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'The Grandmaster': A Punched-Up Kung-Fu Saga
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 11:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

‘The Grandmaster:’ The Story of the Man Who Trained Bruce Lee

Before Bruce—Tony Leung Chiu Wai as Yip Man, the Master that helped change martial arts forever.

By Jeff Meyers

Published on August 28, 2013 in San Antonio Current News

Resplendent visuals, chaotic narrative. Director Wong Kar Wai’s epic stab at the life of the legendary Yip Man (also spelled Ip Man), a martial-arts master who taught a young Bruce Lee the Wing-Chun style of kung-fu, was reported to initially run for more than four hours. From this rough cut, The Weinstein Company released a two-hour film that bears all the extravagant style the perfectionist Wong (My Blueberry Nights, Chungking Express) can muster but suffers from a sketchy biography that lurches along without rhythm or focus.

Mostly set between 1930 and 1952, The Grandmaster follows Yip Man’s years in Foshan, China, with the loss of his family and fortune during the second Sino-Japanese War and his eventual self-imposed exile to Hong Kong, where he became a renowned martial-arts teacher. Exploding onto the screen with the smiling Yip Man (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) facing off against an army of opponents in a rain-drenched alley at night, Wong uses a pre-credits confrontation to make clear that his approach to history will be elegiac and his fight sequences exaggerated, filled with the kind of gravity-defying wire work featured in wuxia films.

Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang), a martial arts master from the North, comes to Foshan to name impudent Ma San (Zhang Jin) as his heir to the region. When he encourages the South to name their own champion, his daughter Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi) worries that he will lose, for the very first time in his life, to Yip Man. Instead of a physical showdown, the two warriors engage in a (seemingly pointless) philosophical contest. Gong Yutian declares Yip Man the winner and later that night his daughter attempts to regain the family’s honor by squaring off against Yip Man in a stunning staircase fight in an elaborate brothel. Romantic yearning and jaw-dropping action flow together as Wong demonstrates why so many admire his work. The scene sets the stage for another of the director’s explorations of how time and fate are the tragic barriers between his characters and emotional fulfillment. In the director’s world, those who should be together are destined to drift apart and, then, to later meet to consider what might have been.

Unfortunately, what falls between the then and now is awkwardly episodic, relating a pedestrian biographical journey that belabors minor moments and glosses over pivotal events, and the film’s jarring edits end up baffling the narrative. Leung’s strangely all-knowing voice-over is clearly meant to provide contextual glue to the sprawling start-stop story, but ends up serving as a clunky and unenlightening attempt to connect the dots.

What remains to be savored are The Grandmaster’s sumptuous visuals and bravura fight sequences. Expertly orchestrating motion, texture and an endlessly vibrant spectrum of light and color, Wong composes an astounding visual symphony. He brings together his ravishing period costumes, dramatic natural elements and arresting settings with painterly precision and intricacy. A brutal fight between Gong Er and Ma San in the rain atop a train platform as locomotives race by is an iconic movie sequence that will linger in the memory and influence filmmakers to come.

Leung is a similarly gorgeous visual subject, filled with grace and nuance. It’s fair to say that Wong’s camera can’t seem to get enough of him. Whether it’s the angle of his smile, the movement of his hands or the focus in his eyes, the actor delivers a physical performance that offers profound glimpses into Yip Man’s internal landscape. As Gong Er, Zhang is equally ravishing, conveying more defiance, longing and sorrow in her eyes than any dialogue could convincingly explicate.

Taken together it’s almost enough to compensate for disastrous storytelling, but not quite. One can only hope that Wong, who took 14 years to complete Ashes Of Time, dedicates himself to releasing a more definitive version of The Grandmaster, honoring his breathtaking cinematography and gorgeously stylized action sequences with a biography that is equally engrossing. The Grandmaster

Dir. Wong Kar Wai; writ. Wong Kar Wai, Jingzhi Zou, Haofeng Xu; feat. Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Chen Chang (PG-13) (Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese with English subtitles) Opens Aug. 30 at Santikos locations

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'Grandmaster' Ziyi Zhang: 'I Can Do Better Than Just Kicking Ass'

by NPR Staff

Published on August 22, 2013 in National Public Radio

Actress Ziyi Zhang is probably best known for her roles in the Oscar-winning films Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha. Now she co-stars in a new film, The Grandmaster, where she plays a fierce martial artist who stops at nothing to protect her family's legacy. But she says she can "do better than just kicking ass." She can seriously act, too.

The Grandmaster, which opens in theaters Friday, is inspired by the life of Ip Man, the legendary kung fu master and teacher of Bruce Lee. The film takes place after the fall of China's last dynasty. It was a time of political chaos and war, but also the golden age of Chinese martial arts.

Zhang explains to Tell Me More guest host Celeste Headlee that the film is about the struggle to become a kung fu grandmaster and the tension of forbidden love. She also talks about how women are portrayed in kung fu movies, and why she still won't move to Hollywood. Interview Highlights

On a strong woman's "love at first fight"

"She's a very strong lady. You know in the old days in China, females were not allowed to learn kung fu. But Gong Er's father taught her secretly, and she became a grandmaster. Her father not only taught her physical skills, but more importantly, she learned how to be herself, know herself and do what she feels is right.

"So for the character, when she first met Ip Man, I think, they fall in love immediately because they had a huge fight. But that fight — at the end — somehow it becomes very romantic. I call the scene 'love at first fight.' "

On how her dance background helped with martial arts training for the film

"I learned folk dance when I was 11 years old. I went to Beijing Dance Academy. I think that experience helped me a lot. But for this movie, we had very intense training. It was like eight hours a day. I had three different masters to teach me different kung fu skills."

On being part of director Wong Kar-wai's vision

"Wong Kar-wai, you just cannot say 'no' to him. As soon as he called me, I say 'yes.' It's like Steven Spielberg offer you a role, and you say 'yes' right away. So I knew it would take a long time to shoot, but what I didn't know was it took three years."

On how women are portrayed in kung fu movies

"I think kung fu films now are very different from kung fu films before. The Grandmaster is clearly a multilayered film. Women play an important role. I think society has changed, too, so I experienced this. I think I'm really lucky.

"My character has a line. She says, 'Let's be clear. You didn't return it to me. I took it back myself!' So I think the message is really strong and all the women can relate to her.

"I really identified with my character, Gong Er. I think every single woman has a Gong Er in her. They just have to find it.

