“Time seems to pass,” writes Don DeLillo in The Body Artist. Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster would heartily concur, with the Hong Kong auteur reminding us at several points that kung fu and the passage of time are inextricably linked. Few working filmmakers can imbue mundane events with as much majesty and grace as Wong, so when news broke about his long-awaited story of Ip Man—still best remembered as the martial-arts expert who trained Bruce Lee—it appeared as though we were in for a rare treat. And though it might just be this incarnation of the tale (the original Chinese cut is some 20 minutes longer), The Grandmaster takes too little time to cover too many events, not giving them enough weight or space. Wong is a master of small, melancholy moments that appear to contain all the beauty and sadness of the world, a strength The Grandmaster plays to only rarely. But when it does, the effect is mesmerizing. Every frame of this film could be hung on the wall in an art museum, but the awkward editing relies too heavily on expository voice-over and intertitles and not enough on Wong’s magisterial visuals.
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- Release Date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013
- Critic's Score: B-
- Watch the trailer