Posted on Thursday, February 7th, 2013 by Russ Fischer
Megan Ellison and Harvey Weinstein have reportedly developed a slightly combative relationship, with some tension arising during the production and promotion of Killing Them Softly and Lawless, and culminating in the lackluster financial performance of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.
But that hasn’t stopped Harvey from putting down money for another film that was funded by Ellison’s Annapurna Productions. The Weinstein Company has picked up US distribution rights to Wong Kar Wai‘s new film The Grandmster ahead of the film’s Berlin Film Festival premiere. Weinstein has distributed several of the director’s films in the past, so the continued partnership is not a surprise. (TWC also grabbed rights for English-speaking Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.)
New reviews are coming in from Berlin for the film, too. We’ll run down the latest estimations of Wong’s retelling of the Ip Man story, and give you the latest French trailer, after the break.
In addition to giving up the news of TWC’s acquisition of the film, Deadline offers a pretty good synopsis:
It is an epic martial arts drama set against the tumultuous backdrop of 1930s China and inspired by the life and times of the legendary IP Man (Tony Leung), mentor to Bruce Lee. The story focuses on two kung fu masters, IP Man, and Gong Er, and as their worlds collide on the night of the Japanese invasion in 1936. The plot encompasses themes of war, family, revenge, desire, love, and memory. The all-star cast headed by Tony Leung Chiu Wa also includes Ziyi Zhang, Chang Chen, Xiao Shengyang and Song Hye Kyo as well as hundreds of Asia’s top martial artists.
Now, the Berlin buzz, which leads to some concern that all the time the director spent fine-tuning the movie has actually drained life from it.
Stephanie Zacharek at Film.com says the film is,
A lush visual epic based loosely on the life of Ip Man, the legendary martial artist who trained Bruce Lee, “The Grandmaster” – like all of Wong’s movies – is meticulously made and extraordinary to look at… But the self-serious precision of “The Grandmaster” may also be its greatest enemy. This is a story told in shards; Wong is so obsessed with visual details – faces refracted as if in a broken mirror, or fragile arcs of blood being traced out on the pavement by the feet of two feuding kung fu masters – that the story he’s trying to tell is partly obscured by them.
Jessica Kiang at The Playlist is less taken with it, saying “the film’s major flaws are front-and-center: characterization and story. Ip Man, whether delivering opaque symbolism in the dialogue or over-explaining in voiceover, makes a frustratingly blank, unknowable protagonist,” while also criticizing it as a fight film, noting that “the visceral thrills don’t come as thick and fast as we’d like.”
And Eric Kohn at Indiewire seems OK with the plotting — rarely Wong Kar-Wai’s strongest suit — as it fits into the movie as a whole:
Even as the plot of “The Grandmaster” gets droopy, it never loses the polished look. Working with a new director of photography (French cinematographer Phillipe Le Sourd), Wong’s attentiveness to color palettes and shifting frame rates are more erratic than those found in his collaborations with Christopher Doyle, but they’re always gorgeous displays often caked in yellows or browns that solidify the ancient quality of the proceedings. Repeatedly capturing Wing Chung disciples gathered together before freezing them into a still image, Wong provides constant reminders of the history at work. The effect is alternately involving and remote as the story zigzags along. The intense chatter about family honor tends to have a listless quality, but Wong’s implementation of fight choreography stands apart from any easy comparison.
Finally, here’s the French trailer for Wong’s film.