Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Grandmaster (2013)

In a nutshell:  We get to see another film based from the life story of grandmaster Ip Man (or better known as the teacher of Bruce Lee) and yet more than 50% of the film is NOT about Ip Man. It's about Gong Er and her family legacy. lol.

Directed by:  Wong Kar-wai
Story by:  Wong Kar-wai
Starring:  Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi
Music by:  Shigeru Umebayashi, Stefano Lentini
Cinematography by:  Philippe Le Sourd (Seven Pounds)
Editing by:  William Chang
Running Time:  130 mins (Chinese Cut)

This is the first Wong Kar-wai film I have watched and I was excited. So I clicked the remote and hit PLAY with high expectations. The first scene (and Razor's, somewhere in the latter half of the film) I thought was very reminiscent of the Matrix trilogy - I even half-expected Agent Smith (or Agent Chang, whatever lol)  to appear out of nowhere to kick Asian Neo in a fedora in the butt. Of course, I discover soon that Yuen Woo-ping is the action choreographer for both The Grandmaster & The Matrix.

Onto the review. I'm all for non-linear films, I've seen big head scratchers like that, but this one just takes the cake with all the icing & the big fat cherry on top for being the most unnecessarily disjointed narrative I've seen so far! And it didn't even need to be that back & forth, up & down, round & round complicated with the flashbacks, timeline and all. It's not confusing if you pay attention, but it does take you out of your comfort zone once in a while when you try to follow with the timeline. But yeah, The Grandmaster is a beautiful film, no doubt about that. I was stunned by how visually and even thematically appealing it is to me. I love how Kar-wai has given depth to his characters. Though I think he overindulges himself sometimes.


First is the visual and musical aspect of the film. Stunning imagery/cinematography that blends well with Kar-wai's vision. And the musical score is just perfect.

Second is Zhang Ziyi as Gong Er.

She's just phenomenal. Every scene she's in she absolutely owns! She's so kickass & tender at the same time it's insane. And I found myself waiting for her to storm out of doors because she looks so cool doing it haha. As I've said, half of the story is about the Gong legacy, & Gong Er has been painted a clearer portrait of her life & philosophies than Ip Man himself, the film should have been entitled 64 Hands or The Gong or something.

The third and most important aspect of the film is the romance I have felt the whole time I was watching. It's my first Wong Kar-wai as I've mentioned before so I have no basis, but what I've gotten from this film is more than an art film or a martial arts movie. It's the romanticism that has been hanging so heavily in the air and I'm not talking about the lovey-dove angle. It's like when you look at a painting and somehow you feel the passion that has been poured to the canvass by the painter, you see it in every brush stroke? Well in this film, even the silent scenes resonate. Kar-wai made me realize how truly honorable kung-fu is. I've seen a couple of martial arts movies before and I do know about their honor, code etc. etc. and still I didnt' think much of it. In this film, somehow, I understood. I get where they're all coming from. I know how they feel about their art. How it is their life, how it's essential to keep it alive and burning, or even when someone decides it's also necessary to let it die a natural death. The point is, since Kar-wai gave us the time to get to know each of the characters, we can easily sympathize with them, even with the villains. Kung-fu runs in their blood and from start to finish you witness the romance between the people and this art. At the same time, we can feel the romance that Wong Kar-wai has poured to this film. Because every angle & scene is a labor of love. The littlest detail has relevance. Every move has flourish. This movie is grand.

I've watched Wilson Yip's Ip Man 1 & 2. Both are amazing films as well. But these are full-on martial arts films while The Grandmaster is a mix of arthouse, a bit of kung-fu, and a lot of Kar-wai's esoteric mojo. So there's no use in comparing (as I've read in a lot of movie boards) because they're special in their own ways. 

To end my review, I just wanna say that if Obama was Chinese he kinda looks like him. LOL.

My Rating:  4/5 

*Photos/GIFs courtesy of Tumblr.

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  1. Nice work.. I loved this film.. It was one of the best I have seen, regarding a story with honor and substance... :)

    1. it's beautiful :) But if you enjoyed Ip man's story, Wilson Yip's are great too! Also, I prefer Donnie Yen as Ip Man

  2. This is a wonderful review! Keep them coming, please, as I love your writing and flair! I agree, there is no sense in comparing apples and oranges. :) Visually stunning films are usually amongst my favorites, so I am excited to see this one - possibly twice, if it has that "zipping around" kind of timeline. I loved the "Ip Man" movies, especially the first, and the Matrix really started something with its technique and approach to filming fight scenes, so "The Grandmaster" truly intrigues me. Movies with choreographed fight scenes like "The Matrix" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" that include slow-motion and various martial arts that are done well, look realistic and have the visual impact that will keep me watching rate high with me. I cannot wait to see this film!

  3. If you loved The Matrix & CTHD, I'm pretty sure you'll love this! It's not that confusing really but the flashbacks jump back and forth like one minute you're in 1950 then next scene you're in 1949 then back to 1952 etc etc.. I watched this around 2am so my mind wasn't that alert and I had to keep up and rearrange a straightforward timeline in my head. hahaha

    I really enjoyed Wilson Yip's Ip Man 1&2 and I love Donnie Yen! Can't wait for the third one, I hope it pushes through :)



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