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'The Grandmaster': A Punched-Up Kung-Fu Saga
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 8:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Updated NY Times review

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

Published: August 22, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Grandmaster

Opens on Friday in New York and Los Angeles.

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

WITH: Tony Leung (Ip Man), Ziyi Zhang (Gong Er), Chang Chen (the Razor), Zhao Benshan (Ding Lianshan), Xiao Shenyang (San Jiang Shui) and Song Hye Kyo (Zhang Yongcheng).

A version of this review appears in print on August 23, 2013, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Style and Kinetics Triumph in a Turbulent China.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wong Kar-wai has a hit with 'The Grandmaster'
By RYAN PEARSON, AP Entertainment Writer
Updated 3:15 pm, Friday, August 23, 2013

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Wong Kar-wai swears he's seen people fly.

The acclaimed Hong Kong director crossed China meeting 100 kung fu masters as research for "The Grandmaster," his new film about Bruce Lee's teacher.

He said that during demonstrations, fighters would "get knocked and fly" across a room in the lightweight manner most of us only see in movies.

Wong's travels were part of a seven-year journey to bring his take on Chinese martial arts legend Ip Man to the screen, during which time others released a series of popular films about the same man. Still, "The Grandmaster" is Wong's biggest hit, with his stylized emotional imagery punctuated by crowd-pleasing combat featuring stars Tony Leung and Ziyi Zhang.

While his films tend toward the poetic, Wong said he's hoping for a concrete outcome for "The Grandmaster," opening in limited release in the U.S. on Friday after earning $55 million worldwide. Wearing his signature dark sunglasses, he sat down to talk about the movie, the state of Chinese martial arts and censors.

AP: Why did it take so long for "The Grandmaster" to come together?

Wong: It's very hard to understand Ip Man without knowing or showing the audience the time that he went through and the background of his family. So actually we have to rebuild the whole period. It's a very expensive film. ... (It was) not until seven years ago that the market of China became more and more mature, so we finally found the financing to support this film. Also, we had to do lots of training. Because our actors, they're very good actors. But they have no training in martial arts. We want to make a hard-core kung fu film. It's not stunts and CGI tricks. ... We actually shot for 22 months over three years, during which we stopped twice because Tony (Leung) broke his arm during practice and rehearsal. So you see, it's not easy to make a kung fu film.

AP: When did you first learn about Ip Man? What was his mythology and impact on you when you were growing up?

Wong: I was growing up on a street full of martial arts schools. ... So we heard of Ip Man when I was a kid. And he was quite highly respected in the world of martial arts at his time. But he was quite an anonymous figure to general people. It was because of Bruce Lee that he became a legend. ... There's lots of misinterpretations about Chinese martial arts. ... In those days, martial arts was not for poor people. Because they couldn't afford it. ... When there's people trying to visit you to have a challenge, you have to feed them, you have to provide places for them to live, then you have to send them with gifts. So you need to be rich to be able to afford, to study martial arts. That's why it's so great about Ip Man is he popularized Wing Chun. Instead of $27, he asks only like 80 cents to teach this skill. It's not just for money. Of course he has to make his living, but he also wants to make it for everyone.

AP: How was it seeing the Donnie Yen Ip Man films come out before yours?

Wong: They are more like about the action. And they invent stories like Ip Man fighting the Japanese, which is not true, Ip Man fighting with white Westerners, which is not true. But it's good to have stories about Ip Man. People pay attention, and to bring awareness about Chinese martial arts, I think it's OK.

AP: The film is already a big hit in China. How do Chinese audiences react differently than international audiences?

Wong: We all know in the last 30 years, China has went through very rapid changes. During this process, we see a lot of traditional values have been forgotten. To me the so-called modernization of China is simply adopting Western values. And it's time for us to return to our roots, discover some of our heritage, especially like martial arts, Chinese martial arts. The funny thing is, in China today, martial arts exists in two forms. The one that is encouraged by the government is called competitive martial arts, which is considered as a sport. So there's no school. It's a combination of different skills from different schools and it's for the Olympics. ... And the other form, called traditional martial arts, exists only among individuals, without the support of the state or any resources. ... This tradition of Chinese martial arts is not in very good shape. And in fact, I think what makes me very happy is the success of this film in China actually springs the awareness. Like well maybe it's time for us to revisit this and someone should take care of this tradition of Chinese martial arts.

AP: How much do you have to pay attention to the Chinese film industry's censorship? How much does it affect your storytelling?

Wong: For a film like 'The Grandmaster,' you don't have any problems with the film censor departments. ... The problem is there's no ratings system in China. So that means films are supposed to be seen by all ages. So they're very sensitive to like superstitions and pornography and something related to politics. And other than that, they are very supportive.

AP: Does censorship affect the stories you decide to tell as you look forward to your next project?

Wong: Yes, of course, you know the rules there. But the thing is, it's also time for the censor departments to consider applying ratings systems. And I think they've been doing research on this, how to apply the system to the Chinese societies. And once we have this ratings system, I think there will be more flexibility for filmmakers.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wong Kar Wai woos kung fu crowd with 'The Grandmaster'
Hong Kong's master of moody romance Wong Kar Wai spent more than six years bringing the tale of martial artist legend Ip Man to the screen with 'The Grandmaster.',0,5360716.story

By Mark Olsen
August 23, 2013, 8:00 a.m.

Wong Kar Wai is known as an international master of moody romance, making films filled with a yearning melancholy. His "In the Mood for Love" was the only film from this century to make the Top 25 of a recent Sight & Sound poll of the greatest films of all time. So news that he was making a kung fu film tracing the life of Ip Man, who would famously go on to train Bruce Lee, caught many of his fans off-guard.

Playing now in Los Angeles, the long-awaited film has already been the biggest commercial hit of Wong's career in China, even with its unlikely combination of a rousing martial arts story and a moving tale of romantic longing.

Wong began his career as a screenwriter, frequently writing fantasy martial arts films. But he researched "The Grandmaster" story for about three years, traveling across China to learn of forms of martial arts. Shooting the film in an arduous 22 months over another three years, he worked with stunt choreographer Yuen Wo Ping, known for his work on "The Matrix" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," with individual fight scenes taking months to capture on film.

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None of his main stars practiced martial arts, and so Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang and Chang Chen trained tirelessly for the film before and during production. Leung broke his arm while training, waited for it to heal and then broke the same arm again in the same spot on the first day of shooting, forcing the production to shuffle its schedule.

"I just wanted to make a kung fu movie of my kind," Wong said of the film's inspiration. "That's why I needed to spend so much time, I have to understand the world of martial arts. And I feel I have to find my angle to tell the stories."

Unlike martial arts film in the wuxia style, such as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," that are typically set in a fantasy pre-modern era, "The Grandmaster" is set against the specific backdrop of the political upheaval in China from the 1930s to the 1950s, including the Japanese invasion and civil war.

As Ip Man (Leung) trains in the martial arts style known as wing chun, marked by a fluid simplicity, he encounters — and fights — practitioners of other martial-arts styles. Among those is the woman known as Gong Er (Zhang), who has become sole inheritor of her father's dynamic bagua fighting style, though circumstances conspire to keep the two from acting on the attraction between them.

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During a recent rare trip to Los Angeles from his home in Hong Kong, Wong, 57, sat on the patio of a hotel in Beverly Hills, inhaling a steady stream of cigarettes and wearing his signature sunglasses. (He owns only one pair, he said, custom-made for him by a Japanese artisan who also makes samurai swords.) He is open and engaging, yet like his movies can take an unexpected turn toward something more enigmatic.

"The Grandmaster" is Wong's first new feature film since 2007's English-language excursion, "My Blueberry Nights," in which a young woman drifts across America. "The Grandmaster" was first publicly shown in Los Angeles over the summer at a packed screening at the Motion Picture Academy hosted by Matthew Weiner.

Weiner introduced Wong by noting that his films "have a unique pace, an attention to visual detail, subtle humor and are most notably populated with characters whose behaviors are as rich in human scale as the environments they occupy." If the connection between the men was not immediately apparent, it was as if Weiner could have easily been describing his own "Mad Men."

Weiner added, "I watch his films and I connect to their honesty, their beauty and above all their originality. I, like most people who watch his work, become overwhelmed by an intimacy that I thought only existed in real life."

Pursuing answers

For Wong, the idea of a serious kung fu film — "It's hardcore," he said — is not as unusual within his filmography as it might seem. In the interview, the day after the academy screening, when asked what to him makes a Wong Kar Wai film, he said simply, "Something that answers my questions."

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He added, "I have so many fascinations about this. How good is it, where do martial arts come from, what is the value of this? And when I finally finish the film, it's like I have an answer. They have certain wisdoms that I think are lost today and I think should be revisited."

Wong's working style is frequently described as improvisational, leading to his notoriously long shoots and protracted editing process. He seems to prefer thinking that he is finding his film by making it, and despite the presence of stunt teams and large scale sets for the project, he made "The Grandmaster" in his own way.

"Wong Kar Wai is Wong Kar Wai," said Leung, who has been working with the director for more than 20 years.

"It's kind of an adventure for us every time," said Leung of their ongoing collaboration. "Fortunately for me, this time I'm lucky to have a real guy to base the character on, and he gave me a lot of information for my preparation."

The film's cinematographer, Philippe Le Sourd, had previously worked with Wong on shorter projects, but this was the first feature film he shot for the director.

"We started step by step," Le Sourd said of the film's shoot, which found them traveling throughout China. "You don't have a full script. You know when you'll start, and each day you know the location. It's almost building the story shot by shot. For Kar Wai, it is trying to discover it for himself."

The film opening in the U.S. is 20 minutes shorter than what was released in China. (A version in between those two cuts was screened at the Berlin Film Festival.) For a filmmaker known for his exacting, relentless work in the editing room, he welcomed the chance to keep at it.

