ga, bagua, xingyi and baji, if you care to know — try to catch him off guard with moves with names like the Crushing Fist. It's not going to happen.

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The most emotional fights in "The Grandmaster," however, involve Gong Baosen's firecracker daughter Gong Er (played by Zhang of "Crouching Tiger"). The mistress, we are told, of the deadly 64 Hands fighting technique (not to be confused with her father's Old Monkey Hangs Up His Badge moves), Gong Er's passionate temper gives Zhang the opportunity to make the film's strongest impression.

Gong Er displays her artistry in two very different fights. The first is an elegantly photographed battle with Ip Man himself, where the twirling combatants half fall in love with each other as they trade graceful feints and jabs (Philippe Le Sourd is the cinematographer).

The second, more serious battle is a ferocious struggle with her adopted brother Mo San (Zhang Jin) that takes place on a snowy train platform late at night, a situation that somehow echoes a scene from "Doctor Zhivago."

For a martial arts extravaganza, that is elevated company indeed.


'The Grandmaster'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for violence, some smoking, brief drug use and language

Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

Playing: At AMC Century City, ArcLight Hollywood, Landmark West Los Angeles
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'The Grandmaster': Ziyi Zhang on her intense kung fu training schedule

By Laura Hertzfeld on Aug 21, 2013 at 1:29PM

Ziyi Zhang is no stranger to serious kung fu moves, after her starring roles in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and 2004’s House of Flying Daggers. But training with kung fu master and choreographer Yuen Wo Ping for the upcoming film The Grandmaster? That was a whole other story, she tells EW.

“It was very intensive because [director] Wong Kar-wei didn’t want us to pretend we know a little bit about kung fu — he really wanted us to be the master,” she tells EW about the six-month-long training process. “For this reason, we had to train many hours a day from 4 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. I had three different kung fu masters to train me. It was like boot camp.”

One scene in particular was very challenging to film. Shot in freezing cold temperatures in northern China, the train-fight scene below took nearly three months to film, Zhang says. Producer Harvey Weinstein is calling the scene “the best fight scene in cinema since the ‘Crazy 88s scene’ in Kill Bill” — which was also choreographed by Ping.

“This fight will be a classic,” Zhang says. “It took three months to shoot because it was extremely intricate; we had to pay great attention to every detail. This all was made more difficult by the harsh cold weather. I couldn’t feel my hands and feet doing the scene.”

But, Zhang says, it was worth it. She first worked with Ping on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and is in talks to team up with him again for the sequel. “On one hand he’s a killer kung fu master, and on the other he’s this really kind, gentle, caring person,” she says of the director/choreographer.

The Grandmaster also carried special meaning for Zhang as a celebration of girl power. Her character, Gong Er, challenges kung fu master Ip Man to regain her family’s honor, and their relationship becomes a central theme of the film. “The reaction from the female audience [so far] is that they praise this film and feel strong, identified.”
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Opening: THE GRANDMASTER (U.S. Version), No Subtleties Please, We're American
Peter Martin, Managing Editor

Judging by the U.S. cut of The Grandmaster, in comparison to the version released in Hong Kong, we Americans must be really dumb.

The Hong Kong version, available on Blu-ray in Asia, runs 130 minutes. The U.S. cut runs 108 minutes. But it's not simply a trim job; the U.S. edition is so significantly edited that it qualifies as a different movie.

By adding, subtracting, and re-arranging dramatic footage, the rhythm and pace changes; by removing historical footage that provided context and replacing it with explanatory title cards, it now unreels as something closer to a traditional bio-pic -- with plenty of crunchy fighting and doomed romancing -- with the instructional value of a high school history lesson inserted, rather than an elegaic tribute to a lost martial arts world.

While it was great to see big chunks of a movie that I've quickly come to love on the big screen with an attentive audience, it was disconcerting and disappointing to see that the attempt to 'Americanize' the movie had turned what is very close to a masterpiece into a sliced-up pizza with all the toppings removed and piled on the side.

It's small comfort to report that the original language audio remains intact. At least "Kung Fu Fighting" was not added to the soundtrack...

Why was the movie changed?

Wong Kar-Wei recently told the Wall Street Journal: "The U.S. version is more straightforward and linear. The Chinese audience is more interested in experiencing the history. In the U.S., it's more about the story ... I took it as a challenge. Instead of doing a short version, I wanted to do a new version. I wanted to tell the story in a different way."