On why she still won't move to Hollywood

"I think I'm still waiting for the right project because I'm often offered roles, but they all look similar. I think I can do better than just kicking ass. That's why I really appreciate, you know, a few years ago I got this opportunity to do Memoirs of a Geisha. I think that's the open window for us to show the world that we can really act, not only just, you know, do the action part."
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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

By Laura Hertzfeld

Published on Aug 21, 2013 in Entertainment Weekly

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

“It was very intensive because [director] Wong Kar-wei didn’t want us to pretend we know a little bit about kung fu — he really wanted us to be the master,” she tells EW about the six-month-long training process. “For this reason, we had to train many hours a day from 4 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. I had three different kung fu masters to train me. It was like boot camp.” One scene in particular was very challenging to film. Shot in freezing cold temperatures in northern China, the train-fight scene below took nearly three months to film, Zhang says. Producer Harvey Weinstein is calling the scene “the best fight scene in cinema since the ‘Crazy 88s scene’ in Kill Bill” — which was also choreographed by Ping.

“This fight will be a classic,” Zhang says. “It took three months to shoot because it was extremely intricate; we had to pay great attention to every detail. This all was made more difficult by the harsh cold weather. I couldn’t feel my hands and feet doing the scene.” But, Zhang says, it was worth it. She first worked with Ping on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and is in talks to team up with him again for the sequel. “On one hand he’s a killer kung fu master, and on the other he’s this really kind, gentle, caring person,” she says of the director/choreographer.

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

The Grandmaster opens Friday in New York and LA and in wide release on August 30.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In ‘The Grandmaster,’ Wong Kar Wai Takes Audiences on an Ip Trip

By Justin Chang

Published on August 8, 2013 in Variety

Director’s painstaking preparation puts actors, auds in the mood for kung fu

At one point in Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grandmaster,” the Chinese kung fu legend known as Ip Man is confronted by an arrogant upstart who seeks to engage him in combat. Ip Man accepts, but not before inquiring as to whether the young man has eaten lunch yet. He has, in fact — rice and barbecued pork. Big mistake.

The brief slapstick episode that follows is not only the funniest moment in this lyrical and kinetic martial-arts drama, but also one of the numerous true stories Wong came across while researching Ip Man’s life firsthand. It’s a welcome reminder that although the Hong Kong auteur may be the cinema’s pre-eminent poet of romantic longing, even his celebrated arthouse weepies, such as “Happy Together” and “In the Mood for Love,” have their undercurrents of humor. Get Weekly Online News and alerts free to your inbox

“I’m not a very serious person,” Wong chuckles, sitting down at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills to discuss his 10th feature (which the Weinstein Co. will release Stateside on Aug. 23). He could even be winking, though you wouldn’t be able to tell from those signature shades, which seem to deflect one’s questions in almost the same way his movies, with their playful surfaces and elliptical narratives, can resist easy interpretation.

These days, however, Wong seems happy to speak to audiences in more concrete terms. His first dip into the martial-arts well since 1994’s “Ashes of Time” and his first film since 2007’s critically and commercially disappointing “My Blueberry Nights,” “The Grandmaster” has an unusually didactic, almost evangelical sense of purpose: to capture the nobility and formality of Chinese kung fu as it existed in the 1930s and ’40s, and to make its competing schools, traditions and philosophies accessible to the broadest possible audience.

“It is not new, but it has been forgotten,” Wong says. “I wanted to revisit the tradition. Chinese martial arts is not only about skill, it’s not only about kicks and punches. There’s a certain wisdom in it.” Although it follows a number of different fighters, to the point where Wong considered changing the title to “Grandmasters” (his son talked him out of it), the film offers a loose personal history of one of kung fu’s great wise men. In tackling the oft-told story of Ip Man (played by Wong’s usual male lead, Hong Kong superstar Tony Leung Chiu-wai), who pioneered the popular Wing Chun fighting style and famously taught Bruce Lee, the director fashioned an arty rejoinder to the entertaining if factually dubious “Ip Man” movies starring Donnie Yen.

“There are so many kung fu films and so many different interpretations of Chinese martial arts,” he says. “I didn’t want to invent stuff for dramatic reasons. I didn’t want to have Ip Man fight the Japanese. … I just wanted to set the record straight.” The result, on one level, is a Wong picture through and through — another ravishing study of beautiful bodies circling each other in close quarters, their story coalescing in fragments of memory and snatches of voiceover. And like a few of the director’s recent movies, most famously “2046,” “The Grandmaster” ran into numerous delays, necessitating reshoots over the course of three years and missing a few of release dates before finally bowing in China in January. (It had its international premiere on opening night of the Berlin Film Festival, where Wong served as president of the jury.)

But in other respects, Wong’s latest is a film of significant firsts. It’s by far his biggest commercial success, having earned more than $50 million worldwide; in China, it outgrossed his previous four features combined. It also reps an unprecedented foray into biographical drama, and Wong, a free-form stylist but also a notorious perfectionist, met the challenge by insisting on strict historical accuracy: After exhausting various books, journals and archival materials, he spent three years interviewing hundreds of mainland martial artists in preparation for the script (co-written with Xu Haofeng and Zou Jingzhi), including several Ip Man proteges.

During production, the director’s obsession with verisimilitude extended to everything from the period-perfect sets created by his longtime production/costume designer and editor, William Chang, to the hours spent dressing, coiffing and training the actresses playing courtesans in a 1930s Foshan brothel, the site of the film’s extended first-act setpiece. Feeling the pressure perhaps most of all were Leung and co-star Ziyi Zhang, who plays Gong Er, a poised, powerful fighter who is inexorably drawn into Ip Man’s orbit. Both actors spent three years training for the picture’s dazzling fight sequences, many of which were shot under inclement circumstances, from an opening melee in the rain to a climactic clash on a snow-swept railway platform.

For Wong, the intense preparation was necessary not only to ready the actors for their action scenes, but to put them in the desired state of mind.

“Tony told me afterward that he would never have been able to play this character without his training, because the training enabled him to understand their body language — why they behave like this, what’s inside them, the confidence in the way they look at people,” he says.

Wong decided early on that the film would be released in two cuts: a 130-minute version for Chinese viewers and a more straightforward two-hour version for international audiences. In prepping the latter, he and Chang worked closely with Harvey Weinstein and exec producer Megan Ellison, whose Annapurna Pictures became a key financier in 2011. The result is not only simpler than the domestic version (which recalls the grand tradition of Chinese martial-arts novels in its tricky, convoluted structure), but also boasts explanatory intertitles, character identifiers and a reference to Bruce Lee in the closing credits.

