Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen ,Zhang Jin
Directed by : Wong Kar Wai
Copyright © Sil Metropole Organisation / Bona Film Group / Mei Ah Entertainment 2012
Well here's a film that's been in the making for years, Wong Kar Wai first had his idea to tell the story of Wing Chun teacher Yip Man some ten or more years ago. Of course before he could do so Wilson Yip directed his own version with Donnie Yen starring as Yip Man or Ip Man as more commonly known.
That was in 2008 and it was really the film that got Donnie Yen the recognition he deserved in the West. The films past pace and dynamic fight scenes insured success and a sequel was on the books before excitement for the first had died down. Also around this time it was confirmed that Wong Kar Wai's own version of Yip Man's story was in the works.
In the lead for Yip Man was Wong Kar Wai favourite Tony Leung Chiu Wai . Now Tony Leung was no expert Martial artist in say the vein as Donnie Yen. He had done many action scenes and knows how to perform well.
But to come across as one of the most famous modern day Martial art masters would take a lot more. No problem ,Tony Leung would train four hours a day in Wing Chun under a expert teacher for a whole year prior to filming.
Tony even broke his arm in a Wing Chun combat match and this slowed filming down further. Again around this time another film about Master Yip would be announced and made , The Legend is Born -Ip Man, it would star Dennis To a Wing Chun exponent and Ip Chun ( Yip Man's elder Son) would guest appear in the film and fight Dennis.
Anyway time has passed and the story of the film has changed somewhat to tell the story of a group of masters of Kung Fu , with Ip Man as the main protagonist. Just as well really as Donnie Yen had confirmed Ip Man 3D and Anthony Wong is starring as Ip Man in a sequel to The Legend Begins.
Joining the cast is Zhang Ziyi as Gong Er the daughter of Kung Fu master Gong Yutian a master of the northern styles. Our other masters of the piece is a disciple of Gong Yutian ,Ma San and Chang Chen plays another Bagua master by the name of Yixiantian aka The RAZOR.
Now the film starts with Ip Man battling a group of attackers in the rain, this gives Wong Kar Wai a chance to show us his camera work he is renowned for.
Now being that I have watched quite a few of Wong Kar Wai's films out of all of them the one that I found hard to get into was his other martial arts epic ,''Ashes of Time'' , I found it hard to enjoy the action ,even though the talent of Sammo Hung was responsible for the fight action . It's all down to the camera views and the editing in the end .
For The Grandmaster we have legendary fight choreographer Yuen Woo Ping on set . Now I must admit I was apprehensive , the opening fight is complex and deals with many attackers ,but Wong Kar Wai has to show it in a different manner, instead of keeping a long shot to show the full execution of a move he zooms in on a fine point like the impact of a punch by focusing solely on the knuckles as it impacts and then flips to the fighters spinning on their feet ,this in-turn switches to how the rain beads of the hat Ip Man is wearing. It all looks very stylish and beautiful ,but I have missed the action, I as a martial artist have wanted to see.
Within the same fight a sturdy looking man comes to attack ,you get glimpses of his face as the rain thrashes down around them , i'm looking and thinking ,yes I am right it's Cung Lee ,a renowned fighter , Tony and Cung clash amidst the rain and for some of the fight you actually see some good exchanges ,but the priority to show me a drop of blood in slow motion as it hits the rain and splashes up in motion begins to slightly irritate me.
The film has hardly been on ten minutes and I'm thinking this is going to be a long haul. It's also here the film switches to Ip Man who is narrating the story to us and goes back in time to his days in Foshan .
The idea of The Grandmasters is to show us a biographical view of how Kung Fu was viewed in China around the 1900's . . It shows that the important thing is respect and shows how the elders kept the young ones in line ,they dictated who could teach and who they could teach and stipulated that their arts not be shown to Westerners.
Something that even till this day exists in the Chinese arts more so then any other.
The brunt of the film focuses on a distant relationship between Ip and Gong-Er, even insinuating they had a romantic element between them, this has offended some Wing chun masters ,you have only to read some articles on the net.
Now the film also switches midway to the story of Gong-Er, and her revenge filled destiny which comes from the fact that Ma San who rebelled against his master Gong Yutian (Gong -Er father) ,the result in of Gong Yutian being old and the manner of the confrontation cased Gong Yutian's death.
Gong -Er blames Ma San for this and sets out to reclaim her birthright of the master of their style of Bagua.
Now this all is narrated by Tony Leung as Ip Man at times to . The film loses some of the key elements shown in Wilson Yip's films, Notably the struggle of Ip's family is mostly relayed by narration leaving the role of Ip's wife by Song Hyo-Kyo void as she vanishes from the second half of the film.
Also our third master Yixiantian aka The Razor has little bearing on the story as his account his more routed in the happenings in Hong Kong.
The Razor is just not elaborated on enough to lend to much to the story. Other then plugging the gap for some added action, when the three masters are in Hong Kong trying to make a new life after the devastation of the war.
Wong Kar Wai has crafted a gorgeous looking film as always ,and I think this is what keeps you watching. The action scenes between the characters are hit and miss at times ,mainly due to the editing and camera work ,which within a fight scene does not always work.
The fight between Gong-Er and Ip Man is quite well formulated with a good showcase of what the two exponents are capable of. Where as the confrontation between Gong-Er and Ma San is not so enjoyable to watch .It's like with each action scene Wong decided that he must shoot each one with a different twist , some of the angles work well while others actually annoy.
For most part Wong Kar Wai is a great storyteller and I have enjoyed his films, but for action he should leave it up to the choreographers like Sammo and Yuen Woo Ping to shoot it, adjust cameras their way and let them edit those scenes. Because as a action director I don't think Wong Kar Wai has the experience .
If your a fan of the Wilson Yip films (and who isn't?) then this will probably disappoint, The Grandmaster is a enjoyable film,it's just not a great one. Mainly due to lacking some fundamental points of Ip's life and the erratic camera work on the action scenes.
Tony Leung Chiu Wai is really good as Master Ip , I actually like him in the role ,not playing it to brash and seeming very laid-back whilst still maintaining a level of mystery about him.
Score out of Ten = A not so Grand 7
Review Date : 24-05-13
Reviewer : Sertes Nake
Version reviewed is the Region 3 DVD release by Mei Ah Entertainment ,it's a double disc set with bonus features and a dts soundtrack for the film.
Some stills from the Behind the scenes extras on the bonus disc in the Region 3 DVD release.
Tony Leung Chiu Wai (above and below)
Tony Leung Chiu Wai going through training for the role
Zhang Ziyi Training (above right) Zhang Ziyi talks about role (below)
Chang Chen in training (front on the right)
|Directed by||Wong Kar-wai|
|Produced by||Ng See-yuen |
|Written by||Wong Kar-wai|
|Screenplay by||Wong Kar-wai |
|Story by||Wong Kar-wai|
|Starring||Tony Leung |
|Music by||Frankie Chan|
|Cinematography||Philippe Le Sourd|
|Editing by||William Chang|
|Studio||Block 2 Pictures |
Jet Tone Films
Bona International Film Group
|Distributed by||Sil-Metropole Organisation (Hong Kong) |
Bona Film Group (China)
Annapurna Pictures (United States)
The Weinstein Company (International)
|Release dates|| |
|Running time||130 minutes|
|Country||Hong Kong |
|Language||Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese|
Cast and Characters