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PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 11:51 pm    Post subject: The Grandmaster Reviews Collections (English) Reply with quote



The Grandmaster: Film Review

5:40 PM PST 1/9/2013
by Clarence Tsui, The Hollywood Reporter

The Bottom Line
A scintillating mix of explosive action choreography and suppressed emotions, but it could have used more work on consistency in tone and character development.

Director and Story
Wong Kar-wai

Cast
Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Wang Qingxiang, Zhang Jin, Zhao Benshan, Song Hye-kyo

Screenwriters
Zou Jingzhi, Xu Haofeng and Wong Kar-wai

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movie/grandmaster/review/410574

Prior to The Grandmaster’s barnstorming pre-credit fighting sequence, the film’s main protagonist, Ip Man (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), is heard expounding his own view toward martial arts to an unseen friend. “Don’t tell me how good your skills are, how brilliant your master is and how profound your school is,” he says. “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 stand have the right to talk."

STORY: THR Critics' 12 Best International Movies of 2012: THR Year in Review

It’s a line that sums up Wong Kar-wai’s much-anticipated historical martial arts epic. The Grandmaster, which will open the Berlin International Film Festival on Feb. 7, is an action-packed spectacle for sure -- indeed, the film contains some of the most dazzling fights ever seen onscreen, courtesy of the action choreography of Yuen Woo-ping (of The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame) -- but the Hong Kong auteur is seemingly more preoccupied with the introspective verbal exchanges between his battle-hardened warriors.

While martial arts aficionados will find fulfillment with the fights -- complete with more-than-explicit primers from some of the fighters themselves about the specialties of the art they practice -- Wong’s art-house fanbase also will find much to savor, with the leading characters oozing the kind of longing that defines the filmmaker's oeuvre. The suppressed affections between Ip and Gong Er, the young, headstrong northeastern fighter played by Zhang Ziyi, doubtless will mesmerize festival audiences converted to Wong’s aesthetics through In the Mood for Love.

REPORT: Wong Kar-wai in Last-Minute Rush to Finish 'The Grandmaster' for World Premiere


And beyond yearning of the romantic kind, The Grandmaster also is an evocation of the yearning for home from drifting individuals, with Hong Kong becoming a haven for fighters living out their last years after their forced departure from a politically tumultuous China (it’s hardly coincidental that the idea of the film was conceived as the director was putting final touches on Happy Together, his 1998 film about two Hong Kongers living in self-exile in Buenos Aires just around the time of the former colony’s transition to Chinese sovereignty). It’s a sentiment which should play well with audiences in the director’s hometown. If they are patient enough to draw such meanings from the film, that is.

Since Wong first announced the project in 2002, the life of Ip Man -- a real-life master who was responsible for the development of the Wing Chun school of martial arts, of which a teenage Bruce Lee was a student -- already has found its way to the screen with Wilson Yip's Ip Man and Ip Man 2. Offering a more straightforward account of Ip’s life, those films are distinctly more accessible than The Grandmaster, with actor Donnie Yen generating critical acclaim not just for the action but also for a measured performance revealing the man behind the moves.

This has certainly left a mark on Wong’s pursuit of The Grandmaster, with recurrent reports through the years of how the director was working to move his brainchild away from being just an Ip Man biopic. The project has traveled under the title of The Grandmasters for a certain period of time (the pluralistic title remains on the poster at the main Web page of Wong’s production company Jet Tone Films). Indeed, it would have been a more appropriate title: While Ip’s perception of the world somehow frames the narrative -- through voiceovers accounting for his background and his observations of life and characters around him -- the final two-hour cut dedicates sizable screen time to Gong Er’s story, with other masters weighing in with their own philosophical and physical nuggets as well.

STORY: Berlin 2013: Wong Kar Wai's 'The Grandmaster' to Open Festival

The film’s first half-hour is definitely Ip’s (and Leung’s), though. Set in Foshan, the section first lays down Ip’s backstory, with his narration about his childhood and his marriage juxtaposed with images of a young Ip being initiated into martial arts by his teacher Chen Heshun (played by Yuen Woo-ping himself) and then intimate sequences of Ip’s contented domestic life with his wife Zhang Yongcheng (Korean actress Song Hye-kyo). Ip’s voice then leads the viewer to the Golden Pavilion, a lavishly appointed establishment, and brothel, which serves as a 1930s version of the tavern in old-school martial arts films.

Ip is contracted into a duel with Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang), a martial arts master from northeastern China looking for a last fight (and a consolidation of the supremacy of his school over its southern rivals) before he retires. When Ip emerges victorious, Gong’s daughter, Gong Er, challenges Ip to a fight to restore her clan’s reputation. She satisfies her hunger for a win, but also finds herself subjected to another craving: With her and her opponent's limbs winding up all entangled (and some parts of the fight shot beautifully in slow motion), their yearnings begin.

But it’s at this point that Ip recedes into the background and Gong Er is allowed to take over. Shifting to her hometown in Japanese-occupied northeastern China in the late 1930s, the story kicks into play again as Gong Yutian dies after a confrontation with Ma San (Zhang Jin), his estranged ex-protege. Gong Er vows to avenge her father’s murder in the face of much disparagement from her misogynist elders, who tell her to let things lie and get married.

In one of their last meetings, Gong admits to having once harbored amorous feelings for Ip. But it’s a confession that leads to nothing. Just as significantly, she also tells Ip about what her main regret in life is -- that she has yet to see life as it is, and asks Ip to do so on her behalf.

Ip has survived all to tell the tale, albeit in a solitude shared by many of Wong’s forlorn protagonists in previous films. Putting Ip in a suit and tie in one of the film’s final scenes, it can be said that Wong might be evoking Chau Mo-wan, the fictional 1960s martial arts novelist whom Leung plays in In the Mood for Love.

When asked about the challenge of adhering to deadlines -- postproduction of the film reportedly was finished just in time for its world premiere in Beijing on Jan. 6 -- Wong said in a press conference that he would have spent “a couple of months more” editing the film if he could. It’s easy to agree with him on the need for this: While this domestic-release version is a sight to behold, Wong struggles to channel his original vision into a limited time span. (His first rough cut, which reportedly came in at four hours long, easily could appear later somewhere as a redux, as his Ashes of Time did in 2008.)

While Zhang Ziyi’s Gong Er is more or less complete and coherent, the same can't be said of some of the other characters, such as Chang Chen’s Razor, an expert of the Bagua school who is supposed to be another of the grandmasters. Song Hye-kyo’s Madam Ip has only a cursory presence and is basically rendered invisible in the film’s second half. It’s a situation brought about reportedly by the long gestation of the film -- rumors are that the Korean actress couldn’t fit additional filming into her schedule -- but it also undermines Wong’s efforts to provide a fully realized, nuanced account of Ip’s emotional torment.

Still, The Grandmaster offers audiences much to marvel at visually. Production designer William Chang Shuk-ping has come to Wong’s aid with sumptuous sets, ranging from the pompous Golden Pavilion to the stunning snowscapes in which Gong Yutian’s funereal march takes place. Philippe Le Sourd’s cinematography brings Yuen’s scintillating action sequences into sharp focus -- a crucial factor given Wong's penchant for close-ups that can seemingly reveal a universe in the burning tip of a cigarette.

True to Wong’s style, The Grandmaster is infused with melancholy and a near-existentialist resignation to the uncertainties of fate. Even though we know that Ip eventually will prosper -- Wing Chun is now one of the most well-known martial arts schools in the world -- Wong's version of Ip ultimately is a portrait of a sad, isolated figure. Wong seems to be saying that Ip may be the last one left standing, but he is not necessarily the one who wins, after all.

Production companies:
Jet Tone Films and Sil-Metropole Organization

Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Wang Qingxiang, Zhang Jin, Zhao Benshan, Song Hye-kyo
Director and Story: Wong Kar-wai
Screenwriter: Zou Jingzhi, Xu Haofeng and Wong Kar-wai
Producers: Wong Kar-wai, Jacky Pang Yee-wah
Director of photography: Philippe Le Sourd
Action director: Yuen Woo-ping
Production and costume designer: William Chang Shuk-ping, Alfred Yau Wai-ming
Editor: William Chang Suk-ping
Music: Shigeru Umebayashi


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 11:55 pm    Post subject: Review: THE GRANDMASTER Brings Class to the Ip Man Legend Reply with quote

Review: THE GRANDMASTER Brings Class to the Ip Man Legend

Twitch | International Asia Review

James Marsh, Asian Editor, January 8, 2:30 pm

http://twitchfilm.com/2013/01/review-the-grandmaster-ip-man.html

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 Grandmaster has been a project so long in the works that for some it may qualify as the most-anticipated film of the new Millennium. It was way back in 2002 that Wong Kar Wai and leading man Tony Leung Chiu Wai called a press conference to declare their intentions. It was more than 18 months ago that the first teaser trailer for the film was released, featuring - as it transpires - footage from the film's opening scene: a rain-soaked street fight between a trilby-sporting Leung and a dozen faceless assailants. As recently as last month, the film's release date was pushed back (again) from 18 December to early January and Wong was still putting the final touches to the film mere hours before its world premiere in Beijing on 6 January.

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.

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.

While it may sound like The Grandmaster features a lot of plot for a Wong Kar Wai film, this really isn't the case. The film spans many years, including the Japanese occupation and Sino-Japanese War, but in a refreshing break from recent Chinese cinematic trends, the conflict goes largely ignored. As with all Wong's films, the characters are the primary focus, and how they struggle to interact through the veneer of society, honour, and their own self-imposed need to starve themselves of happiness.

There is clearly a much longer film here. Reports abound that until very recently, Wong had a four-hour cut of the film, while the version that goes on general release in Hong Kong and China this week clocks in at about 130 minutes. Perhaps the biggest victim of this drastic re-editing is Chang Chen. Given third billing, as well as his own character poster, his character probably only manages about ten minutes of screen time and only appears in three scenes. Zhao Benshan's worldly-wise father figure gets even less screen time to the extent his role in the film proves almost entirely pointless.

