The Grandmaster

Action / Drama / History

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 78%
IMDb Rating 6.6 10 29


Downloaded times
April 25, 2020



Cung Le as Iron Shoes
Hye-Kyo Song as Hwang Jin Yi
Tony Chiu Wai Leung as Lai Yiu-fai
Ziyi Zhang as Xiao Mei
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
1.17 GB
Chinese 2.0
23.976 fps
130 min
P/S N/A / N/A
2.4 GB
Chinese 2.0
23.976 fps
130 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by rblenheim 10 / 10 / 10

Magnificent in its Original International Cut Version

THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE INTERNATIONAL CUT, NOT THE 'HARVEY WEINSTEIN' American VERSION: It was finally time for the great iconoclastic Hong Kong director to turn to martial arts in his intense and atmospheric telling of the great grandmaster teacher, Ip man, and he doesn't disappoint. Wong Kar-wai brings the poetic beauty of his "In the Mood for Love" to this Chinese action genre and executes it with a precise rhythmic heightening reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah at his best, while bringing out the experience of living through the Japanese invasion of China during WWII. The cast is magnificent, especially Tony Leung as the Ip man and Ziyi Zhang as Gong Er who perfectly embodies a kung-fu mistress trying to avenge her father. A Wong masterpiece to put on a level with his finest work! PS: One particular reviewer earlier criticized the editing of this film which, to me, smacks of putting down the film for not being more conventional. Sometimes it is difficult to put aside expectations of what one wants a film to be in favor of what the actual film on the screen is. "The Grandmaster" is, in fact, brilliantly edited. Wong is, if nothing else, a perfectionist in taking years to mold his assembled footage into his own personal rhythmic poem, idiosyncratically emphasizing downbeats and rests as precise as a great composer. What you see here is Wong Kar-wai's personal vision, take it or leave it. I wouldn't change a frame, or a single edit. It strikes me as a perfect diamond by this exceptional, if eccentric, cinema artist.

Reviewed by hkauteur 9 / 10 / 10

HK Auteur Review - The Grandmaster by Wong Kar Wai 一代宗師

Set in 1940s Fushan, Canton province, the martial arts community, lead by Gong Yutian from the north, is retiring and holds a challenge to select an heir to bring southern martial arts to the north. The southern community elects Ip Man, the shining newcomer, up for the challenge. Ip Man develops a friendship with Gong's daughter, Gong Er. The story crosses two decades as Ip Man and Gong Er stand the tests of life. The Japanese Army invasion of Fushan forces Ip Man into poverty and he resettles in Hong Kong. A mutiny within the Gong family sets Gong Er on a quest for revenge. In a time where age-old tradition is being replaced with modernity, how much can one uphold their principles? Who will pass on their lineage? Who takes 14 years to make a movie? Wong Kar Wai is truly one-of-a-kind. He's the only filmmaker who can take unlimited time with financial support (the backers who most likely will lose their investment) and a team that is willing to plunge to the depths with him. It shows in his work. Tony Leung's Ip Man is portrayed akin to a normal gentleman. I'm the biggest Donnie Yen fan in the world and as good as he was playing a dramatized version of Ip Man, Tony Leung's scholar-like image is closer to who Ip Man is in real life. On the kung fu side, Leung is not Donnie Yen but achieves the necessary physicality and fights more convincingly than the quick editing suggests. It makes me rethink how the actual Ip Man may have physically expressed himself, and I doubt he would have fought as aggressively as displayed in Donnie Yen's version. This may be the best Zhang Ziyi role yet. She's never been more likable in any other role I have ever seen her in than here. Gong Er is the film's most relatable character, carries the most pathos and energizes the film by providing the audience someone to root for. When she fights, the stakes are high. There is a somewhat of a battle between fact and fiction within the film's construct. It's almost as if Gong Er, a fictitious character representing tradition, brings the traditional tropes of what one may expect from a martial arts film. While Ip Man, on the other hand, is married to historical fact and delivering the film's message. The fights are filmed tightly, but for a reason. Wong Kar Wai is interested in the details of the movements: the little twists, nudges and arcs where one gathers power that are all specific to each style of Chinese martial arts. For people who are familiar with the basic concepts of Wing Chun, Baqua, Xingyi and Baijquan, it's quite the rare visual treat as bigger movements usually bold better for on screen fight choreography. For those who are not familiar, fear not! There is a sequence where the film presents these different styles. The over-saturation of Ip Man films really has limited the creativity to presenting Wing Chun as a martial art. It's safe to say most audiences know what Wing Chun looks like now. It sounds as though there are a lot of qualifiers for one to understand the film. The world of the film exists within the martial arts community of an older time, where people lived with their own set of rules and traditions. Wong Kar Wai is very interested in presenting these traditions, and similar to how he's filming the action, it's like he's trying to keep a record of it. Characters speak in idioms with multiple subtext underneath (as martial artists do). That's a noble effort, but it may prove difficult for English speaking audiences. A detail I noticed between the early promotional posters to the actual movie poster was that the early ones listed the film's title as The Grandmasters and the actual movie poster's title is named The Grandmaster. It makes me speculate that there probably was a story decision amongst the creative team whether the story should be solely focus on Ip Man or whether it should be about all three of the masters together. That was precisely what the narrative needed to decide on. Whether if I'm right or not, this is a case of a film that clearly has shot too much footage and was forced to be cut down upon its due date. The first cut was reportedly 4 hours and this really came apparent to me upon reflecting about the film. There seems to be a lot lost on the editing floor and unwillingly creates gaps in the narrative. There is much to love about The Grandmaster. It is not a martial arts movie in the traditional sense in where its conflicts are solved by fighting. No, this is a story about legacy. It's about the deeply embedded Chinese Confucian value of improving the quality of life for future generations by passing on our culture and heritage responsibly. Every character in the film is driven by this single motivation and each take it to different places. To quote a line from the film, (I'm paraphrasing) "A martial artist's biggest enemy is life itself." Ip Man is a grandmaster not because of his physical prowess, but because he stood up to life (which was quite tragic) and kept to his grand vision of spreading Wing Chun. I really love the fact that someone made a film about this. That's what ultimately won me over about The Grandmaster. It had a lot of heart, in how the film was made, it's microscopic attention to detail and in it's message. It maybe esoteric, and even downright alienating to some viewers, but the rewards are worth the effort!