"I won't say the U.S. version is the short version," Wong said. "It's not just shorter. I tell the story in a different way. In a way, it's more linear, it's a compact version."

And though Wong said he does not know what his next film will be, he feels satisfied the years of work have come to fruition with "The Grandmaster." "I know I'm not going to make many kung fu films," Wong said. "This may be the only kung fu film I make, I don't know. I want to put everything I know about kung fu films into this film."
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'The Grandmaster' Tony Leung On What Kung Fu Taught Him About Life and Why He Seldom Talks to Wong Kar-wai

by Todd Gilchrist
August 22, 2013 9:46 AM

In a celebrity culture where stars like Brad Pitt can effectively avoid doing press for his movies, there’s something profoundly exciting about getting the opportunity to interview a true international star like Tony Leung Chiu Wai. Not because there’s some velvet rope that journalists get access to since he’s not as well known in the U.S., but because performers on a certain level seldom seem to reveal their true selves, or maybe more accurately, are asked to reveal themselves. All of which is why speaking to Leung proved enormously informative, as the acclaimed performer and movie star revealed details not just about the state of the entertainment industry, but his craft and technique as an actor.

Indiewire sat down with Leung at the recent Los Angeles press day for "The Grandmaster," which marks the actor’s seventh collaboration with director Wong Kar-wai. Leung plays the title character – the iconic martial artist Ip Man – and he spoke in detail about the way, as an actor, he combined the spiritual aspects of kung fu with elaborate fight choreography to create a hero whose conflicts transcended physicality. Additionally, Leung discussed his ongoing partnership with Kar-wai, and examined the mutual influence that Hong Kong and Hollywood have exerted over one another in the past several decades.

Q & A (Questions & Answers):

Q: Coming into a film that combines martial arts storytelling and the backdrop of actual Chinese history, what was the first thing you looked at as you and Wong were figuring out the story you wanted to tell?

A: I think the whole process started with a book Kar-wai showed me like two years before shooting. He gave me a book about Chinese martial arts in the New Republic period, because for us Chinese, that’s our culture. We used to read a lot of martial arts novels, books, and he said to me he wanted to do something like this. So I started reading that book, and it was amazing – I could picture all of the camera movement, the color and the tempo. And I said, “wow – this is very Wong Kar-wai!” And I started with that so I knew what we were going to do, and from that book, I had a better understanding about the martial arts circle in the New Republic period. Somehow they have some different traditions in that period of time, and it was fascinating. So I started with that, and then I moved on to craft the character, and then the training work and all of that stuff.

Q: Ip Man is a character who has been interpreted so many times in so many different ways. How did you want your version of this character to differ from the others?

A: I think this time, with this character, I wanted to not just portray the look of a grandmaster, I wanted to know what’s in their mind. What is their state of mind when they’re doing a fight? What do they think? What kind of mind do they have? So I studied Bruce Lee, who is the only one who left us his intellectual [materials]. He studied philosophy in America, and he knew how to express what he learned in words. So he left us a lot of books about his knowledge of kung fu, and his understanding of kung fu – his vision of kung fu. Because Bruce Lee is the student of Ip Man, I thought, these two people might be connected – [Lee] might get a lot of inspiration from him.

A: But before the age of 47, I knew nothing about kung fu; even though I’m Chinese and I grew up with a lot of kung fu magazines, films, I knew nothing about kung fu. I only knew kung fu as just the fighting techniques, or maybe how it would promote health and good coordination. But that’s it. But other than a method of self-defense, it is a way to train your mind, very much like meditation, and it can be a way of life. There is a spiritual side of kung fu that you cannot learn by fact finding or instruction, and I realized that in the transformation of kung fu in these 4000 years of history, it was greatly influenced by Taoism, Zen and the I Ching, Chinese philosophy and ancient wisdom. And I was like, wow! So besides physically, there is a spiritual side of kung fu. So I tried to explore that, and that might be what’s in how I craft the state of mind of this grandmaster – I wanted to know what’s in their mind, what is their mental state during a fight. So I started training with the physical techniques first, and then after you master that, you go on training, but you start to train your mind – what no-mindedness means in Taoism. It doesn’t mean you shut out your thoughts and emotions, but it’s sort of like a mirror that receives but does not [reflect]. It grabbed me, and I knew the theory, but you can only understand through practice. The spiritual thing can last your whole life long to explore, so that’s when I spent from Day One until the end, I never stopped practicing. And that really helped me to figure out the state of their mind during a fight.

A: Especially in Kar-wai movies, as you can see in the action scenes, there’s a lot of stillness and close-ups – and if you know nothing about that, your eyes will look blank. Because this is not a drama scene, there is nothing emotional; they fight maybe in total calmness. But not just calmness, but there’s a lot of things in it, and we learned all of those mental things through practice – how not to oppose or dominate your opponent, but achieve harmony with him. How to do all of the moves without emotion. You have to practice, and you have to try to figure out how and understand how.

A: After this whole year, I just have a little understanding, but at least I know their state of mind during a fight. So that helped me to do the close-ups during the fight – not just posing, but you know what’s in your mind. I think that really helped, and that made me feel the difference between the previous action movies I did before – they were only action, and nothing inside. I was just doing all of the moves. But this time, I think there is something more than the moves; I have the mental state too. This was more spiritual than before.

Q: How did that approach help you absorb the events of Ip Man’s life? Especially since they’re often handled elliptically in the film, they’re events that shaped his disposition, but they have to be contrasted with his study of that spiritual and emotional equilibrium.

A: When I’m trying to explore the spiritual side of kung fu through practice, I’m not just practicing kung fu – I’m trying to apply it to real life, how to apply this philosophy I learned in kung fu to deal with my actual life during these four years. How to deal with problems, how to work with others, what kind of attitude I should have. And because I know how difficult it was for this man to live life after he moved to Hong Kong, what I saw from the pictures [of him] was the dignity that was still in his eyes, and his calmness and his peaceful mind. I couldn’t understand how he could do that with such a difficult life, and I discussed that with Kar Wai. I said, "how can he do that? Maybe he’s optimistic." But he’s not just optimistic. I think kung fu inspired his way of life, so through this four-year process, the philosophy I learned I tried to apply it to real life. I thought, maybe he dealt with life like that, and it really changed me – it really affected me too, not just the character. It affected me with how to deal with life with a different perspective. So this helped me portray the character.

Q: How did the demands of this movie change the dynamic that you and Wong Kar-wai created from working together in the past?

A: Our relationship is very strange – I really don’t know how. We’ve known each other 20 years, but we seldom talk. We never discuss; we always try to surprise each other. But we’ve built up a kind of trust, and a kind of understanding. I don’t know how we connect. I think it’s very much like between the characters of Ip Man and Gong Er – we don’t need to talk. We just gesture and know what each other wants. So I don’t know how we get that dynamic, but we just have that kind of chemistry. To me we are not just partners, but kind of soul mates. In this 20 year time if you asked me if I knew him very well, I know him well, but this just puts us together for seven films. It’s strange. But he always thinks he understands me, and I always think I understand him – but we never talk.

Q: How tough is it to find martial arts films that challenge you in the way this one does?

A: You have to spend a lot of time to prepare, but this is a very special experience for me. For other action movies I previously did, I didn’t need to spend that much time on them. With this film I tried to revisit Chinese heritage and tried to have a very good understanding of it, so I could try to be more authentic. And on the set, you know, we have different kinds of teachers – my teacher was there. And after a scene, after a shot is finished, we didn’t look at Yuen Woo-Ping or Wong Kar-wai, we looked at our teacher, because we needed them to approve whether it was correct or not. So this was much more difficult than ordinary action movies.

Q: Hollywood has borrowed so much from Hong Kong cinema at this point. Where do you feel like Hong Kong cinema has been influenced by Hollywood?

A: I used to go to the movies every week when I was a kid, and I think at the time we started, it was Mandarin movies, and Hollywood movies were very popular in Hong Kong in the early days, the ‘60s and ‘70s. And Hollywood movies really influenced the Hong Kong movie industry. It made Hong Kong movies more entertaining and not traditional Chinese movies. That’s what makes Hong Kong movies so popular and they play a important part in Asian cinema.

A: So in the ‘80s, Hong Kong movies almost dominated the Asian market, and I think it’s greatly influenced by a lot of American movies. That changed the form of all of the movie production, because as you can see, no other countries, even Chinese movies, they don’t have such entertaining movies like Hong Kong movies. Our movies consist of everything – Chinese culture, traditional things, Western culture, action, entertainment. And I think that’s influenced by the Americans, a lot. Because I watched a lot of Hollywood movies when I was a kid, from the ‘60s to the ‘80s, until I started my career in television. And I am still inspired by a lot of American actors and directors from that period of time. So I think it’s interactive with each other.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tony Leung on His Journey to Kung Fu Spirituality in ‘The Grandmaster’
by Jean Trinh Aug 24, 2013 4:45 AM EDT

In the kung fu epic The Grandmaster, Cannes award-winning actor Tony Leung trained for four years. And he broke his arm twice. He tells Jean Trinh about his transformation.

There’s something calming about Tony Leung. The 51-year-old Hong Kong superstar sits on a white leather couch at the ritzy SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, his usually side-parted hair now shaved down to a buzz cut. Despite a hectic schedule promoting The Grandmaster, an arthouse biopic based on the legendary kung fu master Ip Man out in select theaters Friday, he seems at ease. It’s as if he has adopted the Zen qualities associated with martial artists.

“It’s not easy for someone like me to start learning kung fu at the age of 47,” a soft spoken Leung tells The Daily Beast.

