On the latest episode of Reel Shorts, director Wong Kar-wai’s latest chronicles the life of Wing Chun grandmaster, Ip Man, in the beautifully photographed epic, The Grandmaster.
After nearly a quarter of a century making films, influential Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai has created some memorable and indelible images in some of his earlier films, from Days of Being Wild, Ashes of Time, Chungking Express to Fallen Angels, Happy Together, and 2046.
His latest is a stirring biopic that celebrates the life of iconic martial artist and teacher, Ip Man (Tony Leung), who taught a line of celebrated masters including Bruce Lee in this film. But what gives this film its center is not Ip Man’s artistry but the beautiful, romantic love story at the heart of the film.
Kar-wai does not shortchange the audience with the fight scenes, stunningly choreographed by famed Hong Kong legend, Yuen Woo-ping, who brings the same skill and intensity from films such as The Bloody Fists and Drunken Master to most recently The Matrix, Kill Bill and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
But while the fight sequences are grand in their own right, cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd elegantly and beautifully captures the action brilliantly including one sequence where you can actually see two combatants falling in love in the middle of combat. With several earlier films already made about the revered figure starring Donnie Yen, action star, Leung brings a combination of dignity, elegance and skill to the role that clearly helps elevate and explain why he was so special and how his supreme command of his art mixed with his memorable philosophy made him such an enduring legend.
As the defender of the House of Gong, as well as rival and later close friend / confidant Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), she is equally effective as a woman who denies herself love in exchange for vengeance. The Weinstein Company cut 20 minutes from this story and I would love to see the Wong Kar-wai’s total vision of this story; his previous films are always studies of beauty, artistry and wonderful storytelling – The Grandmaster is a wonderful addition to his impressive canon!