Scene and Reviewed: The Grandmaster

The Grandmaster Blu-ray and DVD Release Coming March 4 from Anchor Bay Entertainment and the Weinstein Company

GrandmasterThere have been several films featuring Ip Man, the legendary martial artist, in recent years. Donnie Chen has played the Wing Chun master twice since 2008, a role he claims he will never reprise. Dennis To took a turn in the 2010 film The Legend Is Born—Ip Man, and before him, Yu Chenghui assumed the role in The Legend of Bruce Lee. Now comes The Grandmaster, released in China in 2013 and available this year in the U.S. thanks to the Weinstein Company.

Directed by Wong Kar-wai, a favorite of eastern and western film festivals, the movie is a taut epic—is that an oxymoron?—tracing Ip’s life from the mid-1930s to his death in 1972. A master of the kung fu style known as Wing Chun (literally, “spring chant”), Ip, played with a humble confidence by Tony Leung, defeats Gong Yutian, a martial arts master from Northern China, in 1936, earning the distinction of Southern master. He also fights Gong’s mysterious daughter, Gong Er—and loses.

The two stay in touch through letters until war drains Ip’s fortune, kills two of his children, and forces him to Hong Kong in 1950 in search of work. He lands at a kung fu school, where he earns a job by out-fighting the headmaster. (In one of the few light moments, Ip asks the headmaster if he has eaten lunch. Yes, the headmaster says. Smiling slyly, Ip replies, “I did not want it to go to waste.” A single blow later, the lunch makes its cameo.)

In Hong Kong, Ip reconnects with Gong Er, who has become a doctor. She tells him about her father, who was murdered by his Northern successor, Ma San, and her subsequent vengeance against Ma: she killed him by shoving him against a speeding train. The fight left her wounded, and she turned to opium in 1940, dying in 1952 from an apparent overdose. Ip focuses on his teaching after that, bringing Wing Chun many followers, “including,” we learn in the movie’s coda, “his most famous student, Bruce Lee,” who appears for two seconds as a fuzzy-haired adolescent.

The Grandmaster is a gorgeous film, a study in cinematic detail. In a fight scene in the rain, for instance, the water dripping from the brim of Ip’s hat is rendered in poetic close-up. The fight between Ip and Gong Er has the tenderness of foreplay, but other battles have some absurdities, such as when Ip and an opponent kick opposite sides of a rickshaw and crush it. This is the draw, however, of kung fu movies: stylized violence, no different from Die Hard or The Fast and the Furious, except using natural weapons, the hands and feet, instead of Uzis or 1969 Camaros. In these fantasy elements, Wong Kar-wai delivers.

Where he misfires is Ip’s reunion with Gong Er: he makes it too compelling. There had been hints of friction between her father and his man Ma, and when she reveals what happened, we see the toll those events took. Zhang Ziyi, whom I had only ever seen in Rush Hour 2 as a remorseless assassin, shows us her range, making Gong Er not so tortured that she can’t get stuff done (like taking out her father’s killer). Compared to this bloodlust, Ip Man’s wanderings provide little conflict.

In its sweep and cinematography, its pitch-perfect acting and thrilling, if occasionally risible, battle scenes, The Grandmaster is perhaps the best account of the life of Ip Man, a figure important to both eastern and western cultures.

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DVD Bonus Features include:

  • The Grandmaster: From Ip Man to Bruce Lee
  • A Conversation with Shannon Lee, Daughter of Bruce Lee
  • The Grandmaster Behind the Scenes
  • Wong Kar Wai’s Journey Into Martial Arts
  • Focus on Fighting Styles
  • Recreating Imperial China
  • Tony Leung
  • Zhang Ziyi
  • Director Wong Kar Wai
  • What Makes a Martial Artist
  • The Grandmaster According to RZA

THE GRANDMASTER BLU-RAY™

Street date:                  March 4, 2014

Catalog #:                    BD61155

UPC:                            013132611556

Run time:                     108 Minutes

Rating:                         PG-13

SRP:                             $29.99

Format:                        Widescreen

Audio:                         5.1 DTSHD-MA

Languages:                Mandarin Chinese with English Subtitles, English, English Subtitles For The Deaf & Hearing Impaired & Spanish Subtitles