Reviewed by CelluloidDog 9 / 10 / 10

Under-appreciated Gem, more Arts House than Action

The most under-appreciated films usually emerge later as gems, often 10, 20 or even 50 years later. For example, Citizen Kane didn't win an Academy Award but 20 years later, it was considered one of the greatest films made. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) was a critically acclaimed film when released but is really considered more of a gem today than 30-40 years ago. Like fine wine, films get better as they age. Once Upon in the West (1968) when released was celebrated in Europe but panned in the US. Twenty years alter, it is considered one of the greatest films ever made. The Grandmaster comes very close to these films. The three reasons this film is panned: 1) People want action, the figure Ip Man represents action and this film breaks from traditional kung fu movies but in the same vein as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In essence, it is just as good as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There is plenty of action but martial arts fans want Jet Li, Donnie Yen or Michelle Yeoh. Hence, they will never give this film an 8, 9 or 10. Action is great, but it's second-rate to the true martial artist fan. 2), People find it complex. The plot is quite simple, really. I suspect it's more about reading prose and not realizing it's poetry. Plot is about Ip Man rising to the best in the South and to be challenged by the northern martial artists but war stops everything. half of the movie is about tradition and honor, not about martial arts. Definitely not about good guy beats up bad guy which draws most people's attention and praise. 3) Ip Man and Gong Er fall in a type of forbidden, unrequited love. It's bounded more by cultural beliefs than personal beliefs. But to many, this subplot slows or kills the action plot. But love isn't complicated, or at least we shouldn't see it that way. On another final note, this film isn't about confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist. Rather, Ip Man doesn't really have an opposing challenge. His challenges are friends, as real martial artists become friends, as mentioned. They test each others' skills and build respect for each other, much like the test fight with Razor. It is the pretenders who fight, like Ma San. It is about honor and respect, not about violence. Movie fans who want a real martial artist star will prefer Donnie Yen in Ip Man (2008) which is artistically almost as good a film. In contrast, The Grandmaster is better written, better acted and better cinematography, but Ip Man with Donnie Yen has better fighting scenes. Keep in mind, Bruce Lee never made great films, they were rather B type films but people love his iconic charisma. Many will like the film for the star, not the quality. So like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this film is mystical and really, martial arts is more a scenic subplot into a man and his world. Or what director Kar Wai Wong intended. Regardless, a question is that should one pan a film because of what it isn't? Or should one celebrate a film for what it is? A parent celebrates and loves each child, regardless of how different. How can we celebrate this film? 1. It's slow but that gives a chance to watch the direction and cinematography which is exquisite. One doesn't rush through The Louvre, but savors the moment. It's quite masterful and poetic. 2. The screenplay and script. Brilliantly done. The dialogue is simple in appearance but every other line has a double meaning. Not since Once Upon a Time in the West has a simple dialogue taken on so many directions. The viewer has to focus on the words and what they mean. 3. There is beautiful scenes, significant cultural symbolism but it is broken down simplistically, most of the symbolism is cultural. It's not hard to understand, just place yourself in another world. It's not a simplistic film like Rocky. Quite the opposite but yet the plot is quite simple, if you realize it's not just about kung fu. Watching Master Gong Yutian practice in the snowy garden was magnificent. The brothel scenes with the martial artists was surprisingly a wealth of characters, costumes and sets. 4. Acting is strong with Ziyi Zhang leading and maybe overshadowing Tony Chiu Wai Leung. To some, that's not sensible: why not a film to showcase Donnie Yen with real moves? Bu Donnie isn't as somber an actor. We see the pain and modesty of Ip Man through Tony Chiu Wai Leung. The plain expressiveness of the actors casts a shadow over the difficult history, the winter months as Ip Man narrates. Ziyi represents the forbidden martial arts, the family secrets, the traditional view of outsiders. Hence she has an important symbolism. Ip Man represents the new, the invention of Bruce Lee and exposure of Wing Chun to the world. The ending was slightly out of place given the poetry of the film. We didn't need Ip Man to give his final quote, although it was snappy, it was out of place. Perhaps, just a fade from the photo shoot with the young Bruce Lee. Just watch and appreciate artistic quality. Real martial arts fans will appreciate the descriptions and dialog over different styles of martial arts. This film won't be really in a Top 100 list of greatest films, but it comes close and should be in a top 250-500 list of great films. Or one of the 50 best films of the decade. A gem. It just isn't a traditional martial arts fan film, rather an Arts House film. I'm not sure whether to give this film a 8.5, 9, 9.5…but seeing the relatively IMDb scores (6.5 at this time), I'm boosting it to its rightful place.

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