The GrandmasterThe Grandmaster is more than just a Kung Fu film, and it also won’t let you down if you come for sheer martial arts performance. Produced and directed by renowned Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, The Grandmaster portrays the life story of Chinese Kung Fu master Ip Man (Tony Leung), with a focus on different styles of martial arts, distinct characters, and intertwining destinies of Kung Fu masters at the time (early 1900s).

The GrandmasterThe Grandmaster is more than just a Kung Fu film, and it also won’t let you down if you come for sheer martial arts performance. Produced and directed by renowned Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, The Grandmaster portrays the life story of Chinese Kung Fu master Ip Man (Tony Leung), with a focus on different styles of martial arts, distinct characters, and intertwining destinies of Kung Fu masters at the time (early 1900s). 

It takes a compelling story to make a good film. The Grandmaster is not about being a hero who kicks enemies’ ass and saves people lives, but how a well-respected Kung Fu master carries himself, treats his family, faces life predicaments, and lives out the essence of Chinese martial arts.

“See yourself, see the universe, and see through lives,” is the philosophy that the Northern grandmaster Gong Baosen (Wang Qingxiang) passed down to his daughter, Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang). Through diligent practice, Kung Fu masters often see themselves as they progress, and while they travel around the country to contend with other masters, they see the world. But it takes an open-minded and wise person to see through lives, to think of martial arts beyond competitions, and to embrace the value of Kung Fu for its integrity.

Ip Man truly believes in Wing Chun, a Southern Chinese martial arts style, and tries to instill his philosophy in his students, including the legendary Kung Fu actor Bruce Lee. The film’s emphasis on Wing Chun successfully introduces the style to a global audience. However, Wing Chun is not “the best Kung Fu”; “Sixty-four Hands”, practiced by the Northern grandmaster Gong Baosen and his daughter Gong Er, is a dexterous style that stands out with Ziyi Zhang’s performance.

Ip Man appreciates Wing Chun for its simplicity and practicality, and never intends to use it to fight. He appreciates Sixty-four Hands in the same way. It may seem like Ip Man and Gong Er are attracted to each other in their fighting scene in the opulent tea house. However, as pointed out by director Wong, Ip Man is only fascinated by Gong Er’s outstanding Kung Fu skill, and more concerned about whether Sixty-four hands can be passed down after Gong Baosen dies than personal attraction.

Almost as grand as a palace, the tea house is the gathering place for Southern martial artists. The gold decoration and the beautifully dressed women in the tea house represent the luxurious southern lifestyle before World War II. On the contrary, northerners live a tougher life; both Gong Baosen’s funeral in the snowy wilderness and Gong Er and Ma San’s (Max Zhang) fight on a snowy day on the railway platform illustrate the harshness of northern China.

The distinction between the North and the South is also made by languages used in The Grandmaster. Ip Man and other Southern masters speak Cantonese (a southern Chinese dialect), while Gong Baosen, Gong Er and Ma San speak Mandarin Chinese. You might also notice that southerners smile more, and are also more light-hearted and sometimes laughable, unlike the rigid northerners.

The only scene that seemed slightly awkward is when Gong Er invites Ip Man for a banquet in the tea house before their fight. The director intentionally creates a beautiful scene where Gong and Ip stares at each other, with plenty of beautiful women surrounding them. The music in the scene is a Western-style music, which doesn’t fit with the traditional Chinese setting. It is a unique scene, but doesn’t really flow with the rest of the film.

The Grandmaster has its connection with Seattle. Wing Chun was brought to the city of Seattle by Bruce Lee, a proud student of Ip Man, who attended Garfield High School and enrolled at the University of Washington, majoring in drama while also studying philosophy and psychology. As an admirer of great martial artists, it is delightful to see The Grandmaster showing in Seattle, celebrating the universal appeal and value of Chinese martial arts kinetics and philosophy.

Running time: 2hr 10min; Rated PG-13

 

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here