#REVIEW: “THE GRANDMASTER”
Cinephiles will rejoice as a resurgence of Auteur Writer/Director Wong Kar Wai is long overdue. In a celebrated Career which has seen several highlights including In the Mood for Love, Happy Together, Fallen Angels and Days of Being Wild, the Hong Kong Filmmaker tries his hand at aMartial Arts-Drama for the first time in The Grandmaster. Does he succeed? Exceedingly so.
The Film which uniquely is told through both Cantonese and Mandarin dialogue, retells the Story of Wing Chun Grandmaster Yip Man (Tony Leung). We witness his rise to prominence, his fall which sees the loss of his Family and wealth during the second Sino-Japanese War and rise once again after his relocation to Hong Kong in the ’50s. Yip would go on to be known as the Man who international Martial Arts Icon, Bruce Lee. The Grandmaster also tells the ill-fated Love Story between Yip and the breathtakingly beautiful Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), Daughter of Northern Chinese Martial Arts Master, Gong Yu Tian (Wang Qing Xiang).
Wong gives us an accurate snapshot of the ever-changing Chinese political landscape and while riveting action sequences are exquisitely shot and tightly-framed, this Film always first and foremost is a compelling Story. Rarely verbose, Wong is tasked with explaining the Mythology and History behind The Grandmaster, managing to do so here concisely. A first time collaboration with Cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd (Seven Pounds, A Good Year) proves a winning one, The Grandmaster reading like elegant Poetry.
Much credit goes to Hong Kong Cinema Legend Leung who electrifies as Yip, bringing to life an unwavering silent strength which carries him through his most personal struggles through the most taxing action sequences, making it all look effortless. One cannot help but become enamored with reigning Queen of Chinese Cinema, Zhang, enveloping each moment she appears with an understated elegance, driven in her all-consuming ambition to restore her Father’s legacy in the face of being discounted for being a Woman. She is defiant, even if it means going against her Father’s last wishes. A key encounter late between Gong Er and Yip Man is runs deep in emotion, setting the melancholy tone of the Film. If anyone understands how to depict the power of regret, it certainly is Wong. The Grandmaster speaks to loyal Fans and yet an entirely new audience for him.
eOne Films releases The Grandmaster on August 23, 2013.