Chang's character, known only as "The Razor", is first seen on a train, fleeing from the Chinese army. Bleeding, and brandishing a cutthroat razor blade, Gong Er sees him and instinctively shields him from the search party. This moment teases at a possible romance between the two youngsters, not to mention reunites Zhang and Chang onscreen for the first time since Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. We anticipate their next encounter, and how it could complicate Gong Er's relationship with Ip Man, but even after both characters make the move to Hong Kong, The Razor never meets any of the principals again.

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. 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.

Action choreographer Yuen Woo Ping repeatedly dazzles us with his intensity and imagination, staging a number of standout fight sequences throughout the film that are captured exquisitely by Philippe Le Sourd's ravishing cinematography. Screen legends like Bruce Leung Siu Lung and Cung Le push Tony Leung to the limits of his newfound prowess, while Zhang Ziyi and Zhang Jin are also thoroughly convincing fighters on screen. But the staging of the action in The Grandmaster is a far cry from the kung fu in Wong's last martial arts venture, 1994's Ashes of Time. That film instilled a magical quality into its action, coupled with that blurry slo-mo camerawork Chris Doyle favoured at the time. In The Grandmaster, we see everything, and the fights themselves are shot almost as elegant courtships, dictated by ritual, ceremony and mutual respect, or when Zhang's character is involved, a breathless sensuality that only heightens the tension between opponents. Umebayashi Shigeru's gorgeous score is another highlight, complemented by an array of songs and classical pieces ranging from 1950s Canto-pop ballads to Ennio Morricone's theme from Once Upon A Time in America - a film that is evoked on numerous occasions throughout.

While admittedly Wong Kar Wai hasn't set himself a very difficult target, it seems extremely likely that The Grandmaster will prove to be the most financially successful film of his career. The anticipation alone should ensure enough tickets are pre-sold to take him most of the way, but the fact that the film is actually really good to boot should help see it do healthy box office both here and overseas. That said, audiences primed by the Donnie Yen/Wilson Yip collaborations who approach this film looking for another dose of nationalistic breast-beating and old-school chop socky action stand a good chance of leaving disappointed.

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.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 11:57 pm    Post subject: Striking thoughts Reply with quote

Striking thoughts

With Wong Kar-wai's latest film earning her rave reviews, life is looking positive for Zhang Ziyi, writes Vivienne Chow

South China Morning News | LifeStyle

Sunday, 13 January, 2013, 12:00am

http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/article/1125548/striking-thoughts

Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster is likely to be film fans' last chance to catch Zhang Ziyi's kung fu moves. It's true, the 33-year-old actress says, in response to rumours that she's planning to stop making martial arts films.

From Jen Yu, daughter of an aristocrat in Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), to dancer Mei in Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers (2004), to kung fu exponent Gong Er in Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster, the Beijing-born Zhang has played a wide range of action heroine roles that have cemented her status as a top actress. But these achievements can no longer keep her in the martial arts genre.

"I don't mind exhausting myself or suffering," she says. "I'm just afraid that I will not be able to improve further."

Zhang says some media reports have claimed she is leaving the martial arts field because she's getting older, but "this is not true. I feel this decision is the highest compliment that I can offer The Grandmaster, because I feel that in future I will not have the chance to play another role that can surpass this one."

If so, she's getting a grand send-off: the film, released on the mainland on Tuesday, took in 30 million yuan (HK$37 million) on its opening day, exceeding the total box office takings of 30 million yuan for Wong's 2004 film, 2046. In its Thursday opening in Hong Kong, it scored more than HK$1.3 million, compared to The Impossible's HK$551,139, second in the daily box office record.

Interviewed in the presidential suite of the Harbour Grand hotel in Hung Hom, Zhang is the antithesis of how she's been portrayed by the Chinese media: she is gentle, cheerful - in fact, she's nice. Having spoken to countless journalists in the three years she spent playing Gong Er, she is still animated when she talks about The Grandmaster, which has taken Wong almost a decade to bring to the big screen. Like a good hostess, she even makes sure that journalists in the suite are served drinks.

Gong Er has been a challenging role for Zhang: the only daughter of the leader of the Gong clan, her talent and determination have made her a master of the elegant yet deadly bagua palm martial art. Following her father to Foshan in Guangdong, she meets Tony Leung Chiu-wai's Ip Man, a wing chun master - Bruce Lee was one of his disciples - and a married man. Their first encounter is a stunning fight sequence choreographed by Yuen Wo-ping.

Gong Er is a strong character who conceals her feelings from others; Zhang, however, has shed plenty of tears behind the camera. In footage showing the film being made, a messy-haired Zhang in scruffy outfits with no make-up is seen stretching her limbs to shrieks of pain during a training session. Wu Bin, actor Jet Li Lianjie's sifu and chief kung fu coach for The Grandmaster, praised her talent and hard work.

Their coaches set a high benchmark for Zhang, Leung (who was 47 years old when their training began three years ago) and Taiwan's Chang Chen, the actress says. Chang, who also plays a kung fu master, became one in real life by winning a competition in Changchun last year.

However, the coaches "had forgotten we are well into our 30s. We are not children", Zhang says with a rueful smile. "I was a dancer, and I had made a lot of martial arts films. I thought I could deliver the same performance I gave in the past […] But I couldn't do it any more."

The training aggravated injuries she sustained during the making of previous films, and for which she had not sought medical help. "I didn't have the time."

It's been a rough few years personally for the 2005 Hong Kong Film Awards best actress (for 2046): she broke up with billionaire Aviv Nevo in 2010, and in June last year she sued Apple Daily and its sister weekly, Next Magazine, for alleging that she had prostituted herself to senior central government officials including disgraced former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai.

"Hong Kong media … just some individual ones … would find the most nonsensical things to write about. But I accept that because this is one of the many components that form a society. There are always positive and negative elements around," says Zhang, a Hong Kong resident under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme.

"I hope that those who have seen my performances can bring home some positive energy. And as for other destructive and hurtful comments … I don't let them stay in my body for too long."

But life is looking up for the actress: The Grandmaster - which garnered rave reviews on the mainland - has been selected to open the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival next month. In her personal life, she's reportedly in a relationship with Sa Beining, a 36-year-old CCTV show host.

Zhang is now preparing for her next project, a John Woo Yu-sum film. "I'm really looking forward to it," she says.

There had been reports that Woo had cancer, which his long-time business partner Terence Chang dismissed, saying the director had a tonsil tumour. "[Woo] has already recovered. Don't worry," the actress says.

However, she declines to offer any details about the project, merely saying it is going to be "a very big production".

Filming will begin in spring.

Although it's a Woo film, Zhang needn't stress over the action scenes. "No, there's no need to fight - fortunately. Otherwise I will have to go back to the hospital."

vivienne.chow@scmp.com
The Grandmaster is showing now


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:16 am    Post subject: The Grandmaster Reply with quote

The Grandmaster

By Maggie Lee (Hong Kong-China)

Variety | Film Reviews

Posted: Tue., Jan. 8, 2013, 6:15pm PT

http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117948960/

A Sil-Metropole Organization, Jet Tone Prod. (in China/Hong Kong/Macau)/Annapurna Pictures (in North America) release of a Sil-Metropole Organization, Jet Tone Prod., Block 2 Pictures, Bona Intl. Film Group presentation of a Jet Tone Prod., Sil-Metropole Organization production. (International sales: Fortissimo Films, Amsterdam/Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Wong Kar Wai, Jacky Pang. Executive producers, Chan Ye-cheng, Megan Ellison, Ng See-yuen, Song Dai. Directed by Wong Kar Wai. Screenplay, Wong, Xu Haofeng, Zou Jinzhi, based on a story by Wong.

With: Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Zhang Ziyi, Zhang Jin, Song Hye-kyo, Chang Chen, Wang Qingxiang, Cung Le, Lo Hoi-pang, Liu Xun, Leung Siu Lung, Julian Cheung Chi-lam. (Mandarin, Japanese dialogue)

Venturing into fresh creative terrain without relinquishing his familiar themes and stylistic flourishes, Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai exceeds expectations with "The Grandmaster," fashioning a 1930s action saga into a refined piece of commercial filmmaking. Boasting one of the most propulsive yet ethereal realizations of authentic martial arts onscreen, as well as a merging of physicality and philosophy not attained in Chinese cinema since King Hu's masterpieces, the hotly anticipated pic is sure to win new converts from the genre camp. Wong's Eurocentric arthouse disciples, however, may not be completely in tune with the film's more traditional storytelling and occasionally long-winded technical exposition.

With a first-rate production package and glamorous casting, notably the luminous Zhang Ziyi trumping co-star Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Wong's 10th feature might be his first to win over a mass Chinese audience. Set to make its international bow as the opening-night entry at the Berlin Film Festival, where Wong will serve as jury president, the film has already sold to key markets through Fortissimo Films and the Wild Bunch. It's set to be released Stateside through Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures, with Ellison credited as a producer on the film.

Five years in the making and reportedly 16 years in gestation, "The Grandmaster" is the latest in a string of period chopsocky films ("Ip Man," "Ip Man 2," "The Legend is Born -- Ip Man") centering on the life of the martial-arts master who taught Bruce Lee and popularized the Wing Chun kung fu style around the world. However, Wong's interpretation stands apart from its predecessors by taking a less conventional biopic route. Offering an eye-opening pageant of martial-arts schools and their radically different exponents, the multistranded but generally linear narrative never dedicates itself entirely to charting Ip's achievements. Instead, by focusing on his encounters with other fighters, the film arrives at the enlightened realization that there is no single "grandmaster."

This idea is demonstrated in the opening sequence, when Ip (Leung) remarks: "Kung fu equals two words: horizontal and vertical. The one lying down is out; only the last man standing counts." Just turning 40 when the film begins in 1936, Ip is an entitled Cantonese gentleman of leisure who lives in Foshan, a popular hub for martial-arts experts from all over the country. This presents numerous opportunities for duels, and the film's entire first hour feels like a breathless succession of action sequences, accompanied by one-liners of worldly wisdom couched in kung-fu terminology.

