Reason Senior Editor Peter Suderman takes a look at the American cut of Wong Kar-wai's kung-fu biopic, The Grandmaster:
American audiences will see a significantly shorter version of “The Grandmaster,” director Wong Kar-wai’s kung-fu biopic about legendary martial arts teacher Ip Man. The version now playing in U.S. theaters has been cut by more than 20 minutes, with some scenes chopped, others rearranged and fill-in-the-blanks cue cards inserted to clarify turns in the story.
I haven’t seen the longer cut, but reports generally indicate that the American version emphasizes the movie’s action at the expense of its love story.
The problem is that there’s not quite enough action to make this idea work. It wasn’t meant to be a fast-paced action epic, but a historical love story with kung-fu flavor. And so the movie feels imbalanced, as if it’s not quite sure what movie it wants to be. What’s left in this edit is a slow-moving muddle — a not-quite action movie that feels 20 minutes longer than it is.
Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai has always been at his best portraying wordless feeling — the silent longing between lovers who cannot come together, or the dreamy air of traveling alone in a city. His movies have a rich, textured beauty to them, as if gently draped in sheets of gold and silk.
That works well in stories of unrequited love, like “Chungking Express” and “In the Mood for Love.” But his focus on mood and internal conflict is not as obvious a fit for a story like “The Grandmaster,” which follows the life of Ip Man (Tony Leung), the Wing Chun martial artist who became one of China’s most celebrated teachers — and who, most famously, trained kung-fu pioneer Bruce Lee.
Read the whole review in The Washington Times.