The Grandmaster Blu-ray Review
the latest film from one of
Hong Kong's most acclaimed filmmakers, Wong Kar Wai (Chungking
My Blueberry Nights). It is a new telling of the story of Ip
renowned martial artist who is well known for having trained the
Bruce Lee. The story focuses on the life of Ip Man in Foshan during the
and extends the story into events surrounding the Sino-Japanese War and
up to his life's culminating work as a martial artist instructor before
passing. It's a film that almost seems to be told in quieter vignettes,
showcasing passages of time and brief
in places without putting it all together into one entirely linear
Leung) is introduced in the beginning of The Grandmaster as
ruminating on life; contemplating a number of philosophical ideas as
begins to be told by his own point of view. Then the story curves into
gigantic brawl of epic proportions between Ip Man and a number of
I'm pretty sure audiences will be able to guess the victor, considering
famous story of Ip Man as a genius of martial arts. There are many
martial arts sequences in the film which are all filmed in a highly
fashion that shares more in common with dance and the rhythm of the
with showcasing things in an expected or typical action-oriented way.
course of the film, Wong Kar Wai covers different parts of Ip Man's
life and his
career, briefly taking steps to present the martial artist master
other masters of the craft. Unlike some films about the martial artist,
storyline seems to be intentionally confusing to comprehend. It is told
somewhat nonlinear way that makes the film a bit more difficult to
(though I have heard it is more linear in this US cut of the film when
to the original and longer Hong Kong version).
an image to view the Blu-ray
screenshot with 1080p resolution
almost told as if it is being
relayed in fragments by Wong Kar Wai. It isn't something that follows a
traditional narrative. The only thing connecting the scenes together as
more traditional is the occasional in-between cards with information
place and time (with brief historical notes) which is something added
to the US
release. Each scene is almost like a poem being told with a slight
tissue of design connecting them to each other. This is unlike the norm
many action pictures and martial arts efforts.
surprisingly, the main storyline of The Grandmaster is about
relationship to Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang), which is a complicated one that
decades in the story. The main character
of the film is also arguably Gong Er and not Ip man, which is something
may surprise many viewers. One could legitimately argue that Wong Kar
Wai has a
much more invested interest in telling Gong Er's story than Ip Man's -
truly at the heart of the film.
takes moments away from telling the story of Ip Man to focus more
Gong Er and her storyline. By the end of the film, I imagine many
even wonder who the film is referring to as a grandmaster in the title:
Ip Man or Gong Er? The story weaves back and forth the elements of
character's and is at its core a character-based drama about their
expecting this to be a run-of-the-mill action film or just another
martial arts experience will be surprised by how different The
is from most kung-fu films. It doesn't attempt to simply entertain with
sequences (though it has plenty of these scenes, which are brilliantly
choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping - choreographer of The Matrix and
akin to a painting being put
to film with the work of Wong Kar Wai being both abstract and
compared to most films in the genre. It's not simply telling the story
Man (or Gong Er): it's telling the story of what it means to have a
life to drive you and what martial arts can help teach about the world
obvious elements. It asks questions about the existence of martial arts
implementation of it that is about the philosophy so much more than it is about the technique.
particular version of the film (as released by the Weinstein company)
minutes long and is significantly shorter than the original Hong Kong
which is 130 minutes long (and which I would imagine to be the true
cut). The differences are abundant. The editing is quite different as
things have been altered to be more chronological for the US release.
perfectly linear in this version, but it is told with a more linear
that the original cut.
the scenes cut from the Hong Kong version are moments that expand on
- yet there is an extended fight scene
that was also trimmed for the US release. The US cut also adds in some
(mainly in the martial arts scenes, including an entirely new fight
that weren't presented in the original Hong Kong version. Wong Kar Wai
enough footage during the making of The Grandmaster to make
more akin to a 4 hour cut and this element of the production helped to
these differences between cuts. The US release is unquestionably the
cut released internationally (another edit was made that runs 122
ultimately a beautifully
realized vision of creativity with cinematography, minutes). Fans
note of these differences and seek out both versions to compare.