Ip's most significant duel is with Gong Baosen, who has come from Dongbei (then Manchuria) to choose an opponent for one last fight before retirement. Gong's real intention is to discover young talent and bring it into the limelight, but his match with Ip is not resolved in a way that satisfies Gong's daughter, Er (Zhang) who is extremely proud of her family's invincible track record. She tries to teach Ip a lesson, which only brings them closer together.

Something bordering on mutual attraction develops, but the film leaves it oblique, their feelings merely hinted at by the poems they exchange throughout the story. Rather abruptly, the two are separated for more than a decade by war, and narrative interest shifts almost entirely to Er. Driven by the principles of honor that made her challenge Ip, she pits herself against Ma San (Zhang Jin), her father's defiant disciple, to defend the reputation of the Gong family. Er's initial pride is offset by a revelation of inner strength when she makes a great sacrifice in order to defeat Ma.

Years of extensive training for this film have enabled the protags to look extremely convincing as masters of their art. Zhang's moves combine grace and confidence, raising the bar from her perf in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," but even in the dramatic scenes, she's the center of attention, limning extreme emotional changes as she undergoes a series of tragic upheavals.

By contrast, Leung, the helmer's frequent muse, lacks his usual intensity here: His Ip Man reveals few distinct characteristics in the early scenes except humility, and shows little emotional variation even as he falls on hard times. Even less satisfyingly handled is the peripheral character of Razor (Chang Chen), a violent and enigmatic drifter whose purpose in the story is so underexplained that he could easily have been excised, despite figuring into one fabulously shot and fought action scene.

Compared with the typically free-flowing structure of Wong's films, "The Grandmaster" is more straightforward and coherent, with only one (well-placed) flashback. While the fight scenes ensure there's hardly a lull in the first half, the second half feels hastily stitched together, rendering Ip's relations with his wife (South Korean thesp Song Hye-kyo) patchy.

Some of the helmer's artsy trademarks -- introspective soliloquies, the sense that the protags are trapped in stasis -- have been replaced by ideas more grounded in practical experience, with characters who don't hesitate to act. In developing a world of strict decorum that is nonetheless predicated on constant competition, Wong clearly benefited from the collaboration of co-scripter Xu Haofeng, here transplanting such elaborate fighting theories from his own films "The Sword Identity" and "Judge Archer" to less cryptic effect.

Having previously grappled with his personal experience as a Shanghai-to-Hong Kong emigre, the filmmaker here applies that theme to a broad historical canvas that deals with the Chinese diaspora and its impact on national identity and the continuity of cultural heritage. Even as the last quarter is suffused with a languid melancholy and heartbreaking loneliness that recalls "In the Mood for Love" and "Ashes of Time," unrequited love is represented in the context of two irreconcilable ways of life -- to survive by biding one's time, or to burn out by living in the moment.

Tech credits are aces, reflecting a stately, unified aesthetic with a stark palette dominated by blacks, whites and grays. Lensers Philippe Le Sourd ("7 Pounds") and Song Xiaofei ("Design of Death") accentuate balletic movement in the fight scenes by shooting from a dazzling variety of angles and at different speeds. They also contrast the austere beauty and expansiveness of Dongbei's snowy outdoors with the Western-influenced opulence of the South, as re-created in production designer William Chang's deliberately flashy interiors. Shigeru Umebayashi's sweeping classical score sometimes swells above the action and dwarfs its impact, but the use of regionally specific songs as period markers helps counter that effect.

Camera (color/B&W, widescreen), Philippe Le Sourd; editor, William Chang; music, Shigeru Umebayashi; production designer, Chang; art director, Tony Au; set decorator, Yuan Zi'an; costume designers, Chang, Lv Fengshan; sound (Dolby SRD), Chen Guang; supervising sound editor, Robert McKenzie; visual effects supervisor, Isabelle Perin-Leduc; visual effects, BUF Compagnie; action choreographer, Yuen Woo-ping; chief martial-arts consultant, Wu Bing; Wing Chun consultant, Ip Chun; line producer, Helen Li; associate producer, Michael Werner; second unit camera, Song Xiaofei. Reviewed at UA KK Mall, Shenzhen, China, Jan. 8, 2013. (In Berlin Film Festival -- opener, noncompeting.) Running time: 130 MIN.

Contact the Variety newsroom at news@variety.com
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:23 am    Post subject: Zhang Ziyi Reply with quote

Zhang Ziyi

Posted: 2 Jan 2013

Timeout Hong Kong | Film Features

http://www.timeout.com.hk/film/features/55100/zhang-ziyi.html

China hasn’t seen an actress as equally treasured and disliked as Zhang Ziyi for a very long time. Edmund Lee visits The Grandmaster star in Beijing to hear about her musings on Wong Kar-wai, the essence of acting and all those clueless haters out there.

At one point during our interview in a photo studio in Sanlitun, Beijing, with the first December snow descending on the capital, Zhang Ziyi describes herself as an ‘old school’ actress who ‘thinks in the traditional way’. “There are many people who take the less proper paths to look for their own sense of being,” she adds. “That’s how the environment [of show business] is – it’s not a very clean environment.” The truth is, as one of her country’s greatest current movie icons, Zhang must also live with the same time-honoured traditions of superstardom that hark back to the time of Ruan Lingyu nearly a century ago: putting up a defiant face on screen, confronting uber-sensational scandals off it, and juggling not gentle admiration and polite indifference but love and hatred by even the most casual observers day in and day out, year after year.

It is, indeed, extraordinary to think that the 33-year-old Beijing-born actress is already commanding an even higher international profile, and facing far more outrageous slanders, than Ruan ever experienced – even with the latter’s famous last words ‘gossip is a fearful thing’. “There are only two sides to one’s personality: it’s either tough or soft,” Zhang says, almost nonchalantly, when asked about her consistently strong-minded screen persona that can, no doubt, find roots inside the actress herself. The list of such roles is set to grow one longer with the expected January 10 local release – if we’re lucky – of Wong Kar-wai’s 1930s-set martial arts drama The Grandmaster, which has also been chosen to open the Berlin International Film Festival on February 7. In it, Zhang makes her latest star turn as the emotionally unflinching daughter of a respected leader in the martial arts world, who is caught between her admiration for the real-life Wing Chun master Ip Man (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) and her duty to her father’s legacy after his passing.

“When I encounter a tough character, it resembles me a little bit; and when I encounter a soft character, there’s also part of me in it,” says Zhang. “There are aspects of me in each of my characters.” Does she perhaps agree that the filmmakers look to be especially keen to cast her in insubordinate roles? “Actually, many of the roles highlight the greatness of women. It’s as simple as that. So…” She hesitates briefly, before flashing a rare glimpse of the cockiness – the only instance in this interview – that has allegedly earned her a myriad of detractors: “Perhaps that’s why I’m always [the directors’] first choice.”

China hasn’t seen an actress as equally treasured and disliked as Zhang Ziyi for a very long time. Edmund Lee visits The Grandmaster star in Beijing to hear about her musings on Wong Kar-wai, the essence of acting and all those clueless haters out there.

At one point during our interview in a photo studio in Sanlitun, Beijing, with the first December snow descending on the capital, Zhang Ziyi describes herself as an ‘old school’ actress who ‘thinks in the traditional way’. “There are many people who take the less proper paths to look for their own sense of being,” she adds. “That’s how the environment [of show business] is – it’s not a very clean environment.” The truth is, as one of her country’s greatest current movie icons, Zhang must also live with the same time-honoured traditions of superstardom that hark back to the time of Ruan Lingyu nearly a century ago: putting up a defiant face on screen, confronting uber-sensational scandals off it, and juggling not gentle admiration and polite indifference but love and hatred by even the most casual observers day in and day out, year after year.

It is, indeed, extraordinary to think that the 33-year-old Beijing-born actress is already commanding an even higher international profile, and facing far more outrageous slanders, than Ruan ever experienced – even with the latter’s famous last words ‘gossip is a fearful thing’. “There are only two sides to one’s personality: it’s either tough or soft,” Zhang says, almost nonchalantly, when asked about her consistently strong-minded screen persona that can, no doubt, find roots inside the actress herself. The list of such roles is set to grow one longer with the expected January 10 local release – if we’re lucky – of Wong Kar-wai’s 1930s-set martial arts drama The Grandmaster, which has also been chosen to open the Berlin International Film Festival on February 7. In it, Zhang makes her latest star turn as the emotionally unflinching daughter of a respected leader in the martial arts world, who is caught between her admiration for the real-life Wing Chun master Ip Man (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) and her duty to her father’s legacy after his passing.

“When I encounter a tough character, it resembles me a little bit; and when I encounter a soft character, there’s also part of me in it,” says Zhang. “There are aspects of me in each of my characters.” Does she perhaps agree that the filmmakers look to be especially keen to cast her in insubordinate roles? “Actually, many of the roles highlight the greatness of women. It’s as simple as that. So…” She hesitates briefly, before flashing a rare glimpse of the cockiness – the only instance in this interview – that has allegedly earned her a myriad of detractors: “Perhaps that’s why I’m always [the directors’] first choice.”

It’s not anyone’s fault that she just happens to be correct. Trained as a dancer since the age of 11, Zhang spent six years honing her skills in traditional Chinese dance and, for a short period, classical ballet. However, as she has said in numerous past interviews, and again here, she knew she didn’t have a future in dance. “It was just a feeling I had then. When I look back at it now, I see that I was right,” she says. “It was right for me to change my profession [from dance to acting]. I feel great happiness when I act and I don’t have this same pleasure when I dance.” In reality, the transition was made a whole lot smoother when she caught the eye of the pre-eminent Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, who was auditioning actors for a commercial he was directing at the time. Her first starring role, at the age of 19, came swiftly afterwards in the director’s Silver Berlin Bear-winning drama The Road Home (1999).