He went through four years of vigorous training with the masters of Wing Chun martial arts for the role. Along the way, he broke his arm twice. In his seventh film with auteur director Wong Kar Wai, Leung and his costars Ziyi Zhang and Chang Chen (both in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) had to achieve a high level of authenticity in mastering the moves and embodying the spirit of kung fu during their three years of filming. Physical conditions were rough during the shoot, as they spent months in the freezing, snow-blanketed landscapes in Northeast China. They even shot for 30 successive nights in cold and wet clothing to capture the epic opening fight sequence in the rain.

Leung isn’t a stranger to playing challenging roles. He snagged the best actor award at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival for In the Mood for Love. In director Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, which won the coveted Golden Lion award at the 2007 Venice Film Festival, Leung portrayed a menacing Mr. Yee whose graphic sex scenes in the film earned it an NC-17 rating. It was something he never thought he’d be able to do.

“Somehow, someone can open up your mind,” Leung says. “We spent a lot of time talking, building up trust little by little. [Lee]’s very intellectual. He knows how to open up the actor’s mind and explore.”

Even though The Grandmaster is Wong’s first kung fu movie, it’s a classic Wong film. It’s poetic and the characters repress their romantic notions. It spans the 1930s to the 1950s, during the golden era of Chinese martial arts and the tumultuous period when the Japanese invaded China. Ip Man, a wealthy native of Southern China and master of Wing Chun, is met with challenges from grandmasters at every corner, including Gong Er (Zhang)—an expert in the Bagua-style. She’s also a woman who catches his eye.

Ip Man suffers heartbreaking losses in the war, and the heyday of kung fu grandmasters is long gone. Exiled, he goes to Hong Kong and spreads Wing Chun to students—one of his most famous disciples being Bruce Lee.

In fact, this version of Ip Man is a lot like Bruce Lee. When Leung took on his role, he had to revisit Lee’s films and books, but was still unsure on how to create his character. “You cannot learn the spiritual side of kung fu in just reading two books,” he says.

Although Leung idolized Lee at a young age—even calling him “a god”—his parents wouldn’t let him study martial arts because they saw it purely as a physical activity only for policemen or gangsters. Through his experience with The Grandmaster, Leung discovered the depth of the revered practice. Once Leung learned the basic moves of Wing Chun, he studied the spiritual side of it, which the film captures in its Taoist and Zen-rooted, philosophical screenplay.

Ip Man is different from the previous roles Leung has had in Wong’s films. His characters were “sad, suppressed, and dark.” Ip Man has an air of optimism and positivity that Leung hasn’t experienced in recent roles, and it has changed the way he even approaches his life. “I try to put what I learned in kung fu in real life: how to deal with the team, how to deal with life, and how to deal when I encounter difficulties and bad times,” Leung says. “This process was not just a movie—it’s a great experience and an inspiring journey.”

While Wong’s directing style normally keeps Leung in the dark on his roles and the plot, Leung says this was the first time he felt confident on set in understanding his character. The lengthy amount of time Wong uses to shoot his films allows his actors to slowly experience life through their character’s eyes and transform into them. When Leung agreed to take on the role, he had no idea that it would take four years to finish, nor did he care. “If you have a chance to work with a dream team and someone you trust and a lot of talented people, it’s fun,” Leung says.

“I’ve been working as an actor for 30 years, so four years is no big deal,” he says. “Who can afford to spend that much time for you to do a character, for you to go that deep, to experience the life of a grandmaster? I don’t think there are many directors who can afford that.”

Hollywood directors have sought after Leung, but he hasn’t found a role he’s interested in yet. He isn’t exactly looking to break into American cinema.

“I don’t need to be more famous,” he says. “I just enjoy doing movies. And that’s it.”
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wong Kar-wai Gives a ‘Grandmaster’ Class

Director Wong Kar-wai talks with Speakeasy about "The Grandmaster," his attention to small details in moviemaking and why U.S. audiences will look at kung fu differently with his film.

By Barbara Chai

In those days, martial artists were very formal. The first 30 minutes of the film are like “Rocky.” Apollo Creed comes to town and says, I’m giving a chance to a local fighter. So he will have this honor to do a demonstration with me. So when you look at the scene, it’s like he’s sitting and Ip Man, who’s a rising star, is not sitting. He has to stand in front of him. He has the honor to challenge the grandmaster, and he’s not going to fight. It’s not right at that time. They’re doing this demonstration and actually it’s not only about the skill, but also, the wit.

Q & A (Questions and Answers):

Q: When Ip Man fights Gong’s daughter, it’s still fluid. Is he letting her win? Is he impressed by her? There’s a story unfolding between them in battle.

A: When we were shooting this scene, I told Ziyi and Tony — When I was doing research on this film, when I attended all these demonstrations, there’s one characteristic about those martial artists that’s very distinctive. They have a certain kind of animal quality in their moves. So it can be an old gentleman or a worker in a train station, and they look normal. But when they’re doing a demonstration, they’re a different person. You can feel the chi is very dangerous. They become something else. So the challenge in a way between these two persons is you have to convey that it’s not only about the physical attraction between a man and a woman. It’s also two panthers. Very beautiful. There’s a danger in it. What makes this fight so memorable for them is they meet their equal. They find each other.

Q: Later, when Ip Man is in Hong Kong and meets a formidable opponent, he says it’s as rare as meeting a friend.

A: You’re very grateful to have someone that is an equal. Especially at the time, when they are in exile. They are two lost souls in a foreign land. The sound of the razor is something to remind them of who they were and who they are. It’s something even for the people in the streets, it’s like this is our glory. This is a reminder of our best time.

Q: When Ip Man punches a man into a wall, why did you zoom in on a nail flying out in slow motion?

A: Is it a fetish? [laughs] I think that’s what makes the difference. How can you deliver the power of a punch? I just don’t want to do it over-the-top, like big explosions and smashing windows. It’s too normal. If you want to show the power, even a nail, when you look closely, gives you a sense of the power.

Q: How did you shoot that scene?

A: We shot it with a phantom camera, so that means you shoot with 500 frames per second or sometimes 1000 frames per second. So when you look at the waterdrops, it’s like, ooooh. [Wong also filmed a kung fu sequence in the rain, with crisp splashes and vivid drops of water.]

Q: The focus on Gong Er and women’s legacy in kung fu is interesting. Why did you choose to highlight that?

A: I think what’s most challenging for the grandmasters is they’re not actually fighting a person. Normally in a film you have to create the bad guys, like in some of these films about Ip Man they have to create Japanese ones or whatever. But for me, these are pseudo-heroes. What makes these people heroes is they’re fighting the time, and the ups and downs in life. Gong Er never lost a battle but she loses one – the battle with the time. She made the choice. She preferred to stay in her time instead of moving on.

Q: Why did you use portrait photographs as a thread throughout the film?

A: When we were doing research of that period, normally you could see only photographs because they didn’t take casual photographs. Taking pictures in those days was a big deal, right? So when you look at all this research material, you can see group shots one after the other. It’s like family group shot, party group shot. So I thought it would be interesting for this film to end each of these chapters with a group shot, with still frames.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Reel Deal: Tony Leung stars in ‘The Grandmaster’
by The Reel Deal on Aug 23, 2013 • 8:13 pm

Before Bruce Lee, there was Ip Man, the real Kung Fu grandmaster. Ip Man devoted his entire life to an elite form of martial arts known as Wing Chun – now, one of the world’s most widely practiced forms of Kung Fu, adopted by over 64 countries.

During the divisive Republican era that brought an end to China’s last dynasty, Ip Man was tested by many tragedies – Japanese invasion, grief stricken poverty, and the loss of his children and home. Years later, he fled his native China to Hong Kong, where he put his expert skills to use, opening a premiere martial arts school and teaching many great students – Bruce Lee, among his most gifted.

This week, acclaimed director Wong Kar-wai presents Ip Man’s story in The Grandmaster, an epic martial arts extravaganza that covers the life and times of the legendary Kung Fu master. Presented by Martin Scorsese and Samuel L. Jackson (big fans of the film), The Grandmaster stars Hong Kong native, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, as Ip Man, alongside Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen as rival martial arts experts through 30s, 40s, and 50s China.

Says Leung, “Ip Man taught Bruce Lee the theory of Kung Fu and specifically, how to forget about himself. What makes him great is not just his physical abilities, but his wisdom and knowledge of Kung Fu. That really inspired Bruce Lee.”

Known for his dark, anti-heroic, action/dramatic roles, Tony Leung is also quite the master. A masterful actor. Considered one of the finest actors of his generation, he sizzled on screen as a gangster and an undercover cop in John Woo’s double dandies, Bullet in the Head (1990) and Hard-Boiled (1992). He teamed up with some of Asia’s top talents like Maggie Cheung, Chow Yun-fat, and Jet Li; he starred in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, (2007), Zhang Yimou’s Oscar nominated, Hero (2002); and remember Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in Martin Scorsese’s Best Picture, The Deparated?

That was originally Leung in Andy Lau’s Infernal Affairs (2002).

Most importantly, Tony Leung has built a long standing relationship with internationally acclaimed director, Wong Kar-wai, from Chungking Express (1994) to Happy Together (1997) to In the Mood for Love (2000), which earned Leung the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Together, 7 terrific collaborations, including The Grandmaster (2013).

“I think we are the same kind of person,” says Leung. “We’re always looking for perfection, always passionate about moviemaking. So really, no matter what kind of movie he wants me in, I will gladly join.”

Throughout his career, Tony Leung has personified both the crouching tiger and the hidden dragon – an actor with great intensity, grace, and emotional firepower waiting to pounce on screen and the sophistication, charm, and mystery to ward off outsiders quietly off screen.

With his defenses down, we seized the opportunity to discuss the impact his father’s departure had on him early as a child, the real power behind Kung Fu, his thoughts on acting versus singing, and what it was like portraying ‘the grandmaster’ of his childhood hero (Bruce Lee).