If that sounds like a rare concession to commerce over art, the director has no regrets. With a film like “In the Mood for Love,” which Wong notes could be remade anywhere in the world, “you don’t need a lot of explanation, because the story is so universal. But “‘The Grandmaster’ is very specific. Because (non-Chinese viewers) don’t have much information or knowledge about the background and history, you have to give enough information for them to get into the story.” Overcoming barriers of language, background and technology (a 3D conversion was briefly considered) is nothing new for Wong, a cultural chameleon whose own splintered sense of identity as a Shanghai-born Hong Kong transplant has supplied many of his films with a resonant, longing-for-home subtext. Incidentally, “The Grandmaster,” his first predominantly Mandarin-language film, fits into a trend of H.K. helmers venturing into the mainland movie industry — a transition with obvious potential benefits and drawbacks.

Still, Wong rejects the notion that collaboration necessarily means compromise.

“We don’t have boundaries in film,” he says. “It’s helpful to have a strong Chinese market, because without it, films like ‘The Grandmaster’ would not be able to get made. But it shouldn’t be a burden or a limitation. It should be your playground.” Wong’s Finest Five

“Days of Being Wild” (1990) Tony Leung Chiu-wai gets one of the great movie-star entrances. In the very last scene.

“Chungking Express” (1994) A shot of pure neondrenched bliss. You’ll never look at canned pineapple the same way again.

“Fallen Angels” (1995) Wong’s most visually extreme feature, and one of his most underrated.

“Happy Together” (1997) Angst and alienation rule in this corrosively beautiful end-of-love story.

“In the Mood for Love” (2000) Ineffable yet indelible. Wong’s undisputed masterpiece.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 11:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'Grandmaster' is a meditative martial-arts movie

By Joe Williams

Published on August 29, 2013 in St. Louis Post Dispatch

China’s melting pot is Hong Kong, the peninsula and surrounding islands on the southeast corner of the Asian continent where the British reaped raw materials and peddled opium for much of the modern era. Even under the new handover treaty, Hong Kong culture remains a mix of East and West, with filmmakers such as Wong Kar Wai (“In the Mood for Love”) adding Continental romanticism to Chinese rationalism.

Wong’s beautiful if fettered film “The Grandmaster” reflects a similar schism in the martial arts, as acrobatic northern kung fu is Confucian in its rules while pugilistic southern kung fu is more violent.

In the pre-Maoist period, an emissary from the north named Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang) comes to the city of Foshan to unite the two traditions by finding the greatest fighter south of the Yangtze river. In an elegant brothel, his henchmen test the mettle of the regional champions until they meet the master of the “wing chun” style, Ip Man (Tony Leung Chiu Wai of “Hero” and “In the Mood for Love” — not to be confused with fellow heartthrob Tony Leung Ka Fai, who filmed “The Gua Sha Treatment” in St. Louis circa 2000).

With his reactive fighting style, the humble Ip Man impresses Gong Yutian but angers his hotheaded apprentice, Ma San (Zhang Jin), and intrigues his beautiful, talented daughter, Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), who is forbidden to inherit her father’s academy.

Because Ip Man is married and the father of two children, his smoldering attraction to Gong Er becomes dust in the winds of war, as the Japanese invasion of China blows them in different directions. She fights for family honor in Beijing, where Ma San betrays Gong Yutian by collaborating with the invaders, while Ip Man finds himself trapped across the border in Hong Kong, where he ekes out a living as one of many martial-arts instructors. When they are finally reunited, the spinning world has worn one of them down.

It’s a rite of passage for an acclaimed Chinese director to make a martial-arts movie, but while Zhang Yimou in “Hero” and expat Ang Lee in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” gave us high-flying fights with color-coded combatants, Wong gives us shallow focus, slo-mo battles with muted tones in snow and rain. And instead of dwelling in the imperial past, he connects the story to the present with a coda about Ip Man’s most famous pupil.

Whereas many kung-fu movies are a feast that leaves us weary with sensations, the tastefully bittersweet “Grandmaster” puts us in the mood for more.

What “The Grandmaster” • Three stars out of four • Rating PG-13 • Run time 1:48 • Content Martial-arts violence, brief drug use and strong language • Language Chinese with subtitles • Where Tivoli
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Review: The Grandmaster

Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, and Chang Chen star in a film written by Zou Jingzhi, Xu Haofen, and Wong Kar-wai and directed by Wong Kar-wai.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

By Josef Woodard

Fans of the artfully romantic, atmospheric cinematic baths that are Wong Kar-wai’s best films — especially the dreamy, fragmented, and über-sensuous In the Mood for Love — may have a head-scratching disconnect moment upon hearing that his latest, The Grandmaster, is a martial arts film. Has he gone over to the dark, B-movie side? Not exactly, and on more than one count.

Principally, the famed Hong Kong-based director, with no small help from poetic cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd, brings his signature style to this mini-epic tale of previously segregated north and south Chinese Kung Fu schools coming together and entering general, western-world attention from before WWII through the early 1950s. From the earliest fight scene, in slo-mo in the rain, through to the train platform fight scene late in the film, we get the sense that Wong’s interest in “action” movie dynamics is more related to dance and cinematic kinetics than pugilistic “action movie” chops.

On another count, the very world of Kung Fu, in its essential, historic form, is much more about “precision” and a “code of conduct” than the cheesier, bone-crunching and drive-in theater-ready flicks suggest. Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Wong’s recurring hero of choice, is again in fine, coolly magnetic form as the martial arts guru Ip Man, from the southern “Wing Chun” school of Kung Fu, who fights the female Gong Er (the calmly stunning Zhang Ziyi) — aka “64 Hands” — the offspring of a northern grandmaster. She is the tragic almost-love interest in the tale, and Wong’s expertise in sublimated sexual dynamics beneath lustrous surfaces warms up a few scenes between our fated protagonists.

The Grandmaster tells the tale of Ip Man’s travails and triumphs, from the late ’30s through the punishing era of Japanese occupation, and then his politically alienated life in Hong Kong as Communist China cuts its ties there. But there is a grander underlying story afoot here, about the transition from the older order of Chinese life, the rude awakening and tragedies of modern warfare imposed by the Japanese, and fleeting glimpses of life beyond the ’50s. As memorable as many of its parts are, the film’s whole feels a bit confused. Nonetheless, Wong once again demonstrates that “romanticism” doesn’t have to be a dirty or cheapening word at the movies.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Arthouse Auteur Wong Kar-wai’s Kung-Fu Epic 'The Grandmaster' Is a Mixed-Up Mess

By Lee Gardner
Posted September 4, 2013

Discerning movie lovers have learned to turn to Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai for neo-Nouvelle Vague romance, for Asian gamines and 24-hour urban bustle and yearning glances, for bittersweet shaggy-dog stories of missed connections and lonely apartments. Kung fu, not so much. And yet the director of Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love has spent nearly a decade on an unlikely passion project: an epic biopic of kung-fu icon Ip Man, the man who taught Bruce Lee.

