Yi dai zong shi (2013)
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Don't go in expecting this to be some all out action epic. I found it to be very heavy on the style (as is all WKW), but in this instance it wasn't a good thing. There was way too much talking and era jumps to gain an investment into.
I found it to be hard to be hooked by and it was full of meandering plot points that failed to have resolution.
What we do have here is some infrequent (but amazing) action scenes, beautifully done and artistic. The music is also fantastic, as are the 2 main leads.
A disappointing viewing overall, but not without some merit.
A favorite director of mine is Wong Kar-Wai, and in The Grandmaster, he brings his artful touch to the story of Bruce Lee's mentor, Ip Man. Now, there is no doubt in my mind that Ip Man film starring Donnie Yen is the better ENTERTAINMENT, and I was afraid this new film would feel redundant despite Wong's directorial flourish. It's not, because it only superficially covers the same ground. Wong Kar-Wai has a deep interest in romances conducted at arm's length, something that has come up again and again, most prominently in In the Mood for Love (also starring Tony Leung), but impossible love is prominent in most of his films. So The Grandmaster becomes more about the relationship Ip Man has with Gong Er, the daughter of the Grandmaster he replaced, herself a powerful martial artist (she's played by Zhang Ziyi). We skip through Ip Man's life where this is most relevant - the title cards that effect transitions feel like an American compromise, which could explain why the Chinese version is apparently 25 minutes longer, according to IMDB) - which covers material originally seen in both Ip Man and its sequel. And while it shines best, for me, when the martial artists are talking zen philosophy (it's a very witty film that puts brains over brawn), that's not to say the fight scenes are in any way deficient. Yuen Woo Ping crafts some incredible (and more realistic than usual) choreography filled with double meanings. We're always told that the fight moves inform the audience about the characters, but without a martial arts background, that's very hard to tell. Wong has no martial arts background (beyond the impressive research done for this film), so decodes it for us. It's very much a "pure" martial arts film, in that it is ABOUT martial arts and martial arts philosophy. And of course, there's a lot of image-making, which is Wong's forte. I get the sense that the film's structure is entirely based on a series of photographs taken of the real Ip Man, each reproduced in the film, but the whole thing has a genuinely balletic/operatic/painterly feeling running through it. Sensitive, but eye-catching too.
The 130 minute original version is much better than the rather choppy 108 minute U.S. version. Not WKW's best, but still a very good film.
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