 

THE GRANDMASTER DVD

Street date:                 March 4, 2014

Catalog #:                   WC61154  

UPC:                           013132611549

Run time:                    108 Minutes

Rating:                        PG-13

SRP:                            $24.98

Format:                       Anamorphic Widescreen

Audio:                         Dolby Digital 5.1

Languages:                Mandarin Chinese with English Subtitles, English, English Subtitles For The Deaf & Hearing Impaired & Spanish Subtitles

Learn more about THE GRANDMASTER at: www.thegrandmasterfilm.com

About the Weinstein Company

The Weinstein Company (TWC) is a multimedia production and distribution company launched in October 2005 by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, the brothers who founded Miramax Films in 1979. TWC also encompasses Dimension Films, the genre label founded in 1993 by Bob Weinstein, which has released such popular franchises as SCREAM, SPY KIDS and SCARY MOVIE. Together TWC and Dimension Films have released a broad range of mainstream, genre and specialty films that have been commercial and critical successes.  TWC releases took home eight 2012 Academy Awards®, the most wins in the studio’s history. The tally included Best Picture for Michel Hazanavicius’s THE ARTIST and Best Documentary Feature for TJ Martin and Dan Lindsay’s UNDEFEATED. THE ARTIST brought TWC its second consecutive Best Picture statuette following the 2011 win for Tom Hooper’s THE KING’S SPEECH.

Since 2005, TWC and Dimension Films have released such films as GRINDHOUSE; 1408; I’M NOT THERE; THE GREAT DEBATERS; VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA; THE READER; THE ROAD; HALLOWEEN; THE PAT TILLMAN STORY; PIRANHA 3D; INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS; A SINGLE MAN; BLUE VALENTINE; THE COMPANY MEN; MIRAL; SCRE4M; SUBMARINE; DIRTY GIRL; APOLLO 18; OUR IDIOT BROTHER; I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT; SARAH’S KEY; SPY KIDS: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD IN 4D; MY WEEK WITH MARILYN; THE IRON LADY; W.E.; CORIOLANUS; UNDEFEATED; THE ARTIST; BULLY; THE INTOUCHABLES; LAWLESS; KILLING THEM SOFTLY; THE MASTER; SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK; DJANGO UNCHAINED; QUARTET; ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH; DARK SKIES; THE SAPPHIRES; SCARY MOVIE 5; KON-TIKI; and UNFINISHED SONG. Currently in release are FRUITVALE STATION, LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER, THE GRANDMASTER, SALINGER, 12-12-12, PHILOMENA, MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM and AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. Upcoming releases include ONE CHANCE and VAMPIRE ACADEMY.

TWC is active in television production, led by former Miramax Films President of Production Meryl Poster. TWC is the studio behind such hit television series as the Emmy® nominated and Peabody Award winning reality series PROJECT RUNWAY and its spin-off series PROJECT RUNWAY ALL STARS and PROJECT ACCESSORY; the VH1 reality series MOB WIVES and its spin-off series MOB WIVES CHICAGO and BIG ANG; and the critically acclaimed scripted HBO comedy/crime series THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY which also received a Peabody Award. The company is in production on the upcoming TLC series WELCOME TO MYRTLE MANOR, the A&E series RODEO QUEENS, and the Lifetime reality competition show SUPERMARKET SUPERSTAR hosted by Stacy Keibler.  Among TWC’s other projects in development for television are the martial-arts epic MARCO POLO for Starz, an untitled private eye procedural for FX, and THE NANNY DIARIES developed by ABC with a pilot by Amy Sherman Palladino.

About Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay Entertainment is a leading home entertainment company.  Anchor Bay acquires and distributes feature films, original television programming including STARZ Original series, children’s entertainment, anime (Manga Entertainment), fitness (Anchor Bay Fitness), sports, and other filmed entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray™ formats.  The company has long term distribution agreements in place for select programming with AMC Networks, RADiUS, and The Weinstein Company. Headquartered in Beverly Hills, CA, Anchor Bay Entertainment has offices in Troy, MI, as well as, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Anchor Bay Entertainment www.anchorbayentertainment.com is a Starz (NASDAQ: STRZA, STRZB) business, www.starz.com.