In the Mood for an Ass-Kicking? Well, kinda. The Grandmaster is a most unusual Wong film and a most unusual kung-fu film, and not entirely successful on either score.

It opens with a classic kung-fu trope: the venerable master (Hong Kong screen grandmaster Tony Leung as Ip) dispatching a passel of fighters from a rival school—in a lashing rain inside a locked courtyard, no less. But right away, Wong’s lack of interest in traditional movie action smacks you in the face. Even with cool gags like a carriage crunched into matchsticks between two combatants’ mighty kicks, Wong’s lens is much more likely to obsess at length over, say, the way drops fly from the spinning brim of Ip’s signature straw Panama. It’s not so much that The Grandmaster’s copious and often dazzling fight scenes are edited too chaotically to scan (the usual sin these days), it’s that Wong shoots it too close and consistently veers away from physical-space sense toward sensuousness.

This isn’t exactly a surprise. Wong’s films have dished out intense onscreen eye candy for more than 25 years now, and The Grandmaster certainly has its ravishing moments, including gladiatorial ones. Even in the midst of heated hand-to-hand, a shot of the wind from a flying fist ruffling a silk midriff, or the toe of a soft shoe landing and pivoting in slow-motion with the delicacy of a fox’s footfall, can make you catch your breath. But he goes with an uncharacteristically dark, dingy color palette here, which robs his frame of much of its usual sumptuousness. It doesn’t make for good cinematic martial arts or good pure visual swoon.

Even stranger, The Grandmaster has none of the brooding, becalmed existentialism of Wong’s last wuxia foray, 1994’s Ashes of Time, or the artfully fractured narrative of more recent films like 2046. Indeed, in many ways, it is his most conventional film in decades, though no more successful for delivering something like a linear story rather than his usual elliptical, impressionist gossamer.

Accounts have surfaced of a four-hour cut, a shorter Chinese cut, and an even shorter cut rearranged for America (Wong is a notorious tinkerer, as is Harvey Weinstein, the film’s distributor). Regardless, there is simply too much happening here to work inside a relatively tidy 108-minute running time. In addition to sketching the differences between the main kung-fu schools of 1930s China, as well as their various sub-schools (cue conga-line of mini fight scenes), The Grandmaster traces the saga of stoic, humble Ip defending and preserving his own wing chun style against rivals, real life, and the forces of four, count-’em, four decades of Chinese history. On top of that, Wong weaves in a tragic love story between the married Ip and Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang), the daughter of a rival grandmaster (Wang Qingxiang). And she, as it happens, is also out to preserve her own family’s tarnished kung-fu legacy against a craven rival (Zhang Jin) who usurps it. Complications ensue.

Quietly pining love is a Wong specialty, of course, and the rare occasions when Leung and Zhang share the screen transport. Their elegant kung-fu-battle-as-courtship-ritual whips all the other hand-to-hand scenes here, in fact, thanks to its secret weapon: erotic simmer. Equally beautiful and elegant, the leads can’t help but make any screen they grace a better place to point your eyes, and they both dig into a wealth of subtle heartache beneath their characters’ courtly reserve. But this movie is mostly about kung fu, and a lot of it, and Wong and Weinstein’s timer is running.

Indeed, it’s tough to recall a more blatant chop job. Wong’s always been a wildly discursive storyteller—that’s part of his appeal for his admirers—and, likewise, fans will be used to Leung’s voiceover externalizing some of his character’s internal thoughts (though the actor’s casual delivery feels jarring in this period context). But the fits-and-starts flow and the slew of title cards needed to try to explain whole chunks of history and story rob the film itself of any semblance of a grandmaster’s precision or grace.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Review: 'Grandmaster' is martial arts magic

August 30, 2013 at 1:00 am
Tom Long

‘The Grandmaster” is grand indeed.

Both lush and formal, it tells the story of Ip Man (Tony Leung), the martial arts master who would eventually end up teaching Bruce Lee.

But Lee factors into this movie hardly at all. Instead, it’s a tale of unrealized love, of tragic loss and steady resolve. It’s also just about as beautiful as a film about people pummeling one another can get.

We start out with Ip Man taking on a challenge from a grandmaster of the north, which turns out to be more intellectual than physical. After Ip Man wins, the grandmaster’s lovely daughter, Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang), challenges him to a duel.

Their fight is such a thing of balance and beauty they seem to fall in love. Problem #1: Ip Man is already married and a father. Problem #2: Gong Er lives far away.

At this point the movie starts following both characters on their separate paths. Japan invades China, forcing hardships and horrors on Ip Man. The grandmaster dies and Gong Er must defend his legacy as a protege (Jin Zhang) begins working for the Japanese.

Writer-director Wong Kar Wai is a master stylist, and nearly every scene here is breathtaking. But one in which Gong Er faces off with the protege on a train platform as a departing train picks up momentum is an absolute classic; you can be sure Hollywood directors are already busy trying to figure out how to imitate it.

“The Grandmaster” can feel stiff at times, and something is doubtlessly lost in translation. But the precision and magic of Wong Kar Wai’s camera is so captivating it doesn’t matter. This is plain stunning cinema.
'The Grandmaster'


Rated PG-13 for violence, some smoking, brief drug use and language

Running time: 108 minutes
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Renowned director Wong Kar Wai ventures into new territory with the martial arts epic 'The Grandmaster'

Published: August 26, 2013

By RENE RODRIGUEZ — The Miami Herald

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 oversees, earning nearly $22 million).

So Wong turned his back on Hollywood and went back to his roots. Six years later, he emerged with one of his best films to date. "The Grandmaster" 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 recreation 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 single 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 all 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. 1936 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 two 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, the 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 coming 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: Tue Sep 10, 2013 10:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

REVIEW: The Grandmaster (2013)
By Albert Valentin

We’ve seen Wilson Yip and Herman Yau’s takes on the legend of Wing Chun grandmaster Yip Man (1893-1972). At long last, we take a look at the Yip Man film everyone has been waiting to see, directed by famous arthouse auteur Wong Kar-Wai (IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE).

The film begins with the now famous footage seen in the trailer, with Yip Man (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) surrounded by dozens of fighters in the pouring rain. Using only his martial art of Wing Chun, Yip is able to defeat the entire crowd, which includes sanshou champion turned action star Cung Le. However, the film is not your typical action film. It becomes a set-up for a story about not only Yip Man, but his respect for all forms of martial arts.