Q & A:

Q: So your father left you, your sister, and your mother at an early age. How did that affect you growing up and how did it pave the way for a career in acting?

A: After my father left, I rarely spoke because I didn’t want others to know that I didn’t have a father. So, I used to keep everything inside. And it made me look very sad and serious with everything so suppressed.

A: Honestly, I never thought about being an actor when I was young. It was only by coincidence, when I met Stephen Chow, who aspired to be a director. With his guidance, I enrolled in acting classes at a local TV station and began performing.

Q: Was your mother ever concerned about this new career? Did she want you to get a traditional education and job?

A: Yes, she didn’t want me to go to the training classes from the very beginning. But now, I’ve proven I’m right (laughs)!

Q: Did you watch a lot of movies growing up?

A: Oh, yes. My mother’s nine brothers and sisters would always bring me different kinds of movies every week. And so, I got to see a lot of movies in Hong Kong and a lot of Hollywood movies growing up.

Q: How did you become involved with The Grandmaster? What was the attraction?

A: It was all because of Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee was my number one idol when I was a kid and I knew of Ip Man. Learning Kung Fu was always my dream, but I was not allowed to learn because my mother said there are only two kinds of people who learn Kung Fu: policemen and gangsters. That was her concept of Kung Fu.

A: So, after all these years, I finally got a chance to play my number one idol’s master, learn Kung Fu, and was able to do so with a dream team. It was a once-in-a-career type of thing. Even though there were very difficult times, I enjoyed and learned a lot with the film.

Q: You’ve been in a lot of action films over the years. Where did you learn martial arts?

A: Actually, I never really learned martial arts (laughs). I just learned a lot of drills. I had some training back when I was working in television – we had to study for a year there and I learned everything, i.e. singing , dancing, and all kinds of things for acting.

A: So, I learned a little. Some karate mostly, but nothing serious. And I still had no idea what Kung Fu was. I thought it was just for fighting until I started to prepare for this movie. And that’s when I realized it’s not just physical training; it’s also a training of the mind. Something like meditation. In the 4,000 year history in between the transformation of Kung Fu, it was greatly influenced by the Chinese philosophy of Daoism. So, there is a lot of philosophy inside. It’s really fascinating!

Q: Ip Man is the Wing Chun grandmaster. What did you learn in portraying him?

A: A lot of grandmasters moved and brought martial arts to Hong Kong. Ip Man was one of them. And that’s why we have so many great action and Kung Fu movies. If we didn’t have those grandmasters moving to Hong Kong, we wouldn’t have them.

A: In portraying him, I studied the philosophy and knowledge of Kung Fu from Bruce Lee because he was the only one who left us with books about his understanding of Kung Fu. I really needed that. It helped me get into character. Not just the look or the physical ability, but also the soul. The soul needs the knowledge of Kung Fu.

Q: What was it like working with legendary choreographer, Yuen Woo-ping?

A: Yuen Woo-ping was great. He always gave us time to rehearse before shooting so everything would go smoothly on the set. But the preparation for the movie was very hard. I started a year before shooting and I broke my arms twice. I think it was a bit too much for somebody like me to learn Kung Fu at the age 47 (laughs)!

A: I trained indoors and outdoors and certainly didn’t expect I would be practicing that hard. In fact, I didn’t expect the movie would take that long to finish. But I practiced from day one until the movie wrapped. It was pretty tough, but as they say in China, practice makes perfect.

Q: You’ve worked with Wong Kar-wai on many films. As a director, what makes him special to work with and come back to again and again?

A: In general, I think we are the same kind of person. We’re always looking for perfection, always passionate about moviemaking. It was very fortunate that we met because it’s not easy to build trust and friendship over twenty years. I admire his work very much and follow all of his movies. So really, no matter what kind of movie he wants me in, I will gladly join.

Q: What do you see in Bruce Lee that is a reflection of Ip Man’s teachings?

A: From my studies, I think Ip Man taught Bruce Lee the theory of Kung Fu and specifically, how to forget about himself. What makes Ip Man great is not just his physical abilities, but his wisdom and knowledge of Kung Fu. That really inspired Bruce Lee.

A: Also, when you look at him, Ip Man doesn’t look like a Kung Fu warrior. He looks very refined and graceful. Like a scholar. And I think a true grandmaster should be very intellectual. He will never look like a typical fighter or a bouncer.

Q: What was your favorite moment from The Grandmaster?

A: Everything was memorable to me because of Bruce Lee. He was my idol and having gone through this experience, I came to admire him even more.

A: When I was a kid, I didn’t really know that much about him – only through his movies. So, I learned a lot about Kung Fu. And the action scenes? I never ever thought I could do them. For instance, in the opening scene, I have a prolonged fight in the rain. And it took something like fifty nights in the freezing cold. It was so cold! And throughout, I had to keep my costume on – all night until the early morning. For fifty nights? I couldn’t even imagine doing something like that! I broke my arms twice, I had several minor injuries, and got sick after every action scene. But just like life, there are good times and bad (laughs). And overall, I enjoyed the process very, very much.

Q: You co-sang the theme to Infernal Affairs with Andy Lau. How is your singing career coming along?

A: (Laughs) I think everybody loves to sing; otherwise, karaoke wouldn’t be that popular! But I never saw it as a job or a career. I just love to sing. And I had the chance to sing a lot early on. I used to sing the title song for almost every TV series. But after a while, I realized that maybe I’m not that good of a singer?

A: For an actor, singing is something you need to practice every day because you need to know how to use your voice – it’s part of what an actor should do. Just like dancing and learning and how to control your body. You need to practice singing to be able to control and change your voice. You need to know the techniques.

A: But for me, I was always shy and never enjoyed singing on stage. I didn’t really like myself when I was a kid because of my family situation. And I used to hide behind a mask. So, it was good for me to become an actor because you can cry, you can express your emotion, and nobody knows it’s you. They think you’re doing somebody else. And I think that’s why I love acting so much.

Q: There’s nothing to hide behind as a singer.

A: Right! To be a singer, I would have to be myself. And I wouldn’t have the confidence. I wouldn’t like people to know who I am. I don’t know why. I just feel much better hiding behind somebody. It makes me much more relaxed.

A: Hypothetically, imagine that you just received a call from a Hollywood studio. And they say, “Tony, for your Hollywood debut, you can do whatever movie you want with whomever you want.” Who would you like to work with?”

A: Oh, there are a lot of great directors I’d like to work with. Recently, I would have to say Christopher Nolan because I really enjoyed Inception.

Q: What type of movie would it be?

A: With Nolan, it’s probably best if it’s drama.

Q: You mean, you wouldn’t do a Christopher Nolan musical?

A: (Laughs) Oh no! That would be about as difficult as Kung Fu!
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wong Kar Wai does kung fu in ‘The Grandmaster’

Published: Friday, August 23, 2013
By Bob Strauss, Los Angeles Daily News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You have to deal with the censors,” he admitted. “But with a film like ‘Grandmaster,’ you don’t have any problems with them.”
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 8:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Grandmaster has brawn but also brain: review

Martial arts drama The Grandmaster is a departure for Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai.

By: Peter Howell Movie Critic, Published on Fri Aug 23 2013

Starring Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Zhang Ziyi, Zhang Jin and Wang Qingxiang. Directed by Wong Kar-wai. At Varsity Cinemas. 127 minutes.

We’re reminded early on in Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster that China’s Yangtze River makes a natural divide of northern and southern schools of kung fu technique.

There’s an even more elemental geometry at play in title warrior Ip Man’s description: “Two words — horizontal, vertical.”

In other words, with kung fu, you’re either standing or lying flat on your back. Ip Man, played with white hat, black robes and stoic magnetism by Wong regular Tony Leung Chiu-wai, intends to always be standing. The middle-aged fighter is as good as his word in a rainy prologue where he takes on a group of younger assailants.

The movie could use more of this kind of directness. A martial arts picture isn’t a new idea for Wong, whose earlier Ashes of Time Redux was like a Zen western take on the genre.

But it’s still a departure for the Hong Kong auteur, who normally concerns himself with matters of the mind and heart rather than those of hand and foot. And he can’t resist drifting back to form, even when bodies are in motion.

The Grandmaster is a more conventional martial arts move by Wong, and there’s much to applaud about its early focus on Ip Man, creator of the Wing Chun defensive style of kung fu and teacher of the legendary Bruce Lee.

Ip Man’s story has been told many times before by other filmmakers. Wong builds upon it, establishing the noble fighter as a reflective but still ferocious grandmaster in 1936 in Foshan, Ip Man’s home city in southern China.

As Ip Man states via voiceover, his life before age 40 was one of wealth and privilege, with more than ample comforts for himself, his wife and their two children.

His middle years aren’t nearly so happy. Ip Man faces challenges from an older rival grandmaster to the north, Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang), who is making plans to retire in grand style and wants to show the southern schools which side of the Yangtze rules. Gong already has a successor in mind, the arrogant Ma San (Zhang Jin), who isn’t going to just stand around.

Ip Man will need to sort those two out, and also to deal with Gong’s daughter, Er (Zhang Ziyi), a fierce and avenging battler in her own right whose story is one of several tangents The Grandmaster takes on its circuitous route to enlightenment and justice.

Er’s tangles with Ip Man will not all be in anger. Later scenes in Hong Kong will recall the moody amour of Wong’s masterpiece In the Mood for Love, with all the regretful sighs this reference implies.

The Grandmaster seems to lose track of Ip Man at times, even as the main story traces the nominally linear narrative of his fall from affluence under Japanese occupation, his tragedy-sparked relocation to Hong Kong in 1950 and his new life there as a teacher of the Wing Chun fighting style.

Indeed, the film’s most thrilling action sequence doesn’t even involve him. It’s an expertly choreographed showdown between Er and Ma San in a train station on a snowy New Year’s Eve in 1940. An argument can be made that Ziyi is the real star of The Grandmaster, since her character Er has a much more involving story arc.

