The Grandmaster

The Grandmaster (Wong Kar-wai, 2013)

The film chronicles the life of the Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man from the 1930s in Foshan, his flight to Hong Kong after the Second Sino-Japanese War, and the events leading to his death.

After a six year gap since his last film, My Blueberry Nights, a film that was received with mixed reviews but that pleased the writer of those lines, director Wong Kar-Wai comes back with his much awaited new film The Grandmaster starring Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi. Visually and stylistically, Wong’s film doesn’t have a false note. It is sumptuous with the usual Wong Kar-wai slow motions and raw but beautiful footage. No wonder The Grandmaster was nominated at the 86th Academy Awards for Best Cinematography by Philippe Le Sourd and for Best Costume Design by William Chang Suk Ping.

Technically brilliant and a nice demonstration of what Wong can do with the biopic genre, The Grandmaster is however a little too epic in its storytelling and Wong’s writing is a bit too conventional. It is, in fact a very good movie made with great means but seems to fell flat when it comes for its story and development. A true feast for the eyes.

Having only seen In the Mood for Love, 2046, and My Blueberry Nights, which I all liked to different levels, The Grandmaster would become my least favorite of Wong Kar-wai’s filmography. Knowing I was in for a nice treat I was disappointed but still it urged me to catch Wong’s earlier films like Days of Being Wild and Chungking Express.

Overall, it is an average film from a grand director that is capable of a lot more when it comes to storytelling and moods. Knowing that Wong passed a lot of time in the editing room to finally release this picture I wonder where in the process Wong got too excited and finished his film this way. It was written before that a film is rewritten in the editing room and in this case it let us wonder where the product turned. Is it in the writing or in the editing? Let’s just hope that The Grandmaster was Wong’s lesser film and that he’ll be back on track for more films that will become instant classics like In the Mood for Love and 2046. Average but worth your time since it is crafted by a real master of visuals.


  1. Which cut of the film did you see as I saw 2 versions of it. The much preferred 130-minute Chinese cut and the truncated 108-minute American cut. I did a review on both versions of that film which you can read here/

    1. It was the 130 minutes Chinese cut. I liked it but I was not swept away... I'm reading your reviews right now!


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