The Grandmaster 一代宗师

A beautiful, gorgeous, typically ethereally atmospheric Wong Kar Wai 王家卫 film in the wuxia/revenge flick genre. Stunningly lensed by Phillippe Le Sourd, expertly choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping 元和平 and hauntingly scored by longtime collaborator Shigeru Umebayashi. Tony Leong Chiu Wai 梁朝伟 as per usual is sublime and nuanced: Zhang Ziyi 章子怡 has seldom been better, although there are many moments throughout where I can imagine a young Gong Li 巩俐 (circa "Raise the Red Lantern" 《红灯笼高高挂》) taking on the role and being even more exceptional! These two are the heavy hitters of the film with Zhang Ziyi's character carrying more of the emotional weight and Tony Leung's more of the spiritual essence. The action scenes were amazingly beautiful. It's hard to imagine but Wong Kar Wai managed to retain his signature style but yet infused the fights with a sense of urgency and immediacy. The brilliant use of rain and snow to emphasise the movement and fluidity of kungfu is astounding! As per his past few movies, he retained his penchant for close ups, macros and lingering shots; the intriguing dance between light and smoke, shadow and mirrors. The script is filled with many Chinese sayings (谚语) which the English translation does absolutely no justice. Having said that, it'd have been even better in Cantonese. The plot itself was a tad incoherent, more so than the usual Wong Kar Wai film and I believe that there is an even better movie somewhere inside and on the editing floor, and cannot wait for the Redux or a Director's Cut. Chang Chen's 张震 character remained an enigma, a mysterious thread woven into the narrative but loose at both ends. There are shout outs to his previous films especially 2046 and even, what I believe, which may be wrong, an oblique reference to Leslie Cheung 张国荣. I would watch it again in Cantonese and if, ever, a Redux is released.


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