The actors are also publicly supporting the U.S. cut. Tony Leung said: "I think it's wise for him to do a version for Americans. It's much easier for them to follow." Zhang Ziyi added: "In my opinion, I like the American one. It's clearer. Easier for foreigners."

The Weinstein Co., known for popularizing international films in the U.S., is also notorious for chopping up films with the goal of making them more palatable for American tastebuds, at least as they perceive them. Wong Kar Wai, known for making subtle, gorgeous works of art, is also notorious for 'discovering' his films in the editing room, and for tinkering with them until the very last moment possible. It's easy enough to imagine him saying to the Weinsteins, 'Oh, you'll pay me to spend more time in the editing room? Cool!'

Whatever the motivations involved, the results speak for themselves.

The original version prompted our Asian Editor, James Marsh, to write the following:

"Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong Cinema's most prestigious auteur, finally delivers his long-gestating biopic of Wing Chun pioneer Ip Man, and it proves an action-packed visual feast. Light on narrative, but oozing Wong's trademark elegance, the film weaves the director's familiar themes of love, loss and the corrosive nature of time around some of the most gorgeous martial arts sequences ever filmed. ...

"The story begins in Foshan province, where at the age of 40, Ip Man (Tony Leung) is happily married to a beautiful, doting wife (Korean actress Song Hye-kyo), lives off a healthy inheritance, and has continued the family legacy of advocating Wing Chun, a simplified yet remarkably effective form of kung-fu. At the Golden Pavilion, a local brothel patronised by many of the region's finest martial artists, North-eastern Grandmaster Gong (Wang Qingxiang) challenges the best Southerner to a fight, before he returns North. After seeing off his rivals from the other local martial arts schools, Ip Man comes forward, only to demonstrate that intelligence and restraint can prove as powerful weapons as kung fu. Ip insists that Northern and Southern martial arts can co-exist peacefully, and Gong leaves humbled, yet satisfied."

The U.S. version shears off a chunk of footage that comes before the fight between Grandmaster Gong and Ip Man. The footage includes a key conversation between Gong and his top disciple, Ma Shan, and makes it clear that there is an eternal conflict between generations, the old and the young, that ties into a view of martial arts as something more important than a mere sporting endeavor.

In other words, the question of who will become the next Grandmaster is more complex than simply, who wins the fight? Removing this footage allows the U.S. version to go almost directly to the sequence that James described next.

(Note SPOILERS ahead.)

The Grandmaster HK Final.jpg"Master Gong's daughter, Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi) is less satisfied, however, and returns to challenge Ip Man herself. During their fight, they share the briefest moment of attraction, awakening a forbidden yearning within them both. Gong Er returns home, only to discover that her father's best student, Ma Shan (Zhang Jin), refuses to accept his master's defeat, and kills him. Gong's dying wish is that the two reconcile and marry, as the last remaining practitioners of Gong's revered 64 Hands technique. However, Gong Er vows to have her revenge."

The U.S. version goes almost directly from Gong Er's departure after the fight to the Japanese invasion of China. It keeps the emphasis on Ip Man, rather than on the broader themes of martial arts and their place in the modern world.

"Many of the recurring themes that Wong allows to permeate his work resurface in The Grandmaster. Characters have fleeting encounters that are never built upon, but which continue to haunt them for years afterwards. Time proves once again to be everyone's greatest enemy, not only causing people to grow old, but also to forget the things they held most dear - and in this film particularly, the idea that age makes them weak, and less able to defend themselves plagues them relentlessly."

The U.S. version places much less emphasis on time as an enemy and the effects of aging. It's much more concerned with Ip Man as a man of action. But it still insists on identifying major characters with on-screen titles, with their name and a brief description of their duties or responsibilities, which contributes to the idea that we're watching a school lesson come to life.

(End possible SPOILERS.)

"Because, of course, for all its melancholy musing and forlorn contemplation, this is a film about martial artists and The Grandmaster is one hell of a beautiful kung fu movie. ...