In 1936 Foshan, Northern martial arts master Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang) is seeking an heir to take over his martial arts association in the South. He has chosen to represent the North and as his successor, his top student Ma San (Max Zhang). When Yip Man is hailed as the potential successor, he must first endure a series of tests. This includes taking on Sister San (Zhou Xiaofei), an expert in bagua; followed by Rui (Lau Shun), an expert in hsing-I and then Brother Yong (Sammy Lau), an expert in huen kuen. After passing these tests and showing his respects towards his opponents, he finally faces Master Gong and after their duel, which combines the physical with the mental, Yip is chosen as Gong’s southern heir.

Upset with the loss of her family honor is Master Gong’s daughter Lady Er (Zhang Ziyi). Despite her father hoping she will get married and have children, she feels too proud and seeks to regain her family honor. She challenges Master Yip and while she tests him and defeats him, she sees something in Master Yip that is not exactly love, but an understanding of the foundation of martial arts. She ultimately begins to show respect for him.

From here, the film delves into the fall of Foshan in October of 1938, when the Japanese takeover Yip’s family mansion. This causes Yip and his family, along with many people at the time, to live in poverty. Despite his struggles, Yip does overcome all obstacles while it is soon revealed that Ma San, in an effort to get out of the terrible life, has allied himself with the Japanese, causing friction between elder master and student.

This may seem somewhat confusing at first, but the film is not another biopic of the Wing Chun grandmaster famous for teaching the legendary Bruce Lee. The film focuses on both Yip Man and his respect for the martial arts, notably the martial arts of Lady Er. Both Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Zhang Ziyi give out excellent performances as the respectful rivals. Yip is seen as a man of virtue while Er is a woman of pride, who will sacrifice everything to bring honor to her family and her family’s martial arts.

Wong complements the drama and the action very well in the film. It is clear that not only does he bring a more solid approach to the action scenes, unlike his last attempt at a martial arts film (ASHES OF TIME (1994)), but shows a piece of history that occurs, notably the fall of Foshan in 1938. While Wilson Yip did this with his IP MAN movie in 2008, Wong brings a more artistic style that empowers the people of China much like Yip’s did in a more action-flavored style.

In charge of the action in the film is the legendary Yuen Woo-Ping. The action is some of Yuen’s best work to date, showcasing a variety of martial arts styles that represent Chinese kung fu. Aside from Wing Chun, we get to see Bagua, Hsing-I, Hung Kuen, and various other forms. Leung spent much time training for the film, even breaking his arm while training, but he looks like an actual master here. Zhang Ziyi impresses in the action department using a style that looks to be Bagua combined with Hsing-I and other forms. Her best fight comes against Max Zhang at a train station, where she must bring pride to her family after an incident forces her to seek revenge.

THE GRANDMASTER is definitely a great film from Wong Kar-Wai. It is more than about Grandmaster Yip Man, but the spirit and respect of martial arts as a whole in times of both peace and turmoil. Highly recommended but it is best to see the uncut version from Hong Kong as there is a U.S. version which trims about fifteen minutes.

Copyright 2001 - 2013 Kung Fu Cinema
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2013 11:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wong takes kung fu triumph to New York

China Daily, August 13, 2013

"If you like kung fu movies, then you've come to the right place," Wong Kar-wai told the audience before the film's New York premiere. "If you don't like kung fu movies, then it's time to change."

The event was held at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York, and included a post-screening onstage interview with the director. A lively question-and-answer session with the audience followed, during which one audience member shouted from a back row that she had worked briefly for Wong on the film and was wondering if he would be her reference for her film school application.

"Talk to me after," the 57-year-old director sporting his signature sunglasses replied.

Wong is widely considered one of the most influential film directors of his generation, both inside and outside of Asia. Saturday's premiere was the centerpiece of a comprehensive retrospective of Wong's work, which began on July 12 and includes all 10 of his feature films. The retrospective continues with screenings of My Blueberry Nights, In the Mood for Love and 2046 before it ends on Aug 24.

Wong's latest feature, in which he seeks to re-invent the martial arts genre, reunites Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi, the stars of his science-fiction epic 2046. Neither actor has a background in martial arts, and both spent three years training for the film's fight sequences.

"I always wanted to make a kung fu film, but there have been so many kung fu films made before me and so I had to find my angle," Wong says.

The film tackles the story of Ip Man, played by 51-year-old Leung, who pioneered the popular Wing Chun fighting style and taught kung fu legend Bruce Lee.

In The Grandmaster, Wong seeks to capture the nobility and formality of Chinese kung fu as it existed in the 1930s and '40s, as well as today with its competing schools, traditions and philosophies.

The director says he considered naming the film The Grandmasters, but his son talked him out of it, arguing that the film was more about the idea of what it takes to be a grandmaster than the grandmasters themselves.

Wong says he wanted to set the record straight on the Ip Man story, as opposed to merely dazzling audiences with another kung fu movie. The original rendition of the Ip Man saga in cinematic form was released as a semi-biographical story in 2008, which was followed by Ip Man 2 in 2010.

Wong spent 22 months on a budget of $25 million to shoot the film.

Wong missed a number of release dates before The Grandmaster finally reached theaters on the Chinese mainland in January. The film is Wong's greatest commercial success to date, having earned more than $50 million worldwide. In China, it out-grossed his previous four features combined.

"To make this film is like a dream come true," Wong says. "I grew up on streets full of martial arts schools, but I was never allowed to practice martial arts."

When he was growing up, he says, martial arts schools were dark and mysterious and sometimes associated with the triad gangs - groups that became prevalent in Hong Kong during the 1960s and '70s. No parent would encourage their child to practice martial arts, says Wong.

At the end of the film, a boy stares intently through the window at Ip Man's martial arts studio.

"That could be Bruce Lee or that could be me because it was always my dream to walk through the door to find out what's so special, what's so mysterious about Chinese martial arts," Wong says. "With this film, I walked past this door and I find it very satisfying."
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2013 11:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interview: Wong Kar-Wai, Tony Leung And Zhang Ziyi Talk THE GRANDMASTER

Diva Vélez
August 23, 2013

Director Wong Kar-Wai is renowned for legendarily long incubation periods for his films. Five years after his last movie, Director Wong brings us The Grandmaster, his kung fu-filled biopic of Wing Chun master, Ip Man, which reunites him with 2046's Zhang Ziyi and the Mastroianni to his Fellini, the Mifune to his Kurosawa, Tony Leung. During a hectic New York promotional trip, yours truly was able to have a few words with the director and his stars about why the multiple Ip Man films didn't faze Wong one bit, Leung's Bruce Lee connection and Zhang's retirement from martial arts films.