“That period was the best time of my life – and it was captured on film,” Zhang says fondly of her movingly innocent performance in that film. “The ‘me’ at the time, at that age: it’s a state that couldn’t be replicated. It’s impossible to act like that and it’s impossible to repeat that. Let me put it this way: I can no longer act in that movie today. It was a very natural movie with minimal traces of acting there.” I ask Zhang if she could have predicted her transformation from that authentic 19-year-old to the glamorous international movie star she is today. “Things just happened naturally,” she says casually, attempting to convey the spontaneity of her overnight success. “That is, I hadn’t planned my career path. After I made The Road Home, I took part in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), and after that I made Rush Hour 2 (2001). It happened quickly and one followed another.”

In person, Zhang is amiable and soft-spoken, possessing a somewhat girly voice. She fiddles with my name card throughout much of our interview until she finally puts it down to sip some water through a thin straw. Dressed in an elegant white dress with sparkling sleeves, her long, tidy hair styled to curve dramatically below her shoulders, Zhang has a lithe and slender frame which belies the physical prowess that has seen her excel in arguably all the most globally acclaimed martial arts films since the turn of the century. Does it still surprise the actress that she’s accumulated such an impressive roster of movies on her CV? “I haven’t thought about that. But if you put it this way… I guess it may possibly be the case,” she says with a sheepish smile. “Especially [Ang Lee’s] Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, [Zhang Yimou’s] Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004): each of these three movies has its own special characteristics.”

In the years since House of the Flying Daggers, Zhang has added two more Hollywood titles (2005’s Memoirs of a Geisha, 2009’s Horsemen) to her oeuvre (after playing a villain in Rush Hour 2), worked with three more prominent Chinese directors (Feng Xiaogang for 2006’s The Banquet, Chen Kaige for 2008’s Forever Enthralled, and Gu Changwei for 2011’s Love for Life), and co-produced and starred in the romantic comedy Sophie’s Revenge (2009), which already has a prequel – again co-produced by Zhang – on the way. It is, however, her artistically resonant, if not remotely prolific, working relationship with the Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai, beginning with the heart-wrenching romantic drama 2046 (2004), that has contributed most to her credentials as a future arthouse great. Among the range of feverish compliments she has received for the role, which include the Best Actress recognition at the Hong Kong Film Awards, is New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis’ remark that ‘Zhang’s shockingly intense performance burns a hole in the film’.

2046 also marked Zhang’s introduction to Wong’s notorious insistence in working to his own rhythms – the film took years to make, before hastily making its Cannes Film Festival premiere with an unfinished cut that, as legend has it, was delivered directly from the film laboratory to the theatre. But if that experience gave Zhang pause to reconsider working with the director, she isn’t showing it. After their collaboration on 2046, itself a long and languorous production, the two have developed ‘a close relationship’, especially after they spent more than two weeks together at Cannes 2006, where Wong headed the jury and Zhang served as one of the jurors. “After that, [Wong] was no longer just a director to me, but became a mentor and a friend,” says Zhang, who describes her experience with the director as being ‘like two master fighters trading moves’. “No matter the process and result, [Wong Kar-wai] is a master. He’s the one and only. Therefore, we really don’t mind if he gave us a script or not. If you trust a person, you just let him manage it.”

Zhang is known for the exceptional care she puts into choosing the right movie roles, although Wong’s projects stand head and shoulders above the rest on her wishlist. “The selection mainly depends on whether a character moves me,” she says, before quickly adding, “except [when it’s a film by] Wong Kar-wai, whom I’d say yes to even without a script.” In fact, as Zhang confirms, The Grandmaster has no script: “For me, it’s all about trust. Our method of working together is indeed very unique. It’s during the shoots that we build up our characters and the relationship [between Tony Leung’s role and mine].

“In the earliest stage, my character had a lot of scenes in which she would show her emotions,” Zhang goes on. “For example, when she heard of her father’s death, she was very sad and cried. But through this process, we both realised that the character is a staunch figure that would not often show her emotions. So in the end, a lot of the crying scenes turned out to be a waste of my tears; those scenes had to be handled again in a different way. Through the performance itself, we kept on finding the direction and personality of the character.” So can the audience assume that the bulk of the footage included in Wong’s completed films was from the latter stages of his lengthy shooting schedules? “You really know him well,” replies Zhang playfully, giggling.

For The Grandmaster project, which Wong began to develop over a decade ago and finally entered production in 2009, all three of the lead actors – Zhang, Tony Leung and Chang Chen – were required by the director to train in their character’s respective school of martial arts and find the ‘essence’ – and not just the superficial look – of their craft. “The Grandmaster is different [from other similar films] in that it goes deeper into the realm of martial arts, exploring the meaning behind it all. It’s an altogether different kind of exploration,” says Zhang. “Wong wanted us to exude the essence, the aura and the charisma of the real martial artists. It’d have been impossible to achieve if we had only trained for three or five days; that’s why we spent such a long time training seriously. The strongest impression I got from the experience is how it has changed my life values and way of thinking. The training gave me a sense of tranquillity – it allows me to think before taking action.”

China hasn’t seen an actress as equally treasured and disliked as Zhang Ziyi for a very long time. Edmund Lee visits The Grandmaster star in Beijing to hear about her musings on Wong Kar-wai, the essence of acting and all those clueless haters out there.

At one point during our interview in a photo studio in Sanlitun, Beijing, with the first December snow descending on the capital, Zhang Ziyi describes herself as an ‘old school’ actress who ‘thinks in the traditional way’. “There are many people who take the less proper paths to look for their own sense of being,” she adds. “That’s how the environment [of show business] is – it’s not a very clean environment.” The truth is, as one of her country’s greatest current movie icons, Zhang must also live with the same time-honoured traditions of superstardom that hark back to the time of Ruan Lingyu nearly a century ago: putting up a defiant face on screen, confronting uber-sensational scandals off it, and juggling not gentle admiration and polite indifference but love and hatred by even the most casual observers day in and day out, year after year.

It is, indeed, extraordinary to think that the 33-year-old Beijing-born actress is already commanding an even higher international profile, and facing far more outrageous slanders, than Ruan ever experienced – even with the latter’s famous last words ‘gossip is a fearful thing’. “There are only two sides to one’s personality: it’s either tough or soft,” Zhang says, almost nonchalantly, when asked about her consistently strong-minded screen persona that can, no doubt, find roots inside the actress herself. The list of such roles is set to grow one longer with the expected January 10 local release – if we’re lucky – of Wong Kar-wai’s 1930s-set martial arts drama The Grandmaster, which has also been chosen to open the Berlin International Film Festival on February 7. In it, Zhang makes her latest star turn as the emotionally unflinching daughter of a respected leader in the martial arts world, who is caught between her admiration for the real-life Wing Chun master Ip Man (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) and her duty to her father’s legacy after his passing.

“When I encounter a tough character, it resembles me a little bit; and when I encounter a soft character, there’s also part of me in it,” says Zhang. “There are aspects of me in each of my characters.” Does she perhaps agree that the filmmakers look to be especially keen to cast her in insubordinate roles? “Actually, many of the roles highlight the greatness of women. It’s as simple as that. So…” She hesitates briefly, before flashing a rare glimpse of the cockiness – the only instance in this interview – that has allegedly earned her a myriad of detractors: “Perhaps that’s why I’m always [the directors’] first choice.”

It’s not anyone’s fault that she just happens to be correct. Trained as a dancer since the age of 11, Zhang spent six years honing her skills in traditional Chinese dance and, for a short period, classical ballet. However, as she has said in numerous past interviews, and again here, she knew she didn’t have a future in dance. “It was just a feeling I had then. When I look back at it now, I see that I was right,” she says. “It was right for me to change my profession [from dance to acting]. I feel great happiness when I act and I don’t have this same pleasure when I dance.” In reality, the transition was made a whole lot smoother when she caught the eye of the pre-eminent Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, who was auditioning actors for a commercial he was directing at the time. Her first starring role, at the age of 19, came swiftly afterwards in the director’s Silver Berlin Bear-winning drama The Road Home (1999).

“That period was the best time of my life – and it was captured on film,” Zhang says fondly of her movingly innocent performance in that film. “The ‘me’ at the time, at that age: it’s a state that couldn’t be replicated. It’s impossible to act like that and it’s impossible to repeat that. Let me put it this way: I can no longer act in that movie today. It was a very natural movie with minimal traces of acting there.” I ask Zhang if she could have predicted her transformation from that authentic 19-year-old to the glamorous international movie star she is today. “Things just happened naturally,” she says casually, attempting to convey the spontaneity of her overnight success. “That is, I hadn’t planned my career path. After I made The Road Home, I took part in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), and after that I made Rush Hour 2 (2001). It happened quickly and one followed another.”

In person, Zhang is amiable and soft-spoken, possessing a somewhat girly voice. She fiddles with my name card throughout much of our interview until she finally puts it down to sip some water through a thin straw. Dressed in an elegant white dress with sparkling sleeves, her long, tidy hair styled to curve dramatically below her shoulders, Zhang has a lithe and slender frame which belies the physical prowess that has seen her excel in arguably all the most globally acclaimed martial arts films since the turn of the century. Does it still surprise the actress that she’s accumulated such an impressive roster of movies on her CV? “I haven’t thought about that. But if you put it this way… I guess it may possibly be the case,” she says with a sheepish smile. “Especially [Ang Lee’s] Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, [Zhang Yimou’s] Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004): each of these three movies has its own special characteristics.”

In the years since House of the Flying Daggers, Zhang has added two more Hollywood titles (2005’s Memoirs of a Geisha, 2009’s Horsemen) to her oeuvre (after playing a villain in Rush Hour 2), worked with three more prominent Chinese directors (Feng Xiaogang for 2006’s The Banquet, Chen Kaige for 2008’s Forever Enthralled, and Gu Changwei for 2011’s Love for Life), and co-produced and starred in the romantic comedy Sophie’s Revenge (2009), which already has a prequel – again co-produced by Zhang – on the way. It is, however, her artistically resonant, if not remotely prolific, working relationship with the Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai, beginning with the heart-wrenching romantic drama 2046 (2004), that has contributed most to her credentials as a future arthouse great. Among the range of feverish compliments she has received for the role, which include the Best Actress recognition at the Hong Kong Film Awards, is New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis’ remark that ‘Zhang’s shockingly intense performance burns a hole in the film’.