"The Grandmaster remains first and foremost a Wong Kar Wai film, employing a very slow, deliberate pace throughout and dedicates long periods of time to watching its characters ponder the great mysteries of life, or more often, wallow in their own regrets and missed opportunities. But this is interspersed by some truly fantastic action, which should delight kung fu fans and arthouse cinephiles alike. In The Grandmaster, Wong Kar Wai has crafted the best-looking martial arts film since Zhang Yimou's Hero, and the most successful marriage of kung fu and classic romance since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and is more than deserving of that film's measure of international success."

I've quoted extensively from James' review -- which you can read in its entirety here -- because I agree with nearly everything he wrote, based on two viewings of the movie on Blu-ray.

The U.S. cut keeps the action sequences, but drops some of the key dramatic elements that made the 130-minute version special. By changing up the mood, pacing, and focus, Wong Kar-Wai has, indeed, succeeded in creating "a more straightforward and linear" movie. But now it tells a story we've heard and seen before, and nothing more, without the distinctive touches that made the longer version much more than a run-of-the-mill, slowly-paced martial arts flick.

As a longtime admirer of Wong Kar Wai, I can't help but be disappointed by the U.S. version, which feels like The Grandmaster Lite. Frankly, I don't need more movies that dispense with history and culture, and are easy to follow; I can get those every weekend of the year at the multiplex. I want films that challenge and engage me, and reward that effort. The U.S. version doesn't do that.

(For a more detailed comparison, see David Ehrlich's analysis / review at

The Grandmaster opens in select U.S. theaters on Friday, August 23, before expanding nationwide on August 30.

Last edited by Sandy on Fri Aug 23, 2013 8:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wong Kar Wai does kung fu in ‘The Grandmaster’

By Bob Strauss, Los Angeles Daily News

Posted: 08/19/13, 5:09 PM PDT

In recent years, Chinese martial arts master Ip Man has become almost as famous as his most celebrated student, Bruce Lee.

Of all the films made and stories told about Ip in the past decade, though, Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grandmaster” — which opens in area theaters today — stands apart.

That’s no surprise. Wong himself has long been a singular presence in Hong Kong’s deep ranks of talented filmmakers. While most of them excel at action and other popular genres, Wong is a world-renowned art film master, best known for such lushly gorgeous, stylistically complex and regretfully romantic movies as “Happy Together,” “In the Mood for Love” and “2046.”

All of his usual creative trademarks – revelatory voiceovers, memories taking over the screen, melancholy walks down night-emptied streets – can be found in “Grandmaster.” He’s even done an action film before, “Ashes of Time,” but he calls that a fantasy. The realistic emphasis on martial arts in “Grandmaster” is new for both him and, Wong claims, kung fu movies in general.

“Most martial arts films are about who is the better fighter,” Wong explained on a U.S. visit last month, wearing the ever-present sunglasses he said were designed by a Japanese samurai sword maker. “They’re always about skill, and sometimes they’re about revenge. But never do those films address the issue of the legacy.”

Wong, who spent six years researching and writing and three years filming “Grandmaster,” wanted as accurate a portrayal as he could get of various Chinese martial arts techniques. He traveled to remote parts of China and Taiwan to meet aging masters of assorted kung fu schools, a quest recorded in the documentary “The Road to the Grandmasters.”

To persuasively portray the Wing Chun school of fighting, Wong’s regular leading man, Tony Leung, who previously had no martial arts background, trained for three years. Zhang Ziyi, who proved her prowess in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” trained just as long in order to look like an expert practitioner of a different fighting school, Bagua.

When, after several false starts, it finally came time to shoot the movie at locations all across China, Wong brought on action choreographer and wire stunt expert Yuen Wo Ping (“Crouching Tiger,” “The Matrix”).

“He’s been involved in martial arts films with Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Donnie Yen, and he’s an amazing person, very supportive,” Wong noted. “But I made it very clear that I didn’t want anything against gravity and minimal wire work. I wanted it to be authentic.

“And I wanted to be very serious about each of the schools. I wanted to see the Northern schools, the Southern schools, and he looked at me and said, ‘Are you sure?’ Not until he came to our rehearsals did he realize I was serious. Until then, he was skeptical that the actors could perform.”

Similarly, Wong did not want any of the fictitious embellishments found in the Yen-starring series of Ip Man movies to pollute what he wanted to be a historically accurate portrait of the man.