In some other fight scenes, choreographed by genre great Yuen Woo-Ping, I found myself wishing for fewer close-ups and more wide-angle shots from Wong’s new director of photography, Philippe Le Sourd. I wanted to see more bodies soar through the air, just like in a regular kung fu movie.

In yet another tangent, the film operates almost as a how-to on the various forms of martial arts, complete with demonstrations. Wong originally intended to call his film The Grandmasters, plural. Perhaps that extra “s” indicated an intention to make greater use of the many different characters we meet, not all of whom are adequately resolved.

The North American cut is shorter than the original Chinese version, which may explain some of the extraneous faces.

Wong is finding his way in a genre he’s not naturally drawn to, and it may be that he’s not satisfied with all of his choices. But kudos to him for trying something different.

As a character says in The Grandmaster, “How boring it would be without regrets.”
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2013 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Director Wong Kar Wai returns with the martial arts epic ‘The Grandmaster’

Read more here:

By Rene Rodriguez

Released in the spring of 2008, My Blueberry Nights was expected to be the big American breakthrough for the esteemed Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar Wai — the first English-language movie from a director whose previous work ( In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express, Happy Together, 2046) had earned him an international fan base on the arthouse and film festival circuits.

But despite a starry cast (Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz) and a healthy promotional push by The Weinstein Co., the movie was a critical and commercial failure in the United States, grossing less than $1 million (the film fared much better overseas, earning nearly $22 million).

So Wong turned his back on Hollywood and returned to his roots. Six years later, he emerged with one of his best films to date. The Grandmaster, which opens Friday, is a sweeping epic that uses the life of Ip Man (played by Tony Leung), the kung fu master who trained Bruce Lee, to recount two tumultuous decades in China’s history.

Packed with elaborate, eye-popping fight sequences choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping ( The Matrix, Kill Bill), The Grandmaster is the most action-intensive film Wong has made. It is also among his most personal. The movie incorporates his recurring theme of romantic longing (Ip has an unspoken, unfulfilled love affair with Gong Er, another martial arts master played by Ziyi Zhang) into a re-creation of Japan’s invasion of China in 1937 — an event that forever changed the country’s culture.

“ The Grandmaster was new territory for me, because I knew nothing about martial arts,” Wong says. “This is also the first time I’ve made a film about China in the 1930s. But when I was writing it, I wasn’t conscious of the love story elements. The immediate attraction between Ip and Gong is more than just man and woman. They are both martial artists. They are more like comrades. When they’re forced to say farewell, they’re not just saying goodbye to a friend or a lover. They’re also saying farewell to an era, which will probably turn out to be the best times of their lives.”

Wong spent three years researching The Grandmaster before a frame was shot. He traveled to various cities in China and Taiwan in the company of martial arts coach Wu Bin (who trained the action-film star Jet Li) and met with a number of masters who shared their philosophies and differing fighting styles. Wong wanted to make sure he got even the smallest details right, because he felt a responsibility to pay homage to a past that was on the verge of being forgotten.

“I didn’t want to make a kung fu film,” he says. “I wanted to make a film about the history of kung fu. It’s a film about that world at that precise time. In the 1930s, people like Ip Man and Gong Er were not typical martial artists. They weren’t street-fighters. They came from very wealthy families with their own banners and rituals. That is a class that doesn’t exist any more.”

The Grandmaster was shot in 22 months over a period of three years, allowing time for the actors to becomes experts in the various schools of kung fu they were representing. Wong insisted that Leung and Zhang perform their own fighting (no stunt doubles were used), and the action sequences were so elaborate that they would take weeks to film (the opening setpiece, in which Ip fends off hordes of kung fu students under a rainstorm, took a month).

Born in Shanghai in 1956, Wong moved to Hong Kong with his parents when he was 7, and his childhood memories were part of the motivation that led him to make The Grandmaster.

“I grew up on a street where there were several different martial arts schools,” he says. “Some of them were from northern China and some from the south. I was curious to know where they all came from and what happened to their past. When you spoke to an established master in Hong Kong, their best stories were all about their younger days. Nineteen thirty-six was one of the golden years for Chinese martial arts. It was right before the Japanese invasion, and after that happened, all these martial artists wanted to do their part. They had a platform to be noticed and do something other than challenge each other, so they joined forces to help defend their country.”

One of the pleasures of The Grandmaster is learning about the multitude of kung fu styles. Ip practiced Wing Chun, which consists of only a few basic but critical moves. Gong was the daughter of a master of Bagua, a more complex form of kung fu that was sometimes referred to as “64 Hands.”

“I had to understand the differences between all the various schools so I could film them properly,” Wong says. “I spent a lot of time attending demonstrations and meeting martial artists. One master said something to me that I never forgot. He said ‘When you go into a fight, it’s almost like kissing the other person.’ I [asked] what that meant and he said ‘First, you have to get close to your opponent. And when you kiss someone, you can feel it throughout your whole body. Your reaction is very concentrated. It’s almost like a reflex.’ That was his way of describing kung fu.”

Wong clearly remembered that description while shooting the face-off between Ip and Gong: In one beautiful, slow-motion shot, the two warriors hover in the air, their faces just inches apart, like lovers about to embrace. The sensuality of the moment is so subtle that some viewers may not even notice it. And even though the film’s third act takes on the dreamy, gorgeous aura that is Wong’s trademark, The Grandmaster is categorically an action movie first.

“ The Grandmaster is Wong’s most accessible work, primarily because it clearly belongs to the kung fu genre,” says Stephen Teo, head of cinema studies at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and author of Wong Kar Wai: Auteur of Time. “Wong doesn’t try to reinterpret the genre as he did with his last martial arts film, Ashes of Time. Fans who are just looking for kung fu will get a lot of it, but they’ll also come away with some thoughtful and beautiful imagery. And Wong Kar Wai fans can accept the kung fu without losing too much of his avant-garde narrative touches.”

But some of Wong’s stylistic flourishes have indeed been lost. The version of The Grandmaster being released in the United States by The Weinstein Co. runs 108 minutes; the cut released in China was 130 minutes.

“We had an obligation to release the film here under two hours,” Wong says. “But I didn’t want to just cut and take out entire scenes. The structure of the original version is extremely precise: If you removed certain things, the movie’s structure would collapse. So I decided to make a different version for American audiences that tells the story in a more linear way.”

Eugene Suen, a Chinese-American filmmaker and producer of the upcoming drama Abigail Harm, has seen both cuts of The Grandmaster and strongly prefers Wong’s original edit, which may still get a DVD release stateside.

“The differences are very noticeable, to the extent that I feel they are different movies,” Suen says. “The American version works quite well on its own terms. But in the Chinese version, certain dramatic elements are more powerful and the pacing is more deliberate. The chronology is completely different. And it’s also a film that is heavily geared toward Chinese audiences. Many of Wong’s previous movies dealt with Western preoccupations and a heightened sense of romance, so they could travel the world without any re-editing. This one is a great reappropriation of his prominent themes — the passage of time, unfulfilled love, romantic longing — as a survey of contemporary Chinese history.”

Suen also says the references to Bruce Lee in The Grandmaster are much more overt in the U.S. version (including a title card preceding the end credits that spells out the connection). “There are a couple of scenes of Ip Man training his students and there’s this little kid there practicing, but there’s no strong hint as to who he is,” Suen says.

But in the same way Lee helped popularize martial arts movies in America in the 1970s, his aura may help attract audiences who might have not otherwise noticed The Grandmaster. And this sumptuous, spectacular movie merits attention.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2013 8:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Grandmaster Review

Throwing his crisp white fedora into a crowded ring of Ip Man biopics, director Wong Kar Wai looks to make the definitive “Man” epic with The Grandmaster. Renowned in his own right when it comes to cinematic aesthetics, Kar Wai takes to the challenge with two hands and one leg tied behind his back. “The legend of the man who trained Bruce Lee,” has become a marketing tagline that’s as familiar as it is awkward, with Wilson Yip’s 2008 action-drama Ip Man launching a full-blown wave of Ip-mania. Wai’s flair for the visual form alone makes his take more than a match for the horde of other Ip pics, but with meddlesome studios hands added to the fray, The Grandmaster comes out with more than its fair share of lumps and bruises.

Tony Leung Chui Wai stars as Ip Man, an unsuspecting family man just trying to make a living in 1930s China. Peace is a fleeting thing for anyone during a time of simmering tensions between the country’s divided North and South, especially for a Wing Chun specialist such as Man. Expert martial artists from all schools seek to unite the country under common cause, a Herculean task to be certain, but one made easier by the persuasive teachings of kung fu. And failing philosophical persuasion, the physical teachings of kung fu prove just as important to establishing the law of the land, with Man’s mastery of both skills catching the attention of aging, and heir-seeking Martial Arts Union leader Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang).

Fitting for such a Wild West environment – where laconic men waste days in gaudy brothels- The Grandmaster follows in the footsteps of other Ip films, playing up Man’s life to a mythical status several stories higher than your average tall tale, much to the enjoyment of action and Wuxia film fans. With venerated choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping at his disposal, Kar Wai effectively doubles down on his stock and trade, as their combined talents make for the best looking fight sequences you’re likely to see all year, both in terms of shot composition, and physical orchestration. The film’s opening, rain-drenched street brawl is more like an act of synchronized swimming, making fluid the aftermath of an unstoppable fist crossing paths with a very moveable object, or sternum.

The camera can’t always keep up with the specific motions of combat, but Kar Wai’s attention is squarely focused on the impact of bodies on a collision course. The unpredictable editing in some sequences will see combatants swap places around their makeshift arenas, as if we’ve skipped a beat or two. For the sake of maintaining the emotional drive of the physical displays, Kar Wai’s minor sins against continuity are perfectly forgivable, as the technicals of the physical displays become less important as they drag on, and the operatic spectacle reaches a fever pitch.