Twitch: Director Wong, the US cut of THE GRANDMASTER is different from the one that was shown in Asia and in the Berlin International Film Festival. What has changed from the earlier edit?

Wong Kar-Wai: This cut is shorter than the Berlin version and also it's very different because we restructured the story; we tell the story in a more linear way. What's so special about this version is there's 15 to 20 minutes of unseen footage, so it's not going to be a short version; it's going to be a US version. It is going to be a brand new version. And also for this film, we have the support of Dolby, so this film will be in Dolby Atmos System, so it will be the first Dolby Atmos System Chinese-language film, so I think it will be very exciting.

Is the movie's title, THE GRANDMASTER, a bit deceptive? One might presume you are referring specifically to Ip Man, but it also encompasses the lives of the other kung fu masters in the film like Zhang Ziyi's and Chang Chen's characters.

WK-W: In fact, that's a very good question. Since we went through this process, I can tell you the changes, the metamorphoses of all the different titles. At the beginning, we called this film The Grandmaster, because we thought it was going to be about Ip Man, and then later on we felt like it's not only about Ip Man. There's so many grandmasters in the film, so we called the film The Grandmasters. But at the end, when we finished the film and I looked at the film, this was some advice from my son, actually, he said, "Well, I don't think you should call this film The Grandmasters because it's not very catchy." He said, "You should call the film The Grandmaster, because it's not about the number of grandmasters in the film, it's really about the state of mind of being a grandmaster." And I think that makes sense, so we changed the title back to The Grandmaster. It seems like a back and forth, but in fact it shows in us so well what process we went through during the making of this film.

Ms. Zhang, I've always admired Director Wong's depiction of women in his films, but Gong Er is like someone we've never seen. She has many of the traits one associates with males in kung fu movies; she's the inheritor of the house, she displays the filial piety, she challenges the other masters and seeks revenge for the family honour, but somehow she retains her femininity. How did you first read Gong Er and what was there that you added in that might not have been in the script originally?

Zhang Ziyi: First of all, there's no script. That's a Wong Kar-Wai specialty {Laughs}, but I still love him. I believe there is a Gong Er in every single woman. I love this character, that's why I am very grateful to Wong Kar-Wai even though he tortured me for so long. I think you have to be yourself, know yourself and do what feels right. So, for me, I think the character developed between our trust, because I don't know the script, I don't know my character. I only knew my character and the story before the movie opened in China. So, for me, everything's new, but during the process, I learned so much. I felt so much of the character. I think I'm just the luckiest actress in the world because a character like this, you will never know her again. It just happens once in your life. That's why I said in China that I don't want to do any more martial arts films because I don't believe there's another role that can surpass this.

WK-W: {Regarding working without a script} Basically, it's like we all know this before we start a film. The process is a little bit different; I think the most general way to make a film is first of all, you have a script and then you make the film according to that. Because I'm also the writer and I know more or less where the story goes; one of the reasons I don't want to have a full script is because I don't want to stick myself. And the other way is just imagine The Grandmasters; we announced the film and then later on we have like seven Grandmasters, it's the story about Ip Man, and I'm not very fast. So there were like six or seven films about Ip Man released, but that's not a problem.

The one thing that I will say is once you work with actors and actresses like Tony, who I've worked with before, I know how high they can fly. And in fact like the character of Gong Er is basically something I want to borrow from Ziyi herself, because she looks very in a way petite or feminine, but in fact, what I can see is that she's a fighter. In a way, the character of Gong Er is very, very difficult because you have to understand that at the time in 1946, it's like the early days of the Republic. There were a lot of great men because we went through the transition from a monarchy into a republic, and there are new ideas and there are new passions to build the young country. At the same time, there were also great women from all walks of life - they were martial artists, they were opera singers, they are intellectuals, they are like artists. - and these women, they all have a dream; they don't want to be bound to the traditional role of being a good wife and a good mother. They made their share to build this country and they want to have their own identity. So in the film, they go through the training to become a martial artist; you also have to train to be a doctor, to be a singer. The thing is it's very hard to portray the women in those days without the elegance, without the air. They are very civilised; they are not just fighters, they are from a very civilised family, and in a way in the film like Tony Leung's character of Ip Man. Zhang Ziyi, the character of Gong Er doesn't only mean a woman or comrade in the same discipline, but also a time that is almost like a Paradise Lost that was best of his life.

For Mr. Leung and Ms. Zhang, the film is based not only on the life of Ip Man, someone who lived and still has people alive who remember him, but also deals with very authentic principles of martial arts that are practised today. Did that basis in reality affect your approach or your own research into playing Ip Man and Gong Er?

Tony Leung: I was lucky because I had a real character to work on this time. Kar-Wai showed me a lot of books; martial arts novels in the new republic period so I had a chance to understand all the culture and the customs of the martial arts world during that period of time. And he asked me to merge Bruce Lee's character into Ip Man, too. Of course I didn't know why: I didn't know how can I merge Bruce Lee when I cannot fight like {Does Bruce Lee kung fu imitation - with sound effects}, but he asked me to, so I studied, and because Bruce Lee left us a lot of books about his vision of kung fu and the philosophy of kung fu and his understanding of kung fu and this really helped me to build up the confidence; to build up the soul of The Grandmaster. It really helped.

For Ip Man, I only had information after he settled down in Hong Kong. I saw his picture. I learned about Ip Man from my kung fu master because he was the student of Ip Man, and I learned about how difficult his life was in Hong Kong. What I saw from his picture is that he didn't look like a kung fu man; he looked like a scholar. Very refined, erudite and graceful. I could feel the dignity in his eyes and he always wore a smile. I think that is so amazing; how can someone look like that if he went through that difficult life in Hong Kong? I wanted to know how he can do that.

So after all this study, I think kung fu might've inspired him. Kar-Wai said, "He is very optimistic." I said, "No, not just optimistic. Kung fu might've inspired him to deal with life." After I studied all the books from Bruce Lee, I know that kung fu is not just fighting techniques, but also a way of training your mind, kind of like meditation in Buddhism. How to keep your mind free from emotion and desire. Actually, the goal of kung fu is not to oppose your opponent, or to give way, but to be harmonised with your opponents. If you put it in real life, it's just like you tried to be in harmony with nature and the whole world and not trying to oppose or give way. I think kung fu really inspired this man, so he can move on.

ZZ: I didn't have any books because the character is fictional, but for me this kind of training and feeling is not so strange because I used to be a dancer and I trained for six years professionally. So I understand what Tony said, because it's not only to train your body - physical work - it's about training your brain and building up the strength. That's what I learned with my dance background.