2046 also marked Zhang’s introduction to Wong’s notorious insistence in working to his own rhythms – the film took years to make, before hastily making its Cannes Film Festival premiere with an unfinished cut that, as legend has it, was delivered directly from the film laboratory to the theatre. But if that experience gave Zhang pause to reconsider working with the director, she isn’t showing it. After their collaboration on 2046, itself a long and languorous production, the two have developed ‘a close relationship’, especially after they spent more than two weeks together at Cannes 2006, where Wong headed the jury and Zhang served as one of the jurors. “After that, [Wong] was no longer just a director to me, but became a mentor and a friend,” says Zhang, who describes her experience with the director as being ‘like two master fighters trading moves’. “No matter the process and result, [Wong Kar-wai] is a master. He’s the one and only. Therefore, we really don’t mind if he gave us a script or not. If you trust a person, you just let him manage it.”

Zhang is known for the exceptional care she puts into choosing the right movie roles, although Wong’s projects stand head and shoulders above the rest on her wishlist. “The selection mainly depends on whether a character moves me,” she says, before quickly adding, “except [when it’s a film by] Wong Kar-wai, whom I’d say yes to even without a script.” In fact, as Zhang confirms, The Grandmaster has no script: “For me, it’s all about trust. Our method of working together is indeed very unique. It’s during the shoots that we build up our characters and the relationship [between Tony Leung’s role and mine].

“In the earliest stage, my character had a lot of scenes in which she would show her emotions,” Zhang goes on. “For example, when she heard of her father’s death, she was very sad and cried. But through this process, we both realised that the character is a staunch figure that would not often show her emotions. So in the end, a lot of the crying scenes turned out to be a waste of my tears; those scenes had to be handled again in a different way. Through the performance itself, we kept on finding the direction and personality of the character.” So can the audience assume that the bulk of the footage included in Wong’s completed films was from the latter stages of his lengthy shooting schedules? “You really know him well,” replies Zhang playfully, giggling.

For The Grandmaster project, which Wong began to develop over a decade ago and finally entered production in 2009, all three of the lead actors – Zhang, Tony Leung and Chang Chen – were required by the director to train in their character’s respective school of martial arts and find the ‘essence’ – and not just the superficial look – of their craft. “The Grandmaster is different [from other similar films] in that it goes deeper into the realm of martial arts, exploring the meaning behind it all. It’s an altogether different kind of exploration,” says Zhang. “Wong wanted us to exude the essence, the aura and the charisma of the real martial artists. It’d have been impossible to achieve if we had only trained for three or five days; that’s why we spent such a long time training seriously. The strongest impression I got from the experience is how it has changed my life values and way of thinking. The training gave me a sense of tranquillity – it allows me to think before taking action.”

‘Thinking before action’, as it turns out, also reflects how Zhang has picked her projects over her eclectic career. The actress confesses that she only began to realise she wanted to make acting her career while shooting Hero – long after her sensational start with the equally revered The Road Home and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Her sustained success since, however, has been no accident. “[Before Hero], it was simply a case of opportunities knocking, so I went with them,” she says. “I didn’t especially feel that I was going to make acting my career. But gradually, after making film after film, I discovered that I was indeed passionate about acting. Every new role has unique aspects that only belong to that character. Every new character is like that, which is what makes [acting] interesting to start with.

“You don’t need to bring your past experience to your character. In fact, every time I make a new film, I try to leave behind the experiences from, or techniques I’ve developed in, my past projects,” Zhang continues. “It’s becoming more and more difficult though, because your skills become more mature and you start to rely on them, rather than relying on your feelings. It’s quite hard to control this… you know what I mean? It’s when you don’t know [anything about acting] that you act most naturally, that everything is from your heart.” Zhang then offers an insight into her understanding of a great performance: “I think the most touching roles come from the heart. There isn’t a ‘best performance’, because the best performance is no longer just a performance. The most captivating performance is actually the [actor’s] most authentic state. It takes that to touch [the audience], and it’s not something you can replicate.”

Despite her rapid rise to fame internationally, Zhang’s breakthrough in Hollywood resembles more of a wakeup call than her ultimate calling. “To me, it was just a new and different experience,” she says of her Hollywood roles. “I don’t think they have had that much of an impact [on my career]. If I were to make another [Hollywood film], I hope it’ll bring a new challenge, with a role that is not merely typecasting. Otherwise, it’s not very meaningful to me.” The actress also admits to being ultra-selective when it comes to her Hollywood projects. Says Zhang: “There have been many offers, but I turned them all down because” – a short pause – “I’m an actress after all. I want to play characters that I’m interested in. I don’t want to give up on my [artistic] pursuit for the opportunity of Hollywood. As an actor, it also doesn’t mean much to me to play just a bit part. It’s not going to elevate my [status] or help improve my art.”

The rather trivial dents on her career these frivolous Hollywood offers could have are one thing. But in recent months, Zhang has suffered from a significantly more damaging kind of international exposure. While unfounded allegations and accusations against Zhang have been an unwelcome fixture throughout her career, none came as viciously as the media reports in May last year that she had allegedly been paid about US$110m to sleep with former Communist Party politburo Bo Xilai and other government officials, in the period between 2007 and 2011. The allegations originated from a US-based Chinese website, were picked up by Hong Kong tabloid Apple Daily and, with Zhang’s legal actions, promptly spread around the world. “It’s constantly the case in Hong Kong,” Zhang says of her malicious detractors. Her profound distrust of our media is palpable. “I guess I’ve never been very close to the Hong Kong media, so they’re more inclined to quote me out of context or fabricate stories from photos. I guess that’s what they do. But, in my case, I feel that they are just relentless,” she says, letting out a bitter chuckle. “They always like to make up stories about me.”

In addition to the unseemly media treatment, over the years Zhang has also collected a considerable mass of cynics who have been all too willing to vocally criticise her success. So what does she think of them? “I haven’t thought about this especially,” Zhang says slowly. “First of all, I don’t think every person understands movies or movie-making. There are many people who live in a different world with a different worldview. That is just a fact. Maybe they need to see you everyday at home on television to feel close to you and to appreciate you, but I work in a very different world. So you can’t expect everyone to appreciate you.”

With the impending release of The Grandmaster, which has all the hallmarks of a great Wong Kar-wai effort (the lush and entrancing visuals, the unconsummated feelings, the repeatedly postponed release date), Zhang, at least for the time being, finally has something positive to look forward to. As our interview draws to a close, after questions about her haters and accusers have seemingly sucked out her last traces of energy, Zhang says privately: “I can feel that you do really like film.” It doesn’t come across as a remark aimed at flattery. Rather, it seems that, perhaps these days, the greatest Chinese actress of her generation has simply become so overwhelmed by the hassles of fame that people no longer remember to ask her about the films anymore.

The Grandmaster 一代宗師 opens on Thu Jan 10.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:25 am    Post subject: Chang Chen Reply with quote

Chang Chen

Posted: 2 Jan 2013

Timeout Hong Kong | Film Features

http://www.timeout.com.hk/film/features/55455/chang-chen.html

As if his romance with Zhang Ziyi’s character wasn’t unfortunate enough in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Chang Chen is tempting fate again in The Grandmaster. Interview by Edmund Lee.

How do you think Zhang Ziyi has changed since you worked on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon together?

I think Ziyi is very different now. Crouching Tiger was such a long time ago. She was more like a little girl back then; she’s a mature woman now. I’ve watched many of her films over the years and I think her [acting] range is very broad. She’s an actress who’s really capable of catching the audience’s eyesight. She may be a rather vivacious person but she’s always completely focused on the set. She’s excellent to work with.

So what’s your collaboration like this time?

We have many scenes together. One of the key scenes is about how our characters meet each other for the very first time. That scene was interesting to me because it’s my first proper scene for The Grandmaster. My understanding of the characters was not that precise at the time – you know, when you make a Wong Kar-wai film you’re constantly adjusting your status and looking for the right feelings as you go along – and this scene with Ziyi really established my character in the film. It was very memorable also because it’s shot in the very cold Northeast [China], and it’s my professional reunion with Ziyi after so many years.

In The Grandmaster, do the two of you have to fight each other or are you only involved in romantic scenes?

There are only romantic scenes [between us].

Would you describe the film as a romance at heart?

I think Wong’s films are always relatively romantic. It’s not just love but also feelings between people, which may [also] be intimate or romantic.

From what you know, will there be a love triangle or quadrangle in the film?

I won’t be surprised if there is! [Laughs] As I haven’t seen [the finished film] yet I can’t tell for sure – but I won’t be surprised.

What’s the most memorable part about working with Wong once again?

I think coming into a film project of his, we’ve all expected it to be a very tough experience. [But] I’m the kind of person who likes to conquer any challenge: you give me a mountain and I’ll climb to the top.

As one of his regular actors, did you actually have an idea how long the production was going to last?

I didn’t know it would take as long as three years. [Laughs] I honestly feel that this production is quite lengthy. I didn’t anticipate a certain production length but I did hope that he could have gotten all the quality footage he wanted as soon as possible. Unlike other directors, Wong makes a lot of amendments when he’s filming. Nobody has an idea how long the shoot is going to last or what the film is going to look like!

The Grandmaster 一代宗師 opens on Thu Jan 10.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:28 am    Post subject: The Grandmaster Review - Telegraph Reply with quote

Berlin Film Festival 2013: The Grandmaster, review
By Tim Robey

The first feature in five years from Hong Kong's arthouse darling Wong Kar-Wai, The Grandmaster shown at Berlin Film Festival, is a noble failure, says Tim Robey

Dir: Wong Kar-Wai. stars: Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen

The Berlin Film Festival has scored a theoretical coup opening with The Grandmaster, the first feature in five years from Hong Kong's arthouse darling Wong Kar-Wai. Like all of his movies, it's a melancholy romance at heart, but punctuated in this case with long and meticulously choreographed sequences of gravity-defying martial arts. The instant reference point for most viewers will be Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with which the movie shares two stars, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen, but Wong's return to the wuxia genre, which he previously explored in 1994's remarkable Ashes of Time, is a much more studied, narratively elliptical creation.