production design, and direction that is artfully employed. However, it
also be somewhat confusing to follow as a film (even within this more
edit) and there are many parts of the storyline that seem to be less
than what one might imagine.
being a slightly uneven film at times, The Grandmaster is still
work from one of China's greatest working auteur directors and it is a
worth seeking out for fans of quality art-house cinema (as told with a
edge). It is one of the most unique, memorable, and fascinating films
MPEG-4 AVC encoded image presents the film in its original 2.35:1
and delivers what is an often fantastic and satisfying presentation of
The Grandmaster. Fans of Wong Kar
Wai are used to him working with a brilliant cinematographer to achieve
artistic results, and this film is no exception, with the work of
photography Philippe Le Sourd catapulting the visual sensibilities of
the film to
incredible heights. The use of color seems astonishingly rich and
you feel as though the world of the film is a fantasy paying homage to
old-school Kung Fu films while being uniquely artistic and modern at
time. The transfer retains sharp, rich details and good clarity
depth of blacks and richness of color is impressive to behold.
complaints it's that some specific shots during the film look as though
have been slightly tinkered with to add a element of DNR on to the
quality. It's never severe and I am pretty picky about DNR: ideally, it
never be used, but some traces of it can be found in this transfer with
decreases in detail during parts of the film. Despite the occasional
the transfer is generally quite impressive and I imagine most viewers
find fault with it.
Mandarin language presentation is preserved with a roaring 5.1 surround
soundstage that is more impressive than I imagined possible for the
to seeing (and hearing) it. The
Grandmaster has one of the more impressive surround sound designs
regarding recently produced films -- it is every bit as immersive and
well-constructed as many Hollywood blockbusters. The bass LFE and depth
soundstage is quite prominent and the crispness and clarity of details
in the dialogue
and music are preserved. You will appreciate the efforts done to
film with the surrounds, especially during the many choreographed
where the details are immersive and impressively realized with this
Master Audio presentation. English
subtitles are provided.
Digital English language dub track is also provided (but is not
and make sure to setup the film before pressing 'play' as the disc
supplemental features are included for The
Grandmaster. Each featurette is presented in High Definition.
Grandmaster: From Ip Man to Bruce Lee (23
min.) is special behind the scenes look at the making
of the film with some filming footage, clips from the film, and
cast members, director Wong Kar Wai, and some special guests, including
film critics. It certainly offers a decent (if brief) look at the film
construction. Director Wong Kar Wai offers a few points that I hadn't
from simply viewing the film so I appreciated getting some added
Conversation with Shannon Lee (7
min.) offers some insights from the daughter of Bruce Lee.
Shannon Lee runs a non-profit that helps to promote the positive
her father and his legacy. She discusses things I hadn't actually heard
Lee before, such as his interest in dancing and how this had an impact
Grandmaster: Behind the Scenes (50
min.) is a fairly extensive making-of documentary that
covers many different elements of the production, from the actors (and
given, to the martial arts, the choreography, and the direction. Includes English Subtitles.
Grandmaster According to RZA (5
min.) is a brief interview with rap artist RZA about his
take on the film and it's style.
the original 130 minute
Hong Kong cut of The Grandmaster is
not included on this Blu-ray release.
Grandmaster is a
frequently fascinating and
well-realized martial arts film from acclaimed filmmaker Wong Kar Wai.
Grandmaster is not the filmmakers most accomplished effort to date
would be either Chungking Express or In the Mood for Love)
certainly something unique within his canon being that it is the first
he's blended martial arts with dramatic and romantic storytelling (the
genres of the filmmaker).
is evocative and beautifully filmed throughout and tells it's story in
fascinating way. Fans of the director shouldn't miss it and anyone
in Ip Man and Bruce Lee will find something worthwhile about the film
ultimate message of finding one's passion in life.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.