Less defensible is the absence of whole scenes that are missing from the film. A full 22 minutes of the original reel was lost to distributor scalpels in the process of bringing The Grandmaster overseas. The 108 minutes that did survive the winnowing impulses of the Weinstein Company make for a lumpy, disjointed pseudo-biopic, one that loses interest in its subject halfway through. Charting Man’s life well past the end of World War II, the technological and cultural shifts that see kung fu slip into irrelevancy provide an appropriately elegiac throughline for the character to follow, but the film’s choppy structure lacks purpose, resulting in a series of vignettes that could be best described as “The Labours of Ip Man.” Here’s five minutes of Ip Man struggling to survive in Japan occupied Foshan. Now, here’s a scene of him sharing a beautifully shot smoke with a Tai Chi master. Oh, and here’s a little anecdote about Ip sparring with a deadly slicer, one who’s not Harvey Weinstein.

The sporadic plotting does nothing to dull the poetry of the images, but narrative aimlessness forces Chui Wai to give a mostly hands-and-feet performance, as the characterization of Man never reaches for anything beyond respectful reverence. The dichotomy of violence and peace that constitutes the philosophy of Ip Man and his fellow martial artists quickly gets drowned out in a sea of idiomatic platitudes, and characters quoting one another for dramatic emphasis. Again, it’s entirely likely that the subtlety of Kar Wai’s baby got thrown out with the 22 minutes of bath water the studio decided to dump. Attempts to compensate for the compressed runtime do the film no favors, sadly. Intrusive intertitles either lay out exposition in a shotgun blast, or portray Man’s long-distance romance with Gong Yutian’s daughter, Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang), with all the passion of a couple teens texting each other.

Surprisingly, it’s that subplot that makes for the film’s strongest continuing thread, one that grows in importance as the narrative flips and skips through time. In this cut, Zhang steals the film out from Chui Wai’s hands; Gong Er’s quest to reclaim her family’s legacy is burdened by her perceived loss in the gender coin flip of birth, adding a layer of complexity to the character that curator’s gloves can’t offer the actual protagonist. Zhang’s porcelain features hide an iron will that has fists to match, and any initial confusion created by her fight at a train platform constituting the film’s action climax will quickly subside, once you realize that it’s her story that’s really grabbing your attention.

That story finds a lovely and wistful conclusion, and feeds right back into Ip’s own, but from there, the rest of the film barely carries itself as anything other than a series of footnotes. The Grandmaster limps towards an unceremonious conclusion, with the aid of another barrage of intertitles, and confirmation that, yes, Ip Man was the one who trained Bruce Lee. That’s it. For such a mythological and stylized interpretation of Man’s legacy, you’d expect a grander finale; instead, you get a Bruce Lee quote, and an after-credits snippet of Man putting the hurt on a few more stuntmen. Perhaps once the original cut is made available, the story of Ip Man will have its ultimate retelling. Until then, we’ll have to settle for a good-looking impersonator of The Grandmaster that knows all his moves, but is content to mostly just go through the motions.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2013 8:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wong Kar-wai, Master of Hong Kong Cinema, on His Journey to 'The Grandmaster'

5:50 PM PDT 8/24/2013 by Scott Feinberg

Wong's films over the past quarter-century helped to usher in the Hong Kong New Wave and earned him a reputation as one of the greatest filmmakers in the world.

Last month, I had the rare honor of conducting a half-hour interview with Wong Kar-wai, the writer-director whose films over the past quarter-century -- including As Tears Go By (1988), Days of Being Wild (1990), Chungking Express (1994), Ashes of Time (1994), Happy Together (1997), In the Mood for Love (2000) and 2046 (2004) -- helped to usher in the immensely influential Hong Kong New Wave and earned him a reputation as one of the greatest filmmakers in the world.

The night before, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has not always embraced international films and filmmakers, hosted "A Salute to Wong Kar-wai." Inside its majestic Samuel Goldwyn Theatre, a full-house of more than 1,000 industry insiders welcomed the 57-year-old honoree with a lengthy standing-ovation, a real tribute to his impact and influence. Then, one of Wong's biggest fans, Mad Men showrunner Matthew Weiner, moderated a Q&A with him, after which Wong introduced the actress Ziyi Zhang and several other people with whom he collaborated on his latest film, The Grandmaster, which then screened for the audience.

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: 'The Grandmaster' Featurette Dives Into the World of Martial Artist Ip Man

The Grandmaster, which centers around Ip Man, a 20th century kung fu master who famously trained Bruce Lee -- and is Wong's first martial arts film and seventh collaboration with the handsome actor Tony Leung, who plays Man -- premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February and was released by The Weinstein Co. in U.S. theaters this weekend. (The New York Times review of the film includes the passage, "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.")

During my visit with Wong, we discussed his introduction to the movies, his past films, working with Leung, his longtime production designer and cinematographers, the state of Hong Kong cinema and much more. You can watch video highlights above or read a full transcript below.

The Hollywood Reporter: Did you go to the movies a lot as a kid? And, if so, did you prefer any specific type?

Wong Kar-wai: I was born in Shanghai. I came to Hong Kong when I was five, but we didn't have any relatives in Hong Kong. My mom is a big movie fan, and she watched all kinds of movies, so when I was a kid basically we went to watch a movie everyday. She would pick me up after school. and then we would go right into some movie -- we would watch ghost stories and cultural films, French films, Cantonese films -- all kinds of films. We just wanted to spend some time in cinemas.

THR: When did it first occur to you that you might want to pursue a life in film yourself? And how did you pursue that? I've read that you were an apprentice for a while with Alan Tang Kwong-Wing...

Wong: I was a graphic design student at that point. And in Hong Kong we have TVB, which is the local TV station. They started a program called the Directors Training Program, and at that point on the TV networks they showed independent films; they made film productions which really attracted me. That, basically, is the origin of the Hong Kong New Wave -- they were all students coming back from the United States or England, and they worked at the stations and directed short films, which is very good. I was attracted to that program, so I quit college and started working at the TV station.

FILM REVIEW: The Grandmaster

THR: Since you began directing feature films in the late eighties, starting with As Tears Go By (1988), what has generally been the order in which the following things come to you: music, words and images?

Wong: There's not a specific order -- its not like every time you have the words first, the script, and then the images, and then the post-production you put on the music. Sometimes, when you're on the streets, certain music inspires you, and then you have a vision. But, at the end of the day, it's a synthesis of visions, so you have to think, as a director, of a scene, or how to deliver a line, or how do this visually. Some people say, "Well, you are very good at using music in your film. What is your taste in music?" I say, "Actually, what works with me -- my preference about music -- is that is has to be visual." What does that mean? That music has to inspire a certain image.

THR: I've read that during the making of Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart was called in one day and directed to stand on a balcony, look down and nod. He had no idea what he was nodding at -- but that scene was eventually cut together with the orchestra below waiting for permission to play -- and then playing -- "La Marseillaise," and it was one of the most powerful moments in the entire film. From what I gather, your films work similarly, in that the actors may not know exactly why they're asked to do something -- and you yourself may not know why you're asking them to do something, in that particular moment -- but it all comes together in the end. Is that accurate? And, if so, how did you develop that approach?

Wong: I think to be a director, sometimes you need to have certain hunches -- you have to believe in some gut feeling. I always say, "We're living in time in-reverse. There's already a picture, and what we're doing now is to bring all these missing pieces together." And sometimes, when you have a shot, maybe a set up, you may have intended to do it this way, but ended up differently. Or maybe, because of the light, you say, "Well, why don't we take a shot here?" And you don't know exactly where you're going to put it at that point, but somehow you know you are going to use it, and not until you finish a picture, when you put everything together, do you realize that, in fact, it is a very important point -- without this point, the structure would be impossible. So sometimes you need to do that. But you are not doing it for like, all kinds of reasons. Sometimes you really believe that would be a good shot.

PHOTOS: China Box Office: 10 Highest-Grossing Movies of All Time

THR: There are some filmmakers who prefer to edit "in the camera," like Clint Eastwood or--

Wong: Hitchcock.

THR: Hitchcock, exactly. And then there are others, like William Wyler or David Fincher, who prefer to shoot 50 or 60 takes of a scene and then figure it all out later in the editing room over the course of months. I've heard that you sometimes spend years in the editing room, so is it correct to say that you prefer the latter approach?

Wong: First of all, I don't do rehearsal. Some directors prefer to do rehearsal -- readings before the actual shooting -- but I don't like this process because I think there are certain things that are so spontaneous, and they cannot happen twice. If we get that mood in rehearsal, why don't we just shoot it? So I always say, "Shoot the rehearsal," in a way, without the rehearsal. That means that when we are actually working on a scene, you see there are other possibilities. I just want to make my cast feel more comfortable. In a way it’s more about themselves. I hate acting; I always have to borrow something from the other characters. So it’s a process of, like -- I custom make a role for them based on them. So it’s not Tony Leung playing Ip Man. I would say, "Well, what if Ip Man is like Tony Leung?"

THR: It’s rare for a director and actor to work together as often as you and Tony Leung have -- I think seven films in 20 years, even if he also does a bunch in-between.

Wong: He made like 20 others. [laughs] It's not too much for him.

THR: How did you two first meet? What is it about him that you like so much?

