Inspired by the life and times of legendary kung fu master, Ip Man, Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster is an epic story that spans the time-period which saw the collapse of China's last dynasty and the rise of tumultuous Republican era. Being a time of death, chaos, and division, it is also regarded as the golden age of Chinese martial arts. Being directed by Wong Kar Wai, The Grandmaster is much more of a meditative study about the ideals behind martial arts then the action itself. The film consists of a sprawling and sometimes uneven narrative that really struggles at times to grab the viewer emotionally. This is particularly surprising when you factor in the compelling story of both Ip Man and Gong Er, with Tony Leung and Ziyi Zhang giving stellar performances. While this is a film drenched in spirituality and philosophy it is far from slow with lots of fight sequences that are truly entrancing. Wong Kar Wai makes sure that every single punch and kick is felt by the viewer, routinely using extreme close ups, playing with frame rate, speed ramping, etc. to really capture the impact and damage that these various techniques have on the body. Honestly, given Wong Kar Wai's pedigree when it comes to cinematography the film's visuals didn't blow me away, but the highlight of the film from a visual perspective is no doubt the train station fight sequence. While Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster isn't as concise or emotionally resonant as it should have been, it delivers what really counts in being a beautifully shot and choreographed martial arts film.
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