“Other Ip Man movies happened after we announced ‘The Grandmaster’,” he recalls. “But I never really worried about it because most of those movies are more interested in Ip Man the hero, and sometimes they invented certain episodes in his life to make it more dramatic, like fighting with the Japanese and the Westerners. Mostly, this is not correct.

“ ‘The Grandmaster’ is very accurate,” Wong insists. “There’s only one element which is fictional, the character of Gong Er (played by Zhang.) There was no such person in his life. To me, the character is not only a remarkable woman, she was also a symbol of the time, like the Golden Time of Chinese martial arts. It’s almost like a paradise lost for Ip Man. So in a way, their last scene – the so-called Long Farewell – is the farewell of Ip Man towards his past. She’s not just a woman, she also represents a time, which is very important.”

Born into a wealthy family in the Southern Chinese city of Foshan in 1893, Ip devoted his time to the study of Wing Chun until the age of 40, when the invading Japanese took his house and fortune. After World War II, he and his family continued to live in poverty as the country plunged into civil war. Following the Communist victory over the Nationalists with whom he was associated, Ip fled to Hong Kong in 1950, never to see his wife and children again.

It was in the British Crown Colony that he eventually opened the Wing Chun school where Bruce Lee learned his moves.

Wong’s parents brought him from Shanghai to Hong Kong when he was 6. He was quickly fascinated with the huge kung fu culture there, but his mother refused to let him sign up for anything that could result in his head getting bashed in.

“I grew up on streets where there were several different schools, but I never had the chance to learn it,” Wong says with the longing for an unfulfilled past that runs through all of his best films. “So ‘The Grandmaster’ is a way for me to understand the mystery of Chinese martial arts, and why these traditions are so special and important among Chinese.”

Now, with Hong Kong and its once mighty film industry gradually being folded back into the Mainland’s embrace, Wong is seeing the world he’s known slip away.

“Of course, I’ve been affected,” he acknowledged. “If, today, you look for Hong Kong filmmakers you haven’t seen in a long time, you’d better go to Beijing. Ninety percent of the industry people are working on projects in China. You have to cope with their rules there, but it’s a bigger playground, you have more people and more resources. I don’t think collaboration is a bad thing.

“You have to deal with the censors,” he admitted. “But with a film like ‘Grandmaster,’ you don’t have any problems with them.”
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

‘The Grandmaster,’ movie review

Director Wong Kar-Wai shows his chops in stylish kung fu epic starring Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi


Thursday, August 22, 2013, 2:00 AM

Read more:

Where everyone else sees the kinetic energy in kung fu, the filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai sees romance. But there is also a balletic precision, at least in “The Grandmaster,” an exquisite-looking, fitfully moving drama from the director of “In the Mood for Love.”

There is the tension between ancient dynastic kung fu schools, and some audience members may find that less exciting than others. But “Grandmaster” has a lush scope and epic life story at its center. That helps balance the movie’s faithfulness to martial arts tradition while allowing for plenty of fists, and feet, of fury.

The story is of Ip Man, a prophetic figure whose arrival united several styles of kung fu. The Ip family had taught in the southern province of China for generations, but in the 1930s, when Ip Man (Tony Leung) tried to merge the southern and northern provinces, the two were at odds.

The North’s kung fu master, Gong Yutian, names his successor, and across the Yangtze river conflict erupts, leading to the rise of Ip Man as a go-between. Gong’s daughter, Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), is torn between loyalty to her father and a love for Ip Man. Ip’s Wing-Chun kung fu will soon reign supreme, as we see while the film shows moves through the war years and into the 1950s. (A final credits scrawl informs the uninitiated of Ip’s most famous student, Bruce Lee.)

Wong’s visual grandeur is, as ever, all-encompassing. As with his underwhelming 2007 American debut, “My Blueberry Nights,” and his earlier, underappreciated future-set drama “2046,” the compartmentalized story is never at odds with the film’s operatic emotions. And Wong’s frequent star Leung remains measured and noir-ishly sardonic even in the one-against-an-army scenes.