For this movie, I didn't think that much, I didn't do any research. For me, I don't want to think too much, I just wanted to concentrate on the training, and slowly, because I didn't know my character at all and Wong Kar-Wai didn't tell me that much, as well, so I think we built up the character together as we [were] shooting, so I understood her a little bit more and better. I knew that she is living in this kind of a world: She needed a lot of strength and power to get the life that she wants. Because the story of her is she's not allowed to do a lot of things, but she doesn't believe this, that's why she represents the independence and she represents the strength.

Ms. Zhang, you've said this is your final martial arts film. How much do you think that conviction will stick?

ZZ: I've had so much injuries from a long time ago in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; I hurt my neck. And shooting House of Flying Daggers, just something happened that I felt was for a long time, but it was only a few seconds. Those old injuries really bother me and after three years of this one ... First of all, my body cannot take it anymore, and also I just think nothing can really surpass this level of acting and craft - everything. So, I think this is pretty good to just leave a good memory.

Mr. Leung, this was your first kung fu film, but you broke your arm twice during production, how likely are you to do another kung fu movie?

TL: I really don't mind to do a kung fu movie. If I can do it with Kar-Wai, I can do it with anybody. He is the most demanding director I have ever worked with...

{ZZ Laughs}

TL: ... with such a long period of time. At the end, I told him many times almost a few months before we finished, I said, "I cannot do it anymore. I'm really so tired."

ZZ: So tired...

TL: But he was more pale than me, so... {Laughs}

Director Wong, did making this film based on a real-life person and also on authentic martial arts and their philosophies, not just imaginary or fantasy martial arts, affect your approach in terms of research or the way you laid out the narrative?

WK-W: Yeah, sure, because when you look at the film, you can't have too much liberties, because first of all Tony and Ziyi, they are not from martial arts backgrounds, and I wanted them to perform all the action by themselves; so in all the action scenes, you have to be very precise. So you need to take weeks of choreography and rehearsal, and on set you have to work with the camera. So everything had to be very precise.

Also, I wanted to tell the story because there are so many stories about Ip Man, but I wanted to tell the story about Ip Man which was really true and historically correct because I didn't want to show him like just a fighter, or to make up some episode about fighting the Japanese, or fighting the Western fighters, because it didn't happen. I know they want to make him look more heroic, but in this film what I find from Ip Man is in fact it's more heroic for him to fight not a physical opponent, it's actually fighting with time and the ups and downs of his life. Because when we look at his life story, he was born with a silver spoon and he lost almost everything except the commitment to these martial arts. He went through so many different periods to remain at the end the last man standing.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2013 11:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Exclusive Interview: Tony Leung, Cinematic Grandmaster

Dave Canfield
August 30, 2013

Tony Leung is a grandmaster of the big screen.

His collaborations with John Woo, Wong Kar Wai and others have solidified not only his reputation as a master craftsman but one who is able to take that physical craft so attached to the notion of "acting" and translate it into a narrative as well technical force. A Buddhist, he radiates a sense of peace and calm that makes it hard indeed to imagine flashing a gun or fist yet upon speaking with him about his craft it's clear that a sense of spiritual place comes as natural to him as his embodiment of character, dialogue and powerhouse use of force in action scenes.

A once in a lifetime opportunity to interview him yielded a memory I shall treasure forever.

Twitch: As someone who has moved between action and arthouse, was THE GRANDMASTER an intentional attempt to blend approaches?

Tony Leung: No, I never plan when it comes to my acting career. What I think is that fate brings people together. Interesting things come up and I think , "Why not." Of course. But in the beginning the film was not a kung fu film. Kar had the idea, we talked about doing, a movie about the life of the man who inspired Bruce Lee. But in the ten years that the idea developed it became the story of the development of martial arts during the life of this man.

I myself didn't know a lot about Chinese kung fu at that time. It has been an amazing experience to develop my understanding of it. Even Ip Man. I really only knew about Ip Man because of Bruce Lee.

It's interesting to see so many movies come out about Ip Man at the same time the superhero movie comes into full bloom. Do you think those two things are carried on the same waves? Ip Man was a real person of course.

People are always craving superheroes. Kung Fu heroes are surely popular for that reason. But Ip Man wasn't just a hero in that sense. He was, in his own way, even more amazing. During my research for the role I would look at these pictures and he looked nothing like a kung fu master. He looked like a scholar. So erudite and graceful. The force is hidden. Very refined. He also lived a very difficult life in Hong Kong. There were times he didn't even have a blanket in the winter. Until he was forty he really had no worries. He was brought up in a wealthy family and made kung fu his hobby, a very serious hobby. But I think that when he had to trade kung fu for money it was even harder than having no blanket. yet you look at those pictures from those years in Hong Kong and you see that he has still managed to hang on to his dignity and his optimism, some small inner measure of happiness.

It made the spiritual sense of kung fu even more real to me as I studied it. It's a way of mind. Over the course of four thousand years it has been hugely influenced by Tao and Zen and Iching. At a certain point, after you achieve your physical technique it's almost all about training your mind. Very similar to meditation in Buddhism where you try to remove yourself from emotion and desire and harmonize yourself with nature.

Is this how you would typify your spiritual relationship to your art?

working within a spiritual paradigm has never been a goal. It emerges on it's own. This particular journey on The Grandmaster has been amazing in ways I can't even describe. I broke my arms twice making this film which I guess what happens when you start studying kung fu at the age of 47. [much laughter all around]

There was so much here I had no control over which put me deeply in touch with the spiritual side of what we were trying to accomplish and where I was in my own life spiritually. For instance, we didn't have a firm start date so I started practicing and training in my garden. Every so often I would get ahold of Kar and ask if we were ready to start shooting and he would say, Not yet. Soon. Soon." and so, I would keep training. Nine months later I was working with my trainer and he broke my arm right before shooting. I was frustrated and sad. Now I was the one who wasn't ready. But Kar was there to say, "It's okay. We will do what we have to do. What you have to do is rest." The Dr. told me I had to rest for six months. Instead I waited two weeks and tried taking pain killers and wrapping my arms and some light training. Six months later everyone thinks it has healed and we are just starting shooting in China. Yuen Woo-ping has, everybody was there and after a week of rehearsals, the very first day of actual shooting I break my arm, in the same place, worse, in a scene where I was fighting six stuntmen.

It was because I refused to stop training. I learned alot about myself that day.

Was making THE GRANDMASTER a way of finally getting to make a true kung fu film?

