In the history of China, there spawned many schools of kung fu. For simplicity it was broadly divided by the Yangtze River as factions either from the North or the South. In the 1930s when the Grandmaster of the North retires, he chooses his best student Ma San as his successor, then travels to the South and puts forward a challenge for them to find someone worthy to put up as a leader for the South. However, Ma San thwarts anyone who dares to step forward. This challenge is to take place in a brothel, as back in the day, the brothel was more like a men's club for the martial artists and where most of the battles were fought. Known for his skills as a martial artist, the South chooses Ip Man to represent them and trains him in the various individual skills of more experienced martial artists. When the competition arrives however, it is a competition steeped in philosophy and intelligence.
This is a story of a man happy with his life and his family. A man of intelligence and skill, not phased by nor has the need to show off his skills. All this changes once he is challenged and through this challenge meets Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), the daughter of the Grandmaster. Feeling disadvantaged for not being born a son and a highly skilled martial artist herself, Gong Er feels the need to prove herself. However, embarking on this journey for the honour of her family proves more difficult than she thought. The man she is up against is not the bad man she thought he might be and she finds herself attracted to him. This is a story of unrequited love as it is about family, honour, loss and power.
Winning swags of awards from the Hong Kong, Asian and Golden Rooster film awards and nominated at the 86th annual Academy Awards for best cinematography and costume design, this film however missed out on winning the award for best foreign film. It missed that mark for me also. Loved the cinematography and one can easily lose oneself in the film. Perhaps it was the looks that lingered on for a fraction longer than it needed to be that at times made it a bit too long a pause for the viewer. At least for me it did. When dotted with many of these artistic pauses, it becomes a tad tedious and deflects from the enjoyment and attention one has viewing the film. It was still worth the watch for me as I love gazing upon and losing myself in the sheer artistry of cinematography. I thought scenes of the ladies of the night looked absolutely stunning. I give this a 6.5 out of 10.
There were so many beautiful quotes in the film, I just have to mention the ones I loved. Said of his wife; 'She was a woman of few words, because she knew the power of them'. Put that way it really hit me with its profound truth. How about 'Good men can be found among rogues, and hidden masters too'. Again, speaking of a very sharp knife in its sheath 'Its power is in its concealment, not its sharpness'. Last but not least, 'A true martial artist does not live for, he simply lives'. Somehow they just struck me, then I find Bruce Lee is quite the 'quotes' man himself and theres a whole Wikiquote page of it.
Screening exclusively at Cinema Nova - 380 Lygon Street, Carlton (03) 9347 5331 you can buy tickets for $6 on a Monday (this is a regular feature of Cinema Nova's Monday special) if the booking is before 4pm. After 4pm on a Monday, it's still only $9. On other days you pay regular prices. An opening night favourite at the Berlin Film Festival and the official selection of the 2014 Melbourne Film Festival, this has been screening at Cinema Nova for a number of weeks already and I fear it may be on its last legs. This film is in Cantonese with English subtitles.
When this first came out one of the main criticisms of the film was that Ip Man became more a secondary character. I really liked this film but I felt this was the reason the film didn't reach its potential.
Artistic shots are classic Wong Kar-Wai, it's actually not over done in Grandmaster. He really over does it in 2046.