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The Grandmaster Review


Leave it to Hong Kong maestro Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood for Love) to reinvent both the historical biopic and Chinese kung fu action movie in one fell swoop. This is a staggeringly beautiful movie, designed and shot with precision and sensitivity to show both the action and the drama in telling detail. The story of one of the most iconic martial artists in Chinese history, the film is lush and involving even as it's also somewhat overly complicated and hard to engage with.

It starts in 1936, when northern master Gong (Wang Qingxiang) travels to the south to investigate reports about Ip Man (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), who just might be the future of kung fu. Intrigued, he offers Ip the chance to become the grandmaster. But Gong's daughter Er (Zhang Ziyi) feels like this is an insult to her family. Then in 1938 Japan invades, and Ip refuses to collaborate with the enemy, which separates him from his wife (Song Hye-kyo) and children. Although Gong's heir Ma San (Zhang Jin) does make a deal with the Japanese, which strongly offends Er's intensely held code of honour. More than a decade later Ip tracks down Er again in Hong Kong; she's working as a doctor while Ip is teaching martial arts. His newest student is the young Bruce Lee.

This story is told through a series of epic hand-to-hand battles, each of which is choreographed in a specific style suitable to the combatants. These details may not be clear to unschooled audience members, but the way Wong shoots and edits the scenes is seriously striking. With lush photography by Oscar-nominated Philippe Le Sourd, the fight scenes have astounding detail, often slow-motion close-ups that make each encounter refreshingly lucid. They're also never overwrought, designed to show the skill of the fighters rather than the usual blood and death. And while Leung gives the film a strikingly cool centre, it's Zhang Ziyi who breathes real passion into the story, lighting up the screen even when she's standing silent and still

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The Grandmaster Trailer

Ip Man is a legend in the field of martial arts, best known for teaching Chinese actor and fight Bruce Lee. Born into a prosperous family in Foshan, Southern China, his enthusiasm for his art leads him to the well-known brothel, the Gold Pavilion, which becomes the spot where Gong Baosen renounces his title as Grandmaster in Northern China. Ip is challenged to a fight in order to usurp the Grandmaster title, though against Gong's daughter Gong Er, who is worthy to take up the title? Between the continued threats of Japanese occupation of China, Gong Baosen finds himself amidst a brutal betrayal leading Gong Er on a mission of vengeance. As both Ip's and Gong's personal toils wear on, their futures become uncertain - Ip's only goal is to become China's greatest grandmaster and to teach his disciples the magnificence of his life's passion.

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'The Grandmaster' Re-Tells The Story Of China's Greatest Martial Artist [Trailer]

Ziyi Zhang Tony Leung Chiu-Wai Cung Le

Here's a martial arts film to get excited about, the semi-autobiographical tale of one of China's most famed martial artists in the past hundred years; the legendary Ip Man. The Grandmaster re-tells the story of the legendary South Chinese fighter and his feud with Northern China's fightest fist fighter, Gong Yutian, his decline into poverty following the Second Sino-Japanese War and his eventual rise once again to the top as a fighter in Honk Kong, where he eventually met and trained Bruce Lee.

Watch the trailer for The Grandmaster

In the film, we see Yutian renounce his title as grandmaster in order to challenges Ip (who was picked as South China's representative fighter) to a fight to see who really is the greatest martial artist of their time.

Continue reading: 'The Grandmaster' Re-Tells The Story Of China's Greatest Martial Artist [Trailer]

The Grandmaster Trailer

Ip Man was a martial arts legend famous for tutoring the actor and Jeet Kune Do founder Bruce Lee. This movie tells the story of how Northern China's best martial artist Gong Yutian renounces his grandmaster title and challenges Ip (who was picked as the representative of Southern China) to a fight. However, following his dignified win, Gong's daughter Gong Err seeks to restore her family's honour with another challenge. Later, though, their lives are interrupted by the Second Sino-Japanese War and Ip's family is thrust into poverty while Gong Err is forced on a mission of vengeance when her father is brutally killed. Both must choose a new path for themselves to follow - though Ip struggles to make much of a life for himself; standing out against the other fighting talent of Hong Kong proves to be difficult and he must use all his ability to become a great Grandmaster.

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'The Grandmaster' Premiere

Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Zhang Ziyi (r) - 'The Grandmaster' Premiere Berlin Germany Thursday 7th February 2013

Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Zhang Ziyi (r)
Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Zhang Ziyi (r)

The Grandmaster - Press Conference

Tony Leung Chiu Wai - The Grandmaster - Press Conference Berlin Germany Thursday 7th February 2013

Hotly Tipped Martial Arts Epic 'The Grandmaster' Kicks Off Berlin Film Festival

Wong Kar Wai Tony Leung Chiu-Wai Ziyi Zhang

The 2013 Berlin Film Festival kicks off on Thursday (January 8, 2013) with the premiere of Wong Kar Wai's epic martial arts movie The Grandmaster, set in China at the time of the Japanese invasion in 1930s. Starring Wai's regular muse Tony Leung Chiu Wai as the kung-fu master and Zhang Ziyi as his rival, the stylized picture is a story of "honor, principle, betrayal and forbidden love," according to Reuters.