His inspiration is the life of the legendary Ip Man, who mentored Bruce Lee in the Wing Chun style of martial arts. Played by regular Wong lead Tony Leung, Ip is first glimpsed in a dark, rain-spattered opening set piece taking down all comers with his fiendish prowess. Inventively mounted by nonpareil stunt co-ordinator Yuen Woo-ping, it establishes Wong's lavish but distanced approach: the music comes on heavy, as does his trademark use of juddering slow motion. No one can shoot drops of blood falling into puddles with quite this director's swooning air of reverie, but the strangely muted sound effects in every one of these gorgeous sequences sacrifice a great deal of immediacy and impact.

The fateful, if brief, encounter in the film happens between Ip and his counterpart from North China, the acrobatic Gong Er (Zhang), whose father, a noted grandmaster in their field, is on the verge of retirement. The movie jumps forwards, back and forwards again to examine their unconsummated relationship, ending inevitably on a train platform, and its entire emotional core hangs on this exquisitely lit sequence. Unfortunately, it misses, because the script is too keen to trade in dubious philosophising and dodgy similes: "In life, as in chess, when a move is played it stays on the board," declares Ip, which will be news to anyone who's been the victim of a forking knight attack.

Both stars have excelled before in archetypal wuxia roles, but the through-line of Ip and Gong's great lost love here is seriously wanting. Though Leung handles the athletic demands of his part with perfect sangfroid, his face is thickening with age, and the saddest thought it inspires is the shelf-life on his leonine beauty. Zhang, ravishing throughout in every costume they find for her, allows emotion to crack through the porcelain just once -- it's a memorable effect, but too late.

Everyone had hoped this would be Wong's major comeback after the chintzy detour of My Blueberry Nights (2007), but his most mannerist tendencies have bloomed unhelpfully in the last decade, and long stretches recall the distractable, wandering inertia that made 2046 such hard work. It may be that indulgence has got the better of him -- surrendering to the movie involves being willing to give him quite a long leash. In the absence of genuine profundity, but with dazzling craft on frequent display, his most ardent devotees may summon enough loyalty to defend this one as a noble failure.

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/9857639/Berlin-Film-Festival-2013-The-Grandmaster-review.html
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:31 am    Post subject: Movie review: The Grandmaster Reply with quote

Movie review: The Grandmaster

Wong Kar-wai’s long anticipated kung-fu epic fuses the director’s signature melancholy musings with gorgeous martial-arts action sequences

By Ho Yi / Staff reporter

Fri, Jan 18, 2013

Taipei Times | Features

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2013/01/18/2003552784

Reportedly three years in the making and more than 10 years in gestation, The Grandmaster arrives in local theaters today. Directed by Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai, the film proves to be a refined work of cinematography that depicts the life of Ip Man (葉問), the wing chun (詠春) master who famously trained Bruce Lee (李小龍).

Though the kung-fu epic is narratively straightforward compared to the director’s previous work, audiences should not expect a biography adhering to genre conventions. True to Wong’s unique sensibilities and style, themes of love, loss and the passage of time permeate the film as it pays homage to the martial arts tradition and its masters.

Set in the early 1900s when modern China is in its infancy, the story begins with Ip’s (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) childhood and later his domestic life as a gentleman of leisure in China’s southern city of Foshan. Through Ip’s eyes, Foshan is revealed as an affluent metropolis that is home to numerous martial-arts schools. At the center of the action lies the Golden Pavilion, a lavishly decorated brothel frequented by the region’s martial artists.

It is here that northern master Gong Yutian, played by Chinese veteran Wang Qingxiang, challenges fighters from the south to a last duel before his retirement in the hope of finding a worthy successor. Gong returns north, satisfied, after engaging in a battle of wit with Ip.

The match, however, riles Gong’s daughter, Er (Zhang Ziyi), who cannot accept any imperfections in her father’s otherwise invincible reputation. Er challenges Ip to a follow-up fight, but only to find herself succumbing to the married man following their duel at the brothel.

The unspoken attraction between the two remains unrequited as the Sino-Japanese War erupts, devastating Ip’s family and livelihood. Meanwhile, the narrative focus shifts to Er. Learning of the death of her father after a confrontation with Gong’s protege Ma San (Zhang Jin, 張晉), Er returns to her hometown in Japanese-occupied northeastern China and vows to avenge her father’s death despite the great sacrifices she is required to make.

Having drifted apart for more than a decade, Ip and Er eventually meet again and ponder their previous relationship and what has disappeared through the ravages of time.

Visually sumptuous and aided by a superlative crew, The Grandmaster dazzles with some of the most gorgeous realizations of martial arts on screen. In the hands of action director Yuen Woo-ping (袁和平), fight sequences are rendered with imagination and sophistication, allowing the characters to show off their respective martial-arts styles which are delivered through refined movements and governed by ritual.

Wong’s penchant for nuanced details is admirably realized by the cinematography of Philippe Le Sourd. Through Le Sourd’s lens, the vastness of China’s snowy north stands in contrast to the often moist, opulently painted south, reinforced by production designer William Chang’s (張叔平) ravishing sets.

As in the director’s previous work, the visuals are not merely something to marvel at but a vehicle to reflect deep emotions and suppressed feelings. One of the most memorably sensuous moments takes place at the Golden Pavilion where Ip and Er engage in a duel as if it is a delicate courtship. At the gilded, high-class brothel, the two sit on opposite sides of a long table, surrounded by courtesans in cheongsam. Played out against an Italian opera, the sequence unfolds as if portrayed in an oil painting, exuding a sense of mystery and desire.

While the film spans decades that include modern China’s turbulent history, the primary focus is always on the characters and how they struggle to cope with what the world has imposed on them. Among the glamorous cast, Zhang Ziyi stands at the center of attention by portraying her character, who experiences a series of tragic events, with emotional intensity. In comparison, Leung conjures up less charisma here partially because his Ip Man is rendered gentle, unassuming and with few distinct characteristics. The most obvious victim of the drastic reduction of a four-hour rough cut to the current 130-minute version, however, is Taiwan’s Chang Chen (張震). His character Razor, a master of the Bagua (八卦掌) school of martial arts, is confined to three scenes and has almost no connection to the rest of the story.

Oozing with the kind of longing and melancholy that defines Wong’s oeuvre, The Grandmaster beautifully grounds the recurrent themes of memory and the passage of time in the world of martial arts. As the characters utter introspective soliloquies and wander from the Chinese towns and cities to Hong Kong’s narrow alleys, the ancient world of martial arts has gradually fallen into oblivion along with its set of rules, decorum and philosophy. Its traces are only captured and frozen in the old photographs of Ip Man in the movie.

Although Wong reportedly spent three years visiting about 100 martial artists across the globe before making the film, he chose to portray his subject with a touch of tenderness. In their final meeting, Gong Er asks Ip to live life on her behalf as she doesn’t have a chance to do so. Ip survives, albeit alone, to tell the tale and continue to pass on the spirit of martial arts.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 25, 2013 7:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Berlin Review: Is Wong Kar Wai's 'The Grandmaster' Really a Martial Arts Movie?

"The Grandmaster." In the years leading up to its completion, the prospects of a kung fu movie directed by Chinese art house auteur Wong Kar Wai have fascinated those familiar with his distinct blend of lush images and poetic encounters simply because "The Grandmaster" sounded so unlike him. However, the finished product remains satisfyingly in tune with the contemplative nature of the director's other work, only breaking his trance-like approach to drama for the occasional showcasing of martial arts techniques.

It's easy to see why audiences may expect something different. "The Grandmaster" purports to tell the story of Ip Man (Tony Leung) who eventually trained Bruce Lee. A humble Southern Chinese resident specializing in the kung fu subset known as Wing Chun, Ip Man carries the mantle for a retiring expert of the form, but "The Grandmaster" focuses less on Ip Man's abilities than the cultural weight they command. Intermittently action-packed and lethargic, the movie dances around formula. By delivering an expressionistic character study with bursts of intensity unlike anything else in his oeuvre and yet stylistically representative of its entirety, Wong practically has it both ways.

The director has operated outside his safety zone before, most notably with the American road trip drama "My Blueberry Nights," where certain Western motifs never quite synched with Wong's overall vision. By contrast, "The Grandmaster" represents something of a rebound. Operating on a far bigger scale with heavier themes, Wong's ninth feature features a superior cohesion of artistry and ideas.


"The Grandmaster" represents something of a rebound for Wong Kar Wai. Kicking off with a lavish introductory battle between Ip Man and several foe against a dark, rainy backdrop, "The Grandmaster" uses its opening sequence to establish the poetry of motion that defines the Wing Chun technique. But action leads directly into a contemplative mood; the year is 1936, a time of political upheaval in which the invasion of Japanese forces to the north endanger the country's current stability. Longtime Wing Chun master Gong Baosen (Wan Qingxiang) witnesses Ip Man's fight and instantly recognizes a potential heir just as he contemplates retirement. Visiting Southern China's Gold Pavilion in the city of Foshan for a commemoration of his accomplishments, Gong kicks off a tournament to formally determine his replacement.

The scene is technically set for a barrage of hand-to-hand combat, but instead Wong spends more time fleshing out the atmosphere. Ip Man's intermittent voiceover explains the discipline involved in Wing Chun along with the elaborate community surrounding it -- a tense group of male and female fighters who regularly gather in a posh brothel to discuss their skills. It's here that Ip Man encounters Gong's equally talented daughter Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang), the only Wing Chun practitioner fully schooled in her dad's revered "64-hand" method. While the bonds between these surefooted fighters grow, so does the bigger tension of the pre-war backdrop, which eventually overwhelms everything else. That's when "The Grandmaster" gets really interesting. Rather than simply focus on the search for the new Wing Chung champion, it uses that rather small narrative to frame a broader historical one.

