4.5 out of 5
On the past 3 years there have been 2 films about Wing Chun’s master, Yip Man (葉問). Those 2 films I mentioned are Yip Man and Yip man 2, both are his biopics starring Donnie Yen. In Yip Man and Yip Man 2, the stories are more or less according to the real events in the life of Yip Man; from his opulent days as a successful merchant in Foshan, his decline to poverty during Japanese occupation, and his migration to Hong Kong. The biopics focus on portraying Yip Man as an expert martial artist, a father, a husband, and a regular man. They also show Donnie Yen’s impressive martial art skill as he puts the complex art of Wing Chun into practical hand-to-hand combats.
The Grandmasters portrays Yip Man in a different way. This is a fictional adaptation of Yip Man’s life directed by Wong Kar Wai. You can either love or hate Wong’s way of film making. Wong Kar Wai’s films are known to be over-stylized and over-romanticized; every single screen shot looks as if it jumps out of a fancy fashion magazine. Many would thing it’s over the top and fake, but many will find it beautiful and enchanting as Wong even makes a shot with insect repellent looks like it’s worth a million dollar.
The film basically talks about the philosophy of kung fu as it is an allegory to life. The dialogues are most of the time very poetic, some of them are even vague, making the audience guess what is the real intention of the conversation. Tony Leung Chiu Wai is not a martial artist like Donnie Yen, so the fight scenes look overly choreographed, as it is Wong’s intention to portray the scenes more like two people dancing instead of beating each other up. Zhang Ziyi is the fictional Gong Er, the heiress of 64 Hands kung fu who is on a personal vendetta against Ma San (Zhang Jin), her former brother-in-arm. In her seek of justice she encounters Yip Man and camaraderie develops between them for over 20 years. As usual Wong’s signature is to portray unforgettable cameos; South Korean actress Song He Kyo plays a non-speaking role of Yip Man’s wife, while dreamy Zhang Zhen is the misterious “Razor”, a petty criminal who starts to build his own kingdom while the big fish such as Yip Man and Gong Er are busy with their personal turmoils. The Grandmasters is not an action film. It is a beautiful and soulful film about kung fu fantasy that sets in the early 20th century.