Haofeng Xu is likely best known for writing the screenplay for Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grandmaster” — starring Tony Leung as Wing Chun master Ip Man, who also taught a young Bruce Lee the form while he grew up in 1950s Hong Kong — but he is starting to build a reputation as a visionary auteur with a unique directorial voice all his own.
In 2011, Xu helmed (and penned the screenplay for) “The Sword Identity” – more of a slower-paced and deliberate tribute to the martial arts films of King Hu – and in 2012 Xu wrote and directed “Judge Archer”, a gorgeously shot film filled with practical fight scenes instead of flashy wire-worked based numbers. Perhaps its because he is also a novelist, martial arts scholar and practitioner that his martial arts films are infused with a deeper love and respect for Chinese martial arts – not just the physical or theatrical aspects, but the philosophical aspects as well. Xu is also a graduate of the prestigious Beijing Film Academy, so approaches the genre with a keen awareness of what came before, and what can still be done with it.
Fans of Xu will rejoice in 2015, because he will be bringing to the big screen “The Master,” based on Xu’s award-winning novella of the same name, which stars rising Chinese actor Liao Fan (whose performance in “Black Coal, Thin Ice” recently netted him the Silver Bear award for Best Actor at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival and who has also starred in other hit Chinese films such as “Let the Bullets Fly” opposite Chow Yun-Fat). Sources also indicate that this is Liao’s first martial arts film, but from the below trailer of the film, he appears to be a natural – playing a master of knives seeking vengeance on those who brought him sorrow.
The film also stars Jiang Wenli, Chin Shih-chieh, Huang Jue, Song Yang and Darren Grosvenor and will also be released in both China and the United States around the Fall of 2015.