I was thrilled. Yes, yes. I grew up reading kung fu novels. And to be able to make this film with the dream team of Yuen Woo-ping and Kar means a lot to me. I grew up with these stories. I think that because the grandmasters almost all moved to Hong Kong, this is why we have a such a rich history of action and martial arts movies and why it's been through so many stages. The talent and energy was there to support it and it's evolution. There was a time when kung fu cinema It seems people are less interested in that these days and I was excited when the project took this turn because I would get to see the way that Kar approached the fighting. It was glorious to make a project where we tried so hard to be faithful to the history and the spirit of kung fu and Chinese heritage.

Do you feel like this is a part of the repatriating of kung fu cinema that has been going on? It seems a lot of people want to take it back to it's spiritual roots.

Oh yes. There is not much real kung fu left, even in mainland China now. There is plenty of martial arts sports and eye catching display but there are no more schools dedicated to the art of real Chinese combat. You can only learn now from individual masters and they are all dying. I don't even think it's Western influence our nation is just not dependent on it anymore except as a way of commerce. I wish that this could happen again. The ultimate goal of kung fu is the achieving of a peaceful mind and calmness and for me that has been such a great thing.

What's next?

First I want to take a very long holiday. But when I was in Korea with Ziyi Zhang who plays my wife in the film I saw some press pictures and approached Kar about doing an action comedy together. So I think we are trying to develop that for next year. I know that John Woo is shooting an epic 1950's story in Beijing right now.

The Grandmaster expands wide in theaters across the U.S. today (Friday, August 30). Check local listings for locations and showtimes.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2013 11:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'The Grandmaster' review: Tony Leung has magnetic screen presence in martial arts film

By Roger Moore
August 23, 2013 8:00 AM ET

If you're not deep into martial arts cinema, you might have walked by the various movies titled "Ip Man" on the DVD shelves and mistaken them for Chinese or Japanese sci-fi or fantasy.

But the legendary Ip Man (also spelled Yip Man) is no invention of screenwriters. He's a famous figure in Chinese martial arts, guardian of several martial arts styles and the man who taught Bruce Lee his chops.

"The Grandmaster" is the latest version of his life to make it onto the screen, a regal, majestic and downright arty take on this teacher, champion and philosopher whose life spanned much of the 20th century. Co-writer/director Wong Kar Wai ("Chungking Express," "In the Mood for Love") goes for stately in this slow-moving action epic, sometimes at the expense of coherence and always in preference to pacing.

Fortunately, he has his muse, the great Tony Leung ("In the Mood for Love," "Hero", "Red Cliff") in the title role, a magnetic screen presence who suggests mystery, romance and humility with just a faint, cryptic smile. His stillness seems just right for a character who can lick any ten guys in the room, and knows it.

The story follows Ip Man through World War II, when much of China was under siege by the Japanese, but whose martial arts aristocracy was still fretting over the divisions between assorted "Northern" styles and Ip Man's simple, lethal "Southern" style.

The grandmaster of the North (Wang Qingxiang) is about to pass his mantle on to a protege (Zhang Jin). But Ma San is a hothead, which makes Master Gong regret that he cannot pass the leadership to his daughter, played by the serene and stunningly beautiful Zhang Ziyi ("Memoirs of a Geisha," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"). Gong Er has mastered both the "64 hand" positions of her father's Kung Fu, and the philosophy behind it.

Wong Kar Wai pays tribute to the martial arts of the past as Ip Man is tested by the other martial arts masters of the South before he must fight the best of the North in a friendly test of mastery.

There's Sister Man, master of Bagua, and Master Yong of "Hung Gar" style. A little trash talk accompanies these tests.

"Your fireworks have fizzled," Ip Man whispers as he puts on the Panama Hat he wears in between fights. He only needs three hand positions -- spade, pin, sheath -- to beat the best of the best.

Wong Kar Wai and his cinematographer -- Philipe Le Sourd of "Seven Pounds" and "A Good Year" -- shoot wondrous brawls in rain and snow, a funeral procession by a frozen lake, a bloodless beat-down in an elaborate brothel. It's a gorgeous looking film (shortened for American release), whatever its other virtues and failings. Slow motion chops and kicks, delicate choreography (by Yuen Woo-Ping), extreme closeups of a match being lit, a cigarette burning, a button, torn from a coat that is symbolic of the life China's wars interrupted dress the film up but slow it down. Lovely colorized newsreel footage and sepia-toned scenes that dissolve into still photographs capture the flow of history.

The story, touching on World War II, skipping over the Chinese Civil War and glossing over Ip Man's reasons for fleeing to Hong Kong just as the communists took over the country, is more ambitious than streamlined. We lose track of Ip Man, here and there, to follow Gong Er's sad, romantic story.

But it's still a majestic version of a life story that merits this sort of treatment, at least within the world of martial arts. And the ageless Leung and Ziyi bring this stately, static film thrillingly to life just often enough to give Ip Man and his legacy his due.


(Grade B-)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, some smoking, brief drug use and language
Cast: Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Zhang Jin, Wang Qingxiang, Chang Chen
Credits: Directed by Wong Kar Wai, written by Wong Kar Wai, Xu Haofeng and Zou Jingzhi . A Weinstein Co. release
Running time: 1:46
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2013 11:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sparks Fly in ‘Grandmaster’; ‘World’s End’; ‘You’re Next’: Film

By Greg Evans and Craig Seligman
August 24, 2013

Wong Kar Wai’s martial-arts romance “The Grandmaster” is a long series of fights, exquisitely choreographed and hypnotically shot in snow, in watery courtyards under heavy rain (which brings Pina Bausch to mind), in beautiful rooms that are beautifully destroyed.

The picture is no less aching than Wong’s hyper-romantic 2000 masterpiece, “In the Mood for Love,” which also starred Tony Leung, now in his early 50s.

The story purports to be based on the life of Ip Man, who in his later years became Bruce Lee’s teacher. But no life ever went by so gorgeously, or played out against such a lush string soundtrack, with a little “Casta Diva” and a little Ennio Morricone thrown in.

Wong’s genius for overheated, overstuffed glamour brings to mind the demented movies that Josef von Sternberg made with Marlene Dietrich in the 1930s, which is when “The Grandmaster” begins, in the southern Chinese city of Foshan.

It continues through the Japanese invasion and the war and on into Hong Kong in the 1950s. The dialogue -- mainly exchanges of gnomic and/or metaphorical wisdom about kung fu -- might feel leaden if the picture were less mesmerizing.

The woman Ip Man falls in love with is Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang), daughter of the northern Chinese grandmaster. Their moment of electricity occurs in the middle of hand-to-hand combat. The voltage is off the charts.

“The Grandmaster,” from the Weinstein Company, is playing in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto. Rating: **** (Seligman)
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