‘The Grandmaster’ Trailer #2: Wong Kari-wai Honors Ip Man

Published 2 years ago by

If the trailer for The Grandmaster feels at all familiar, then you’ve probably seen Ip Man, Wilson Yip’s 2008 kung fu dramatization about the life of the martial artist who trained Bruce Lee; at first blush, The Grandmaster appears to follow the same blueprint as Ip Man. The major difference, though, is that Wong Kar-wai is steering the ship, and as good as Ip Man is, Wilson Yip is no Wong Kar-wai as far as color palettes, composition, and cinematography are concerned.

One of China’s most celebrated filmmakers, Wong hasn’t made a feature since 2007′s My Blueberry Nights made a quiet debut on the world stage before being more or less forgotten. (A shame, since it’s actually quite good.) That makes the imminent arrival of The Grandmaster all the more exciting, even if seeing Wong work on a martial arts picture may strike some as a bit odd.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Wong Kar Wai, THE GRANDMASTER is an epic action feature inspired by the life and times of the legendary kung fu master, Ip Man. The story spans the tumultuous Republican era that followed the fall of China’s last dynasty, a time of chaos, division and war that was also the golden age of Chinese martial arts. Filmed in a range of stunning locations that include the snow-swept landscapes of Northeast China and the subtropical South, THE GRANDMASTER features virtuoso performances by some of the greatest stars of contemporary Asian cinema, including Tony Leung and Ziyi Zhang.

The Grandmaster The Grandmaster Trailer #2: Wong Kari wai Honors Ip Man

While Wong is best known for making human dramas about isolation and missed connection (not to mention smoldering romance), his 2000 masterpiece In the Mood For Love and its 2004 sequel, 2046, both hint at the director’s love of good martial arts yarns. Perhaps The Grandmaster is just an instance of Wong indulging that love at long last; if so, he’s picked a great fight choreographer in Yuen Woo-ping (of The Matrix, Kill Bill, and Drunken Master fame) to help him realize his vision, and it’s wonderful to see the Chinese auteur reunite with his go-to lead, Tony Leung, as well.

The Grandmaster likely will take as many liberties with Ip Man’s life story as Yip’s film did five years ago, but the film looks absolutely gorgeous – and besides that, Wong is an incredible storyteller. Here’s hoping it’s as good as early reviews indicate, but we’ll find out later this summer.


The Grandmaster arrives in theaters August 23rd, 2013.

Source: Apple Trailers

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  1. I saw this trailer at the theater last night. I’m not usually a fan of martial art movies and the story doesn’t look like it would do much for me(hopefully there’s more than revealed in the trailer), but the cinematography looks fantastic.

  2. No offense to the great Wong Kar-wai, but the thing that made “Ip-Man” great was Donnie Yen’s portrayal of the titular character. Yes the film took quite a few liberties with the actual Yip-Man’s life, but Donnie Yen really nailed the essence of the character. As good as Wong Kar-wai is, that’s going to be hard to duplicate in the eyes of a lot of people (mine included) who consider “Ip-Man” the pinnacle of modern Kung-Fu films.

    The one thing going against “The Grandmaster” already that I can see from the trailer is the over usage of the signature wire work that Yuen Woo-ping is so famous for. Anyone who knows anything about real Kung-Fu and Wing Chun (the specific style of Kung-Fu that Yip-Man is famous for) in particular, knows that it is a very fast moving style. I’m not sure how well this will translate to Yuen Woo-ping’s slow-mo transition shots. For the most part – “Ip-Man” obeyed the laws of physics. Also the film doesn’t over utilize a lot of wire-fu. I’m not hating, just making a distinction. I actually LOVE Yuen Woo-ping choreographed movies. I’m just not sure that wire-fu is appropriate for a Wing Chun infused piece.

    Wing Chun is one of the rare, few styles that cannot be emulated with Wushu (the go-to kung-fu movie martial Arts system). In order to use Wing Chun in a movie the actor/actress has to KNOW Wing Chun. Donnie Yen is one of those actors that has Wing Chun as his base style. That’s one of the reasons why he has not broken into the American action scene, or if he is in an American film, it’s in a secondary roll. No offense to Wesley Snipes, but Donnie was so under-used in my opinion in “Blade II”.

    For Kung-Fu purists, “Ip-Man” was the end-all be-all of Kung-Fu films. Perfect? Not by a long shot, but it COMPLETELY respected the Kung-Fu style Master Yip-Man is known for. Maybe “The Grandmaster” is going for a more authentic biographical outing with less emphasis on the actual Kung-Fu. In any case, I can’t wait to see it.

    • Completely agree 100%

    • You’re not the only one who feels Donnie got the short shrift in Blade 2. He makes the most of every second he’s on-screen, of course, and he’s kind of tagged as a red shirt character from the moment he’s introduced, but his death in that film always hits me. Not enough Yen!

      I can’t disagree at all with your analysis, either, though I strongly suspect that the use of Yuen’s slow motion wire work has a lot to do with the fact that Tony Leung is no Donnie Yen – even though he’s apparently been training in wing chun for the last seven years to prepare for the role – and also with aesthetics. There’s something really romantic about what Yuen does with his choreography that I think could compliment Wong’s lush, vivid, sensual, restrained style very, very well.

      We’ll have to see once it hits theaters. I’m really thrilled Wong’s making a new movie, so I’ll probably be more than willing to look past the idiosyncrasies that keep Wong’s style from totally jibing with the nature of wing chun.

    • You nailed it. Sure this film has a more stylistic feel to it, but it’s not like Yip’s film didn’t look nice – it looked GREAT. And what set it apart, like you said, was the fantastic action choreography. It was so different from the usual Hollywood fight/action stuff where you only had to look to know there was VFX somewhere – Ip Man and older action films like Bruce Lee’s stuff are some of the only few today that hold up in terms of authentic-looking action (meaning, where the actors actually did most of the fighting – or at least really really looked like they did).

      And Donnie Yen absolutely nailed the character. Was always a bit sad that he wanted to stop at Ip Man 2 instead of continuing to the hinted-at story of him actually training Bruce Lee, but I think there was some legal issue (?) with including Lee in a movie and that Yen didn’t want to play the character too long.

      • Yeah I agree. I also think it was more important to Donnie to pay respect the Yip-Man Legacy (which he did IMHO) than it was for him to try and make a franchise out of it.

  3. this movie put me to sleep as i was laying on the couch.

    • Really? Is it On Demand already?

  4. Can’t go “wong” with this one!

  5. Dang it. Thought this was a retrospective on Grand Master Flash.

    • Now THAT’S a movie I really want to see!

    • Thanks for your assessment. I’ll just wait for the On Demand version then instead of wasting $10.00.

  6. Ip Man totally blew this away.


  7. I was really looking forward to seeing this film. When i got round to it, it was so slow & boring i fell asleep.

    Donnie Yens Ip Man is so much more better.

  8. Inspired by a story told to the doorman before he got a cup of coffee while Bruce Lee’s Tailor was visiting his Dentist. A memorable Tale Wo-Ping would be proud of had he had anything to do with it beyond Inspiring a Pitch made to a 3rd Level Hong Kong Write’s agent after returning from his taxman.

  9. This Movie will probably be some nice high flying action that will be far from the truth, just like most “true stories” are. I don’t know much about Ip Man but, I can tell you real Kung fu fights are sloppy and sad. Youtube has a vintage video of two “masters” going at it. It was bad.