Kicking off in the early 1930s and spanning two decades of events, "The Grandmaster" is not invested in the visceral rush of clashing opponents or elaborate training sessions. Instead, Wong emphasizes sacred traditions pitted against the march of time. When the Japanese occupation brings a faster end to Gong's career than anyone around him expected, his daughter launches on a warpath against defected Gong disciple Ma Shan (Zhang Jin), while Ip Man's own ambitions are buried in a hail of wartime tragedies. The excitement of combat expectations gives way to a melancholic second act.

Even as the plot of "The Grandmaster" gets droopy, it never loses the polished look. Working with a new director of photography (French cinematographer Phillipe Le Sourd), Wong's attentiveness to color palettes and shifting frame rates are more erratic than those found in his collaborations with Christopher Doyle, but they're always gorgeous displays often caked in yellows or browns that solidify the ancient quality of the proceedings.

Repeatedly capturing Wing Chung disciples gathered together before freezing them into a still image, Wong provides constant reminders of the history at work. The effect is alternately involving and remote as the story zigzags along. The intense chatter about family honor tends to have a listless quality, but Wong's implementation of fight choreography stands apart from any easy comparison. A steady stream of close-ups with rapid cuts of bodies invariably slowed down and sped up, the combat in "The Grandmaster" maintains a heavily aesthetisized feel without defying physics a la "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Everything impressive about is grounded in actual technique.

Wong can never match that inspired aspect of his direction with an equally commanding story, although there's some emotional potency to the plight of Gong as she does her father's legacy proud, reaching a greater heroic dimension than Ip Man himself. But the filmmaker does nothing to counteracts a dryness to the process of getting to that point, and his pensiveness only truly gels for the way it draws attention to the movie's defiance of clichés. The stage is set early on for a showdown that's interrupted by the harsher chaos of greater historical events, proving that the destructive forces of war pack a much bigger wallop than any combination of punching and kicks.

Unsurprisingly, Wong gets this idea across through a delicately constructed tone rendered with an effortless quality on par with the skilled fighters at the movie's center. "Don't worry about your style," Ip Man says, a statement that applies to Wong as well. Even with this shift of content, the form remains a visual marvel.

Criticwire grade: B+

HOW WILL IT PLAY? Already a major blockbuster in China, "The Grandmaster" opens the Berlin International Film Festival without a North American distributor. It has limited appeal in the United States but should find a home with a midsize distributor experienced with martial arts and arthouse releases able to help the movie find its niche market. It won't replicate its success back home, but "The Grandmaster" is certain to reach audiences already eager to see it.

Source: http://www.indiewire.com/article/berlin-review-is-wong-kar-wais-the-grandmaster-really-a-martial-arts-movie
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 11:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Style and Kinetics Triumph in a Turbulent China
‘The Grandmaster,’ Wong Kar-wai’s New Film


NYT Critics' Pick

“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.

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).

Source: http://movies.nytimes.com/2013/08/23/movies/the-grandmaster-wong-kar-wais-new-film.html?_r=0
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wong Kar-Wai eulogizes a martial arts legend in gorgeous The Grandmaster
Slashes of Time
by Jim Ridley

Wong Kar-Wai's The Grandmaster is an opera in which the arias are delivered in kicks, flips and close strikes. It has the exhilarating athleticism that makes people lifelong fans of martial-arts movies, but the fights bring us inside the characters' heads — the performers spar with the liquid quickness of thought, belief and passion expressed through action. Despite its grounding in the hidebound biopic genre, it's unmistakably its maker's movie — a historical pageant splintered by time and loss into gorgeous, madly romantic fragments, each bearing the intense pang of its passage into memory.

Wong's biography of Ip Man, the Chinese master whose disciple Bruce Lee would carry his Wing Chun teachings to a vast Western audience, is epic in scale yet intimate in gesture and effect. At this point, I should say I've only seen the 123-minute cut of The Grandmaster that was prepared for the Berlin film festival, not the 108-minute version prepared by Wong for U.S. audiences — the one distributed by The Weinstein Company and opening Friday at The Belcourt. Judging from interviews Wong has given stateside, and comparisons online by a number of critics (including Glenn Kenny and Robert Koehler), this shortened version is substantially different. It not only deletes material from earlier cuts — there are at least three versions, the first of which reportedly ran four hours — but adds historical exposition and new scenes.

Opinions vary on whether this director-approved shorter version is an equally valid reworking (much like the 2008 "remix" Wong made of his 1994 wuxia epic Ashes of Time). Some find it a desecration; others prefer it. Based on the version I saw, however, I can't imagine any cut of The Grandmaster being less than visually overwhelming. It's a movie, like Bertolucci's The Conformist or Scorsese's The Age of Innocence, that makes the movies surrounding it look starved of style and emotion.

Take the opening: Torrential rain pounds a gated alley in a film-noir cityscape, as shadowy thugs encircle a lone man. He tenses, braced for onslaught, as languid slo-mo raindrops plop like depth charges. Faceless adversaries fall, downed by close kicks and punches that send bodies flying; movements register in impressionistic shards, as when the lone defender's sweeping maneuvers send water pinwheeling from the brim of his Panama hat.

Once again, the man at the center of the director's whorls of motion and light is the great actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai, who can look Bogart suave or Jack Webb lumpen playing a wronged husband or aggrieved lover — sometimes both, as in Wong's In the Mood for Love or here. We won't find out who's fighting and why until later, and by that point the battle will already be consigned to the past. What matters is that the lone man remains standing: Ip Man, a figure already celebrated in a string of successful Hong Kong films starring Donnie Yen that went into production during Wong's development delays.

By Wong's standards, what follows is unusually straightforward, at least chronologically. The future martial-arts master grows up, gets married, lives the first 40 years of his life in what he terms a perpetual spring. When the master of the Northern Chinese Gong clan announces that he wants to face a successor who represents the Southern martial-arts traditions — over the protests of his daughter Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi) — the ranking Southern masters put up Ip as their candidate, in a title match with the region's honor at stake.

These early scenes, as Ip prepares by facing a succession of Southern masters — each demonstrating his or her specialty as if transmitting nuggets of folklore — recall the formal training sequences in genre classics such as The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. They benefit from the tutelage of a modern-day master: the fight choreographer Yuen Woo Ping (The Matrix, the Kill Bill movies), who provides what amounts to a cram session in the various fighting techniques. These matter because they're the distillation of entire traditions, and we feel the weight of their threatened loss in the film's second half, as years of war, starvation and personal tragedy leave the hero humbled and alone.

And yet the characters can be as much prisoners of their legacies as inheritors — the fate of Zhang's Gong Er, who eventually sacrifices her future to preserve her family's honor, setting off a string of bitter ironies. From the moment she and Ip test one another's skill, in a beautifully staged gravity-suspending fight that's more a reticent erotic pas de deux than deadly combat, they become familiar figures in Wong's firmament: orbiting stars just out of alignment, doomed to circle one another without connecting. Zhang summons some of the bratty impudence she showed as the upstart princess in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but she assumes a tragic weariness here; the director and cinematographer Philippe De Sourd light her like a movie goddess from an earlier era — another frozen image in a movie whose repeated motif is of people trying to suspend history and memory in posed photographs.

The many people who turned out for The Belcourt's recent Wednesday-night screenings of Wong's movies will recognize signature flourishes throughout The Grandmaster — the exquisite slow motion, a character fixed in the frame while the rest of the world passes in a blur. But they're not affectations he affixes to a stolid prestige-movie framework, like Christmas tinsel on a maple. Wong's Chungking Express and Fallen Angels juxtaposed their crazy swirls of color and motion with dispassionate voiceover recounting what had already happened; his sensibility uniquely suits a movie about the weight of what is gone. His fight scenes, cut fast but legibly by his invaluable editor-slash-production/costume designer William Chang, sometimes pause to reflect on some stray sensual detail — the slosh of fighters' feet in water, garments swishing a floor as their wearers bob and weave. The movie is shot through with scraps of memory: near misses and lost loves, blows and triumphs, all slowed down, extended and nursed in retrospect, the way you can't help tonguing a toothache. To paraphrase critic Peter Brunette, Wong's style, rich as it is, doesn't obscure meaning in his movies — it is the meaning.

http://www.nashvillescene.com/nashville/wong-kar-wai-eulogizes-a-martial-arts-legend-in-gorgeous-the-grandmaster/Content?oid=3693822
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 7:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Movies: 'The Grandmaster' mixes amazing fight scenes with a soulful romance
Article by: COLIN COVERT , Star Tribune Updated: August 29, 2013 - 5:42 PM

“The Grandmaster” is a deliriously beautiful martial-arts saga, a mix of exuberant violence and restrained eroticism. Meticulously directed by art-house master Wong Kar-wai (“In the Mood for Love,” “2046”), its fluid, bruising, occasionally lethal battles are choreographed like ballet romance.

The prologue, filmed in a nighttime rainstorm, is a one-against-many contest in which fighting legend Ip Man (Tony Leung) scatters his assailants like a human typhoon. With a color palette of black clothing and inky shadows, and ultra-slow-motion shots that isolate individual water droplets in flight, the combat becomes an exercise in elegant abstraction. There are shattering windows and careening bodies for dramatic oomph — the action is so vivid it threatens to burst the frame — yet the sequence wows you on an elevated level.

The famously meticulous Wong spent a decade preparing for this film and three years in production. It shows. Even if you don’t give a fig for roundhouse kicks, this is an unmissable film, and intoxicating exercise in punch-drunk love.

Ip, the product of a well-to-do family who devoted his life to the martial art of wing chun, survived the Japanese occupation and escaped the Communist revolution by relocating to Hong Kong. In later years Ip taught the young Bruce Lee, a distinction that brought him his greatest measure of Western fame.

He’s often been portrayed in films, usually as a figure of Chinese patriotism. Wong, whose great theme is soulful, unrequited love, recruits the historical character to his own favorite cause. He photographs Leung’s pensive face with sensuous expressions of romantic melancholy.

