We have to admit, we took a bit of a pause when it was revealed over the weekend that Wong Kar-Wai had snipped fifteen minutes from "The Grandmaster" as he prepped the movie for its international premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival tomorrow. Was it pressure from distributors? A director who has worked on this movie for years who doesn't know when to stop? As it turns out, the real reason for the cuts is something far more banal.
As you know, the film chronicles the rise of Ip Man, the martial arts legend, and it spans quite a few decades of his life. With the movie already running a little over two hours, it seems that Wong Kar-Wai simply wanted to clarify the narrative and remove extraneous bits that might not make a lot of sense or land with the same impact for viewers less aware about certain aspects of Chinese culture. "The version [released in Asia] has elements which Chinese audiences will be familiar with but which will not be that familiar to foreign audiences. There’s so much information that people could easily become confused," he told THR.
"For example, during Ip Man’s opening voice-over about his own background, he talks about his family having a business on Bonham Strand West [a traditional hub of import-export trade in downtown Hong Kong]. Hong Kong audiences will know what that means, but to foreigners it doesn’t mean anything," the director continued. "So we just changed it to how he was running a family business which exports goods to Hong Kong. We made adjustments like this so that international audiences know what it is about."
Frankly, that's fair enough. The director has already hinted that the longer cut will be on the DVD anyway, so no big deal, and it makes the picture easier to understand. There's not much to complain about. So in short: no harm, no foul.
Stay tuned, because tomorrow we'll have our review of the film. Until then, here's the most recent trailer for the movie.