For fans of a certain genre of cinema, Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grandmaster” (the director’s first feature since 2007’s “My Blueberry Nights”) may be one of the most anticipated films of the year. The auteur’s long-gestating biopic of Wing Chun pioneer Ip Man, famous for training Bruce Lee, premiered in Hong Kong over the last few days, and in addition to an early review dropping, some more details about the film have also been revealed.
The director spoke, ahead of the premiere, about how the original rough cut of the movie, which stars Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang and Chen Chang, was around four hours long, and it sounds like there had to be some fairly brutal cuts to get it down to its final 130-minute running time. There are no direct quotes, but a piece on wongkarwai.net describes the heartache and confusion both Leung and Zhang felt upon seeing the final cut of the movie and realizing some of the scenes that hadn’t been included.
And one of the first reviews of the film has dropped from James Marsh over at Twitch, which is very positive on the whole. “Light on narrative, but oozing Wong’s trademark elegance, the film weaves the director’s familiar themes of love, loss and the corrosive nature of time around some of the most gorgeous martial arts sequences ever filmed,” says Marsh. And if you’re wondering about the fight sequences? He writes: “…the staging of the action in ‘The Grandmaster’ is a far cry from the kung fu in Wong’s last martial arts venture, 1994’s ‘Ashes of Time.’ That film instilled a magical quality into its action, coupled with that blurry slo-mo camerawork Chris Doyle favoured at the time. In ‘The Grandmaster,’ we see everything, and the fights themselves are shot almost as elegant courtships, dictated by ritual, ceremony and mutual respect…”
We’ll have to see if other reviewers are quite as effusive, and also whether anything from the longer version will ever see the light of day. “The Grandmaster” went on release in China yesterday, will hit Hong Kong tomorrow, and will play at the Berlin Film Festival next month, where we’ll be looking to catch up with it. There’s no U.S. release date set as of yet, but hopefully that will change after it plays in Berlin.