Those battles are refreshingly in hyper-crisp slow motion. More characteristically, the director devotes much of the movie’s final act to Gong Er, whose martial arts skills are abandoned when she becomes a physician in Hong Kong and, later, an opium addict slipping in and out of lucidity. Her brief reunion with Ip Man isn’t played large, but it’s a kick to the heart all the same.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Grandmaster: More ambitious melancholia from the hard-nosed sentimentalist of Hong Kong

The Globe and Mail

Published Friday, Aug. 23 2013, 12:00 AM EDT
Last updated Friday, Aug. 23 2013, 12:00 AM EDT

Directed by Wong Kar-wai
Written by Zou Jingzhi, Xu Haofeng, Wong Kar-wai
Starring Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Zhang Ziyi
Classification PG
Year 2013
Country Hong Kong/China
Language Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese

There are sequences in Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai’s new film, The Grandmaster, that are as gorgeous as anything you’ll see on a screen this year, or perhaps this decade. From the glow of tobacco embers in a cigarette, to the silhouette of a woman’s cheek, to the beam of light from a moving train across snowflakes, Wong is a cinematic painter of fleeting moments.

As a storyteller, he’s not always as satisfying. Conceived even before the director’s North American breakthrough, In the Mood for Love (2000), The Grandmaster is an ambitious movie. It’s also often frustratingly fragmentary, a mixture of biography, martial-arts epic, love story and meditation on exile. Five years in the making, The Grandmaster occasionally feels like five movies thrown into a fight cage, each wrestling for control.

The nominal protagonist of the story is Ip Man, a martial artist who died in 1972, after teaching Bruce Lee and helping popularize the Wing Chun kung fu style around the world. But Wong has little interest in the actual details of Ip’s autobiography. Instead, he creates a panoramic story that serves as an allegorical tale of Chinese history from the mid-thirties to the postwar period, as seen from Ip’s perspective – told in voice-over soliloquies – expressing his philosophy of dignified endurance.

When we first meet the handsome and charismatic Ip (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) as a married father of two, he’s already a 40-year-old teacher in the southern city of Foshan, who is coming to the end of the “spring” of his life. He hangs out at the local brothel, the Golden Pavilion, which is not only the best place to see opera but the gathering place for martial-arts experts from around the country. In the opening sequence, we are introduced to battlers in a variety of fighting styles practised by different schools. Ip, who can easily beat them all, has reduced the sport to its basics: “Kung fu equals two words: horizontal and vertical. The one lying down is out; only the last man standing counts.”

Across the country, the sport is highly factionalized. One old master who is determined to unify the discipline is Gong Baosen (Wang Qingxiang), an old martial-arts master who has come south from Manchuria in an effort to unify the northern and southern schools before his retirement. He arranges a match with Ip, more as a match of wits than strength, in which he invites the younger fighter to take a piece of bread from his hand. Ip prevails and the old man accepts defeat graciously. Not so his beautiful daughter, Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang), who wants to defend her family honour. She and Ip stage a demonstration match, which Gong narrowly wins. Despite her aloofness, the two have established an intense physical and mental connection. Ip promises to visit her soon for a rematch and has a special coat made to visit the north.

History intervenes: the Japanese invasion, the Second World War, the Chinese civil war. A decade passes before the two combatants meet again in Hong Kong. (Ip has sold the coat for food, but keeps one button as a keepsake.) Gong is now working as a doctor, and taking opium for her battle injuries. In an extended flashback, she tells him of her own struggles after her father’s death against her stepbrother Ma Zan (Zhang Jin), who attempted to wrest control over her father’s school, scorning her for being a woman.

In the movie’s most stunning fight sequences, choreographed by Yuen Woo-ping (The Matrix; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Gong confronts Ma at a train station on Chinese New Year’s Eve during an evening snowstorm. Shot with changes of film speed, from a variety of angles, in half-darkness, the fight is a brutal ballet of violence. Finally, Gong employs her father’s technique of feigning defeat to secure victory. In the process, she suffers damage that ends her martial-arts career.

After her story, Ip begs her to show him her technique once more, insisting that she is the vessel of a cultural legacy, but Gong is steadfast in her philosophy: What’s past is past. The final section of the film, involving the intense but unconsummated relationship between Gong and Ip, recalls the sustained ache of In the Mood for Love. Similarly, the film focuses on Chinese who are living in exile, while suffering, or perhaps revelling in, the exquisite melancholy of loss and missed chances. Like Wong Kar-wai, Gong is a hard-nosed sentimentalist to the bitter end: “Without regrets,” she says, “Life would be so boring.”
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