Wong: We met on my second film, and his part actually was much bigger than it is now in the final version. But during shooting there was an accident, so the part became much smaller, and he shows only up at the end of the film out of nowhere -- but it's so amazing. And from then on we've made more films together. What really impressed me about Tony is, first of all, he's a very, very extraordinary actor, and he likes to take challenges and he's very professional. For a film like The Grandmaster, we all know Ip Man -- he's not a typical fighter, so I could not ask just an action-star to play Ip Man, because it's not the spirit of this character. So I needed a good actor -- and I have one, but the problem was he never practiced martial arts. Would it be too late, at age 47, to practice martial arts? But he wanted to do it. He said, "I haven't made any kung fu films before. I've made all kind of films, and this is something that I want to do." And so he stopped taking other jobs, he focused 18 months doing practice to go into this character, and, in fact, after this film, you can see-- The spirit of Ip Man -- all the strain -- stayed with him. He looks a little bit different now.

THR: There are a few other people I have to ask you about whose names aren't as familiar to audiences, but with whom you've also worked for many years. One of the things people always remark about your films is how beautiful and distinctive they look. They have a visual style that many others now try to copy, but that you did first, in partnership first with William Chang, your production designer and film editor, and also your cinematographers, first Christopher Doyle and now Philippe Le Sourd.

Q&A: Wong Kar-wai on 'The Grandmaster,' Hong Kong Cinema and 'Passing the Torch'

Wong: Yes.

THR: Some directors are very controlling and sort of tell their collaborators how to do their jobs. But you really trust these people to do their jobs well, don't you?

Kar-wai: I'm very controlling, but at the same time I feel very relaxed with William and Philippe. Even though this is my first feature with Philippe, I worked with Phillip for a long time on my commercials. In a way, it is kind of a collaboration, because I know their standard and they know my standard, so a lot of things are unspoken. It is always good to work with a very regular group of people because we know how high we can fly and what are the parameters, and it becomes very enjoyable.

Wong: It is very interesting that so many of the greatest directors -- from John Ford to Woody Allen -- worked with the same people so often.


THR: A few years ago, the New York Times featured an article about you, and the writer wrote, "Wong also knows the value of withholding. He refrains from giving his opinion or approval as a way of getting actors and collaborators to offer more in an attempt to please him." Is that accurate?

Wong: I think it depends on the actors. Some actors like encouragement. Some actors prefer to have pressure. And sometimes, for some actors, its better to give your comment by silence, because they are so skillful, so gifted, that they understand without talking too much.

THR: People like me like to sit and dissect everything that certain directors do, and sometimes we see things that maybe aren't even there. One of the things that we often look for is a common thread that unites all of a director's films, and, in your case, it seems to me that the closest thing to that, in terms of themes that appear in almost every one of your films, is regret and longing. Do you agree with that? And, if so, is there any reason that would be?

Wong: I would say longing more than regrets. I think longing is something that keeps us going. Like I said to Matt last night, my films are always about hope -- longing for something better.

THR: There's now far greater interest in Hong Kong cinema than there was when you were starting out--

Wong: What makes you think so?

THR: Well, I don't think that festivals were programming films from Hong Kong or that the Academy was paying tribute to Hong Kong filmmakers back then. It just seems like the interest and awareness is much higher. Do you disagree?

Wong: I disagree with you. It used to be that Hong Kong cinema was the only entertainment for overseas Chinese. And later on it broke into the international festival circuits. In a way, it's very fresh from that point. People are curious about Chinese cinema -- Hong Kong cinema -- and they have more sympathy for Chinese cinema and Hong Kong cinema. Today I don't feel they have more emphasized. I feel like, in a way, maybe it's because of the growth or the changes in China. The way they see -- especially Chinese cinema -- is a bit more critical now.

THR: I think that the last line in The Grandmaster is very interesting: "What's your style?" You pose the question to the audience, but let me pose the question to you. If someone had not yet seen one of your films, how would you explain what your style is? And if, for some reason, they could only see one of your movies, which would you want that to be? Which is the movie that best represents what you are all about?

Wong: Basically, I would say that it’s like I'm making one movie, but in a different stage, in a different outlook. So they could pick any one, but it's still my movie. I don't make films which I don't believe in.

THR: There's not one that you're more happy with than the others? That you're proudest of?

Wong: I'm proud of them all. And about that line -- "What's your style?" -- that's very interesting, because that's a typical line of Bruce Lee. He said, "What's your style?" But the contradicting thing is, in this book, he said, "The best martial artists have no style. They should be like water."

THR: My final question is this: tell me the story of your sunglasses. You are never seen without them, right?

Wong: No [I am not]. It's just a habit to remind me I am working.

THR: It's great. I wish I could look as cool in sunglasses!
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2013 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ziyi Zhang talks 'The Grandmaster' and more: 5 highlights

08/23/2013 by Staff

Ziyi Zhang returns to the big screen this weekend in the martial arts drama film "The Grandmaster."

The film tells the story of martial arts grandmaster Ip Man, who would go on to train Bruce Lee. Zhang plays Gong Er, the daughter of another grandmaster. Gong Er challenges Ip Man to a fight and the two develop a relationship. correspondent Tony Cabrera recently talked to the 34-year-old actress about making the film, how "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" helped her realize her passion for acting and getting a little star-struck at the Oscars.

Check out five highlights from her interview below and watch her interview in the videos above.

1. While "The Grandmaster" is about martial arts, it also has romance.

"The movie is about [a] power struggle, who will be the grandmaster of martial arts and also it's about forbidden love [and] the tension that comes from it," Zhang told Cabrera. "It's not only about action, it's also a lot of romance because it's a Wong Kar Wai [the director] film."

"I play this girl, she grew up in a master's family, her father is a grandmaster. In the old time, women were not allowed to learn martial arts and somehow her father secretly taught her," she added. "This girl, she represents independent, powerful -- but still, she learned so much from [her] father -- being yourself, knowing yourself and doing what you feel [is] right and she's a very rich character."

2. The cast underwent six months of martial arts training for the film.

"Before we started shooting, we spent six months just from training," she explained. "It's like eight hours a day. Four hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon. For me it was like boot camp. I had three masters, different skills, they taught me different skills. It was really intensive."

"Wong Kar Wai didn't want us to pretend we know martial arts, he wants us to be the artist in martial arts," she said.

Zhang also explained that her instructors started off as nice, but their training sessions quickly turned into serious business.

"In the beginning, all the teachers, they were really nice to us. You know, they [were] nice, friendly and took photos with you, but after two days, that you were [a] movie star doesn't mean anything to them, even when I'm crying for help," she said. "They trained us like we were kids."

3. One three-minute fight scene took a month to film.

"There were two beautiful fight scenes. One is -- in the beginning, my character challenges our handsome and beautiful hero [Tony Leung] to a fight," she said. "It's about three minutes of the entire movie, but we shot for about one month."

"That scene is very difficult and tricky," Zhang added. "I like that scene a lot because as they [fight], you see the dynamics of their relationship [go] through subtle changes."

"I call that scene love at first fight," she said with a smile.

4. "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" helped Zhang realize she could become a professional actor.

Before her role in the 2000 Oscar-winning film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," Zhang had only acted in one other film. However, her experience on "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" helped her realize her passion for acting.

She also admitted to Cabrera that she isn't really a big Bruce Lee or Kung fu movie fan.

"I'm not a Bruce Lee fan or Kung fu -- I'm a girl, I love 'Cinderella,'" she said with a laugh. "But somehow when I was so young, I was 19 years old, I got this opportunity to do [an] action movie, which was 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.'"

"The most important thing I realized I would love to do -- professional actor. Before I wasn't sure," she said. "After 'Crouching Tiger,' then I realized I could be a professional one."

5. She joked about being star-struck at the 2001 Oscars.

"The first time I went to the Oscars, I saw so many movie stars at the red carpet. I was like, 'Oh my god! For me this is a huge party. I see Tom Cruise. I see Julia Roberts.' I was just so excited about that," she said. "Nothing much about the movie. I forgot why I was there. I [saw] so many great actors."

"The Grandmaster" hits theaters on Aug. 23. Check out the trailer below and Zhang's interview above.

Reporting by Tony Cabrera, correspondent for KABC Television's entertainment show "On The Red Carpet" (check for local TV listings).
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2013 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Director Wong Kar-Wai Explains Three Key Scenes From The Grandmaster

By Bilge Ebiri

With his latest picture, The Grandmaster, Wong Kar-wai tells the story of martial arts legend (and Bruce Lee instructor) Ip Man, conquering the kung-fu movie genre for the first time in his career, and with the same sense of yearning and sensuous melancholy that made his previous work (In the Mood for Love, Happy Together) so powerful. Vulture sat down with the auteur to discuss three key scenes from the movie (in theaters today). Here, a look at those scenes, plus fascinating (albeit it painful-to-watch) footage of stars Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi training for their roles. No, you can't do this at home.


Wong Kar-wai: We all know Tony [Leung, who plays Ip Man] is a very good actor, but I was sure many in the audience were going to ask, “Can he fight?” So that’s why I wanted to open the picture with a big fight sequence, to make the audience believe that this is a Grandmaster, not just Tony Leung as before. And Tony preferred to have a long sequence — he wanted to fight ten people, twelve people, and he didn’t want it to look like tricks.

Originally, we were going to shoot this scene first, and we were going to shoot in winter. Then Tony broke his left arm during rehearsal. When you’re actually shooting, there are small protections, but sometimes during rehearsal you forget to wear them. We couldn’t afford to stop, so we moved the production to the North [of China], and shot three months there, and came back to the South. By then, Tony’s recovered, so we can shoot the scene. But it’s getting hot now, and we know it’s going to be a long shoot. So we thought, Maybe it’s a good idea to have some rain, so you don’t feel that hot. But that caused a lot of trouble [laughs]. It was actually freezing, with all that rain. It was terrible.

But the rain makes the scene. The way you shoot the water flying off his hat, the puddles of water — it becomes sensuous, not really like a fight at all.
The rain also gave us something really rich. Because Wing Chun [the martial art that Ip Man practiced] is not actually very eye-pleasing; it’s too straightforward, too simple. The only thing you can emphasize is its directness, and also its power. And with the rain, with something constant, when you shoot it at, like, 500 frames per second, you can actually see how these raindrops interact with the actions, and it’s very beautiful.