Wong, who is also president of the jury at the film festival this year, said he wanted to get beneath the surface of martial arts with the movie, "Grandmaster' is a film about kung fu. It tells you more than the skill. It tells you more about these people, martial artists, the world of martial arts. What is their code of honor? What is their value? What is their philosophy?" The original idea for the movie was first announced over a decade ago and it took the filmmaker a rather laborious four years to make, including rigorous training for both Leung and Zhang. "There is a spiritual side of kung fu and that side cannot be learned from books or by fact-finding," said Leung, 50, "It grows spontaneously. So that's why I had to practice four years. You can only achieve that thing through practice."

The Grandmaster will screen to a star-studded audience in Berlin, including Matt Damon, Anne Hathaway, Nicolas Cage, Jude Law and Catherine Deneuve. It's main competition at this year's festival comes in the form of Damon's 'Promised Land', Steven Soderbergh's 'Side Effects' and Iranian drama 'Closed Curtain'.

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Ashes Of Time Redux Review

Six months after he went all gooey over America in My Blueberry Nights, Wong Kar-Wai returns packing a re-tooled cut of his indecipherable 1994 martial-arts whatsit Ashes of Time, now provocatively titled Ashes of Time Redux. The missing link between the buzzed buffoonery of the Chinese filmmaker's first two films and the intoxicating hysteria of Chungking Express and Fallen Angels now finds itself aligned more with the latter stylized works of an auteur rather than the baby steps of a confused film school graduate.

Not much clearer for the digital colorization, edits, and a new score by Yo Yo Ma, the rushing surge of the film's narrative strands might remain perplexing unless you're equipped with the film's press notes. Focused mainly on the hazy remembrances of Ouyang Feng (Leslie Cheung), Kar-Wai facilitates a whirling, desert-set phantasma where swordsmen brood like Goethe when they aren't doing battle with thieves... and their women are simultaneously incapable of forgetting or remembering their lovers.

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Hero (2002) Review

After political (Raise the Red Lantern), sexy (Ju Dou) and reflective (The Road Home) films, writer-director Zhang Yimou embraces the aerodynamic action of digitally enhanced kung fu swordplay made famous in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The object here is to outdazzle that genre landmark and, perhaps, to outdo it at the box office.

It's probably too late and too familiar a technique to do either, but there's plenty to admire despite those limitations, for which it has already received critical and award level acclaim. At the time of this writing, it is one of the 2002 Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language Film.

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Hard Boiled Review

Way back when, before John Woo was making shoot-em-ups Stateside, before Hong Kong became property of China once again, and before Chow Yun-Fat tried to prove to the world that he knows how to speak English with the boring The Replacement Killers, we were granted a really cool cult-classic action flick named Hard Boiled.

This flick, probably one of the most violent and definitely one of the most tense action flicks ever done, concerns Tequila (Chow Yun-Fat), a haunted superman of a cop who hangs out at a Jazz bar (run by John Woo) by night and guns down gun runners by day. Like every good guy in John Woo flicks, Tequila is untouchable. Early on, the superintendent of the CID says "Give him one gun, and he's superman, give him two, and he's God." Tequila's girlfriend, Teresa (Teresa Mo) is getting white roses (a motif that shows up later in the "Once a Thief" series) that contain encoded messages from an informant in the triads. This informant, Tony (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) faces the facts that he is beginning to forget whether he is a cop or a gangster.... And all of that is before his world begins to get very confusing.

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Ashes Of Time Review

Between the lousy DVD quality (dig the big gray bar that covers the bottom half of the screen -- that's where the subtitles go!) and the baffling story line (ancient China, guy living in the desert, magic wine, dual identities, and horse thieves!), the average viewer isn't going to exactly thrill to Ashes of Time's charms. As mood music, the movie's got its share of beautiful, tragic, and poetic moments. As an entertainment experience, the detractors who find the movie to be on the dull side have a point or two.

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HERO Review


The most expensive and highest grossing film in Chinese history, Zhang Yimou's "Hero" went on to snag one of 2002's Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Film. Unfortunately, the notorious Miramax snapped it up and sat on it for two years, as if somehow ashamed of their newest acquisition. Indeed, naysayers quickly dismissed the film as a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon knockoff.

Earlier this year, Miramax very cautiously allowed "Hero" to open the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, and now they've suspiciously dumped it at the end of August, where unwanted films usually go to die.

Despite all this, when Hero finally exploded on the big screen it quickly and effortlessly established itself as one of the two or three most exceptional, spectacular and beautiful martial arts movies ever made.

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