It's five years since the last film from the great Chinese director Wong Kar-Wai. It's eight since his last Chinese-language film, "2046." And depending on your tolerance for the latter, it's twelve since his last great film, "In The Mood For Love." But Kar-Wai has such a hugely impressive body of work behind him — from "Ashes Of Time" to "Chungking Express" — that anything he does will have a fever-pitch of anticipation behind it, and that only seems to get greater the longer he takes with his latest project, "The Grandmaster."
A biopic of legendary martial artist Ip Man (Tony Leung), a legendary master of Wing Chun who taught Bruce Lee, among many others, the film also stars Zhang Ziyi, Chen Chang and Song Hye-Ko and began filming two-and-a-half years ago, in December 2009. But in true Wong fashion, the epic shoot lasted for nearly two years, on-and-off (shooting was still taking place late last year and there is more to come — more on that in a moment). There was no sign of the film at Cannes last year, and all we have to prove that the film actually exists is a teaser trailer that premiered nearly 18 months ago.
But recently, signs have started to arrive that we might be seeing the film before the year is out, with Chinese distributor Bona Film revealing that it should land at the end of 2012, and rumors that an official Chinese release date would be revealed imminently. And indeed it has been, as Kevin Ma (@TheGoldenRock), a writer for the site LoveHKFilm, has received the official announcement from the distributor that the film will hit mainland China on December 18, 2012, over three years after filming got underway .
This probably means that U.S. audiences will not get to see it before 2013: Wong's films have traditionally opened in China long before they come to the West, and while Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures has the rights, there's no distributor proper attached at present (although the Weinstein Company would probably be a good bet, given the close relationship between the two companies). If we're very lucky, we may get a brief Academy-qualifying run, as Zhang Yimou's "The Flowers Of War" did last year, but even that's likely to be touch-and-go.
While this announcement is curiously close to Thursday's reveal of the Cannes Film Festival line-up, don't hold your breath for the "The Grandmasters" making an appearance even if the last four films from Wong Kar-Wai had their premiere there. Reports out of Asian media in recent days have revealed that the last round of filming on "The Grandmaster" will take place in May, pretty much ruling out any trip to the south of France. So in short, looks like we won't be seeing this for ourselves until 2013.