This scene is not about violence. I want to introduce the audience to this man, at this time. This is not a fight for anything — it’s more like a playground, to refine his technique, because you always have challenges as a martial artist. When we look at the background of Ip Man, he’s not just a street fighter, he’s from a very rich family. So that’s why I wanted to make him different from the rest of the fighters and give him this white hat, which gives some flair, some humor.

I like how you emphasize the footwork. This isn’t something I remember seeing in many kung-fu films, and it’s funny because anyone who’s done any kind of fighting sport, like boxing, or martial arts, knows footwork is so important.
Everybody thinks Wing Chun is about punches; in fact, it is not. When you look at Bruce Lee, you know he gets its essence, that it’s really about the footwork. The way Wing Chun moves is always a contradiction. When you want to move forward, you always step behind and charge in. So you need this contradiction to create the momentum. And I want to make it right, make it convincing. When I watch a demonstration, sometimes I think, Well, I don’t believe this punch is going to hurt people. But if you see the whole momentum of the body, you know it’s not just the fists, basically it’s the coordination of the whole body.


Wong Kar-wai: We were supposed to shoot the train fight during spring, in the north, because then it wouldn’t be so cold. But because of the accident with Tony, we had to move to the north in winter. But we could only work at night, because in the daytime [the station]'s so busy. And at night the temperatures were below zero. We had to block this train station with the train compartments, to surround it, so it wouldn't be that cold. Most of the crew is hiding in the compartment with all of these heaters, but for the actors, it’s impossible. Every night it’s so hard; you can do only a few setups because you can’t stand it. We spent two months on this.

Tell me about the character of the old man. [Editor's note: He doesn't appear in the clip above; this is an abbreviated version of what we watched with Wong.]
Actually, in the China version of the film, we [explain] the background of this old man. He is the last executioner of Imperial times. He used to chop people’s heads off, and he’s expert in things like this. But after the revolution, he has no job, so he becomes a servant taken in by the father. But it’s because of his background that he always uses knives, and blades.

That’s interesting, and poignant, because at first the character reads almost like comic relief — he has a monkey.
Do you know why he needs the monkey? An executioner always had a monkey, because they practiced with a monkey. A monkey is so similar to the structure of the human body, so they practice by touching the neck of a monkey. The monkey is a pet, a companion, and also a tool. And that monkey is very entertaining to look at, but it’s terrible to shoot because she’s a girl and she’s very jealous.


Wong Kar-wai: The film is structured in a way that both these characters go back to their childhood. For her, it’s the time when we see her doing the practice in the snow, in Manchuria, in the forest. That scene we shot in a very, very nice golf course. We didn’t want to be too far away from our base camp, because it was freezing, and we had to start at like six o'clock in the morning. But when you looked at the space, and you looked at the image with the camera, it looked like it would be so memorable. And I knew I either had to put this scene at the beginning of the film or at the end of the film. So, that was a choice I had to make at the end. At the end of the film, all these moments come back to us. It’s really about this sense of loss. Those times are the best times of their lives — almost like Paradise Lost. It’s the “Rosebud” of their lives.

We also see the Hong Kong streets in this section. [Editor's note: not in this abbreviated clip.]
The street I grew up on had so many martial arts schools. But I didn’t have the chance to do any martial arts, because in those days most of them were associated with triads, unlike the martial arts schools today. It used to be always very dark, always very mysterious, so parents normally would not encourage kids to practice martial arts. But you had all these stories about established martial arts masters. This is also one of the reasons I wanted to make this film. In the film, there’s a kid standing outside Ip Man’s school. In the film that’s Bruce Lee, but it could have been me, because I was always wondering what’s happening inside. With this film, I can finally walk through this door and find out.

Now watch behind-the-scenes footage of Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi training.
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Legendary Director Wong Kar-wai Talks Making Kung Fu Masterpiece ‘The Grandmaster’ presented by Samuel L. Jackson

August 25, 2013

The Source Magazine sat down with Legendary filmmaker Wong Kar-wai to discuss he new Kung Fu masterpiece “The Grandmaster,” which is now playing.

The Weinstein Company’s “The Grandmaster,” which is being presented nationally by Samuel L. Jackson and Martin Scorsese is the highly-anticipated new film by acclaimed director Wong Kar Wai. Six years in the planning and three years in the making, the film is an epic action feature inspired by the life and times of the legendary kung fu master, Ip Man. The story spans the tumultuous Republican era that followed the fall of China’s last dynasty, a time of chaos, division and war that was also the golden age of Chinese martial arts. Filmed in a range of stunning locations that include the snow-swept landscapes of Northeast China and the subtropical South, the film features virtuoso performances by some of the greatest stars of contemporary cinema. Wong Kar Wai has made a kung fu film like no other. Years of research before production and a virtual battalion of martial arts trainers on set ensured that “The Grandmaster” portrays both the Chinese martial arts and the world of the martial artists with unprecedented authenticity, with fight scenes choreographed by renowned action choreographer Yuen Wo Ping. The trio of international superstars at the film’s heart – Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang and Chang Chen – all underwent several years of rigorous and extremely challenging kung fu training for their roles.

Check out our interview with the film’s director Wong Kar-wai below:

Q: Since this film is based on a real life person, who people still know and remember and it’s also based on real martial arts, not imaginary fancy martial arts and their philosophies, does it affect your approach in terms of research and narrative?

A: Sure because when you look at the film, especially on the extra scenes, you can’t have to many liberties because first of all, Tony and Ziyi are not from a martial art backgrounds. I wanted them to perform all the action themselves, so all the actions had to be very precise. And so you need to take weeks of choreography and rehearsal and you had to work with the camera, so like I said, everything has to be very precise. And also, because I want to tell the story of this young man, which is totally correct. Because I don’t want to show him like a fighter or just to make up an atmosphere about fighting Japanese or Western fighters, because it didn’t happen. I know it’s to make him more heroic, but in this film, what I find is that it is more heroic for him to fight not with a physical fight but fight with a time, his ups and downs. Because when we look at his life story, he was born with a serious wound, and in the end of his life, he lost everything except the commitment to martial arts. And he went through so many different periods and to remain at the end, the last man standing.

Q: It’s a stunning visual tour of this story. Can you talk about how you planned the visual shots of the film?

A: We had to deal with the actions and I’m sure the camera is always moving. But the hard part about this martial arts scene is that we are not doing it with a dancing choreographer. We just had trainers on set and we just wanted to make sure all the moves are correct and precise. And sometimes you work with trainers because they are the masters of that school. They don’t know about films, so during rehearsal there was a while that if he sounds good, we don’t need to fight for a few minutes. It’s one punch and that’s it, it’s so fast that you won’t see it. But you can’t do it like this for films. You have to carefully ask them to do the demonstrations and you have to look at the move and what is the essence of the move, because if you were to talk about a punch, it’s not the coordination of the fist, but the coordination of the whole body. It’s how the foot works and the tricks of the body and the shoulder and you have to show the power of the strike because that’s why we need the range and you can see the contrast. And you have to shoot with different speeds of the cameras and also for the whole film, because there are so many actions and someone is always on the move, I prefer for the most difficult scene of the film, I prefer the camera to be static because when we look at research, at that time, the only thing you can get are only photos. And most of them are not group photos; they are very casual shots, meeting group shots, product shots and so on. And I think it would be interesting to make this film by an album. We edit the other characters with a very formal group shot of family photos. And at the end of the film when they have this farewell at the teahouse, the camera is basically very simple. The camera is not moving. Focus, cut back and forth, and I find that very powerful.

Q: Could you talk about the gender issues in the film? Why they didn’t want women to do Kung fu?

A: In fact, it really is like this because in martial arts, especially in the thirties, there’s no place for women. So you get looked at to see that you can’t succeed at successors and they would pass on the skill to the daughter in law. Because with the daughter you know the skill will stay with the family. So to be a woman at that point, you have the duty to be a good wife and a good mother, and you’re not supposed to be a martial artist. And also what’s interesting about this film is that both Ip man and Gong Er, they are not supposed to be martial artists. Ip Nan was supposed to be a businessman. She came from a rich family in Hong Kong and was educated in a Catholic school. So they fight for their journey and they made their choice to go into these directions and pursue their passions.

Q: I notice there are three screenwriters including yourself for the film, so could you talk about, in terms of writing, what aspect did you write the story?

A: When you look at the film, the film basically has three chapters. One chapter is in the thirties in the front, and the other chapters are in the forties, in the north Manchuria states, and it also ended up in Hong Kong in the fifties. And almost half of the film is about people from the north because of the languages and the dialects. So it’s really hard for me to do it by myself. So I’m very happy to have two good writers and who were my partners because they know it and one of them is from the Manchuria background so they have to help me to make all these lines right.

Q: What was it about Ip Man that you found fascinating?

A: I think a lot of people follow martial arts because of Bruce Lee and what’s so iconic about this is that he’s very iconic like a martial artist and very charismatic and most of all, he’s very civilized. He’s well educated and knows how to express this idea and when you look at all of his interviews and books written by him, you can see a lot of his inspirations came from his family. And when you look at the background of him, we don’t know much. We know about his younger days in the south, there’s no archive or photo, but I can imagine. He’s the Bruce Lee of his time because he is very modern and efficient.

Q: Tony mentioned that you played a lot of music and so why do you play and what inspires you on set?

A: To me it’s to tell the story and to tell the rhythm especially in this film, because we have to have a rhythm for myself. I need to have the rhythm to coordinate between the camera and the actors. The blocking of the camera has to be a certain way and I want them to be in sync with the rhythm of the move, so I think it’s very effective.
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