The film opens in 1936, with Ip entering middle age — the end of his life’s springtime, as he puts it in a typically philosophical voice-over. A revered martial-arts virtuoso, he’s also a dutiful but distant family man whose wife and children have little emotional claim on him. He’s recruited by northern grandmaster Gong Baosen (Wang Qingxiang) to represent the southern fighting style in an all-China conclave intended to heal rifts in a nation that is divided (and in its northern provinces, Japanese-occupied).

A veritable who’s-who of kung fu film notables portray Ip’s rivals. The sequences are extraordinary and startlingly beautiful, as is to be expected from legendary fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping (the “Matrix” trilogy, “Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and 2,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”).

From the spectacular “fighting in the rain” opener, to wall-shaking brawls in an opulent Chinese brothel, to a thriller in which Ip duels against an adversary’s straight razor with mere metal chopsticks, the action is stunning. Wong repeatedly brings home his subjects’ prowess with fine details — a nail shocked loose from a wooden beam after a solid blow — rather than wrecking-ball exaggeration.

His approach to Ip’s romantic life is cannily understated, as well. The gorgeous Zhang Ziyi plays the northern grandmaster’s daughter, Gong Er, who violated tradition to train in martial arts as a girl. The pair’s sparring is as charged with seduction as any tango. Here is a woman who can understand Ip’s devotion to his calling. Fate seemingly made them for each other, then capriciously erected impassable barriers to keep them apart.

When Japanese officials pressure Ip to become a collaborator, he declares, “I’d rather starve than eat Japanese rice.” It’s a cruelly ironic line given his family’s eventual fate.

The story’s chronology blips ahead abruptly to Ip’s Hong Kong years. Wong’s international version has been cut by 20 minutes for its U.S. release, which may account for some of the choppiness. Then again, Wong makes character films rather than story films. When Ip and the still-beautiful Gong meet again, their lives enter a colder season. Wong’s films don’t conclude with fake Hollywood uplift but tell us that sorrow is part of life and we should bear it with dignity. Even if you can deflect every punch, love really hurts.

★★★★ out of 4 stars

http://www.startribune.com/entertainment/movies/221682231.html
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2014 1:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brisbane International Film Festival
November 13 – 24
http://www.biff.com.au/

http://performing.artshub.com.au/news-article/review/performing-arts/the-grandmaster-197339

The grandmaster
SARAH WARD
FRIDAY 15 NOVEMBER, 2013

An historical martial arts epic that is both frenetic and contemplative.
That Wong Kar-wai’s latest feature again dwells upon the fleeting is certain to elicit a wry smile in the watching audience; the journey to the screen of the Hong Kong filmmaker’s first film since 2007 English-language outing My Blueberry Nights, an effort no less than six years in the making, has proven anything but. Its content and construction, too, further the contradiction.
“Nothing lasts forever, and that’s fine,” the sorrowful Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi, Dangerous Liaisons) tells Ip Man (Tony Leung, The Silent War) as their paths intertwine once more, the two sharing a past coloured with conflict, combat, competition and catastrophe. On the eve of his retirement in 1936, Gong Er’s grandmaster father Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang, Chinese Zodiac) journeyed from his northern home to a southern village, with local Ip Man his ceremonial challenger. Once proven as a finessed fighter, Ip Man was set against the dutiful and dexterous daughter, their first fray sparking years of silent yearning.

The war-torn post-dynasty climate punctuates their meetings, the Japanese occupation tearing China to pieces. As devastation rages around them, the one-time duelling duo each has their own cross to bear, be it providing for a loving family, or honouring their paternal influence. Of course, all things must come to pass as the pair loiters within each other’s orbits, including their unrequited romance. In the fictionalised version of the real-life figure’s tale – made common movie fodder due to his later-life role as teacher to a young Bruce Lee – emotion resonates from the scantest of story arcs, in the epitome of the intersection of the echoing and the ephemeral.

In the leisurely, non-linear yet unavoidably episodic structure that sometimes struggles for focus, the bulk of The Grandmaster is furnished by Ip Man and Gong Er’s time apart: the many battles and brave faces that pave their respective paths. It is the first that is swift and the second that is slow, a flurry of flying fists pitched against long looks, but – in fitting with the filmmaker’s noted calm and calculation – the contrast is far from contrived or clumsy. Recalling his previous wuxia effort, Ashes of Time, the writer/director allows his fight scenes to explode with energy; reminiscent of the tender, thoughtful In the Mood for Love and 2046, elegance oozes from Leung and Ziyi’s pained expressions. One replaces the other, as time and events fly by, nothing remaining but everything enduring.

Sumptuously, the usual aesthetic sheen accompanies Kar-wai’s attentive imagery; however the expected nature of the poise and polish doesn’t make it any less impressive. Along with subtlety, style is what the auteur does best – and the operatic The Grandmaster is gifted with an abundance of each. With a nuanced black and white colour palette worked into the overall look, as best demonstrated in rain-soaked night-time bouts and snow-set, tear-soaked treks, beauty always emanates. Indeed, the visuals match the themes, both a spectacle to behold and a sensation to experience, even if only briefly.
The sweeping and searing extends to Leung and Ziyi, their characters’ physical and emotional aches and arcs ever-present in their performances. Why Kar-wai continues to cast the devastating Leung is plainly apparent; why he also returned to the delicate but disarming Ziyi is never in question. In watching their grace and melancholy, as realised with the helmer’s instinctive cinematic poetry, it is easy to forget that the version of The Grandmaster seen in Western countries is not the first nor even the second preferred edit. Given the finished product’s potency, perhaps the perfect incarnation of the movie itself is also only a momentary occasion. With ample mood and an innate ability to mesmerise, The Grandmaster never fails to immerse for that fleeting instant.

Rating: 4 out of 5
The Grandmaster (Yi dai zong shi)
Director: Wong Kar-wai
Hong Kong / China, 2013, 109 mins

Brisbane International Film Festival
November 13 – 24
http://www.biff.com.au/
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2014 4:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Grandmaster review: Masterly approach to martial artistry from Wong Kar-wai
September 5, 2014 - 11:45PM
Philippa Hawker
Film and arts writer
The Sydney Morning Herald
http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/the-grandmaster-review-masterly-approach-to-martial-artistry-from-wong-karwai-20140903-10bpc3.html

Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai's new film reflects on the nature of martial arts and their place in the world, along with a narrative of history and occupation.

It is rich, distinctive and lush, as you would expect, although this new feature from Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai has been a long time coming.

After a diversion, of sorts, in 2007 – his English language debut-cum-detour, My Blueberry Nights, starring Jude Law and Norah Jones – it has been 10 years since the release of 2046, his wildly stylish, futuristic exploration of memory and loss.

The Grandmaster is a curious kind of return. It is based on the life of a real martial arts figure, Ip Man, who is associated with a style known as wing chun. He famously taught a young Bruce Lee, and has been the subject of several recent movies. This is is neither a conventional biopic nor a regular martial arts film, although it includes several striking set pieces of combat. Nor does it resemble Wong's previous martial arts film, his singular and unpredictable Ashes of Time, a work from 1994 that he revisited recently, releasing a vivid Redux version.

The Grandmaster's star is Tony Leung, one of Wong's most regular collaborators, who manages to infuse his low-key, restrained character with an effortless charisma. It opens with a remarkable scene of combat in a downpour, with Leung, in a white panama, gracefully fighting off an army of attackers. From this point, Wong follows a fairly straightforward chronology, setting the fate of Ip Man within a larger national narrative.

It also puts him in context, as part of a series of competing martial arts traditions and styles. An ageing master from the north, contemplating his retirement, comes to set up a challenge with southern practitioners. Ip (Leung), chosen as the southern representative, finds a quietly telling way to emerge victorious.

Wong incorporates the story of martial artistry into a narrative of history and occupation; China is invaded by Japan, and Ip falls on hard times. He refuses to become a collaborator, as others around him do; eventually he moves to Hong Kong, where he establishes a school.

The film is punctuated by reflections on the nature of martial arts and their place in the world. There are several secondary characters who embody different attitudes towards martial arts, loyalty and revenge. Some are more brutal, arrogant, assertive fighters-turned-assassins; others follow their own path, while one explicitly seeks vengeance. There are moments as ravishing or exhilarating as any Wong fan could wish for, either in the often almost languid approach to action and transition, or the gorgeous detail of texture and surface. Wong's most enduring collaborator, editor and production designer William Chang, once again creates striking sets and costumes.

Like all Wong's films, The Grandmaster has a long history of extended production, reshoots and revisions. It had its premiere at Cannes last year, and there was supposedly a four-hour director's cut; what would a new Wong film be without the shadow of others versions? The film released in China was 129 minutes. The European and US versions are shorter. The Australian release is, like the American one, 109 minutes. It is a mixture of subtractions from, and additions to, the Chinese version, which are said to have been made with the director's full participation.

Wong's distinctive elements and stylistic traits are in this cut. What is missing, most of all, is the development of an important parallel figure to Ip. Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), the daughter of the northern master, is a passionate, driven figure, an ardent defender and practitioner of her father's style and legacy. In the longer version, she is also a lead character, set up in sharp contrast to the more pliable and stoic Ip. In the shorter version, she plays more of a supporting role, although the withheld possibility of a romantic relationship between them is given greater emphasis. In both versions, there are many ellipses in the narrative; for example, Wong does very little with the character of Ip's wife (played by Korean actress Song Hye-kyo), and the loss of their daughters during the war is dealt with in an intertitle.

The Grandmaster does not have the delirious or immersive impact of Wong's key films; it feels like a more sober, carefully calibrated work. Yet, it is already the biggest box office hit of his career. It is also the first of his films to be nominated for an Oscar: for best cinematography for Philippe Le Sourd and costume design for Chang. (It was Hong Kong's entry for best foreign film, but did not make the final list of nominees). This shorter cut is a must for admirers of Wong, but for those keen to compare and contrast, it is definitely also worth seeking out the longer version on DVD.
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