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The Grandmaster [Blu-ray]
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154 of 162 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2013
The information on the Amazon website indicates a running time of 130 minutes which is the running time of the Hong Kong version. The Weinstein US version was dramatically shorter at around 108 minutes. The two versions are different with some scenes added to the 108 minute version and some dramatic chopping of the Hong Kong 130 minute version to get to 108 minutes. In other words, neither of the two versions is complete. It is likely that the Amazon information on this release is incorrect. I would wait until this is sorted out before ordering. So if one wants a more complete version of The Grandmaster, then one would have to buy both versions. The director, Wong Kar Wai, is never finished in terms of editing the film. So that the theatrical release in the US was the Weinstein Bros version and that is a lot simpler than the more complex version that came out of Hong Kong. But both versions would be able to stand on their own.
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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2013
There are different cuts of this film, and some are much less sensible than others. The "international release" in particular has been severely cut so that some characters just appear out of nowhere. Reviews of one version may simply not make sense for a different version.

Which version is this? (how long is it?)

(Wikipedia says: "There are three versions of the film that has been released. First is the domestic "Chinese Cut" of the film that runs 130 minutes. Second is the version of the film that debuted at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival at 123 minutes. The third is the version released by The Weinstein Company that runs at 108 minutes." Note NTSC<->PAL conversions _may_ produce running times that differ by a handful of minutes; even so running times would make it clear which version/cut a disc contains.)
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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2013
THIS IS A REVIEW ON THE ORIGINAL CHINESE UNCUT (130 min.) VERSION!

It was finally time for the great iconoclastic Hong Kong director to turn to martial arts action in his intense and atmospheric telling of the great grandmaster teacher, Ip man, and he doesn't disappoint.

Wong Kar-wai brings the poetic beauty of his cinematic genius displayed in such works as "In the Mood for Love" to martial arts action executed with a precise rhythmic heightening reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah at his best, bringing out the sensations of living through the Japanese invasion of China during WWII. The cast is magnificent, especially Tony Leung as the Ip man, and Ziyi Zhang as Gong Er perfectly embodies a kungfu mistress trying to avenge her father. A masterpiece by Wong to put on a level with his finest work.

My only gripe about this Blu-ray release (which looks stunning in its clarity of picture and color, highlighting Wong's penchant for rain and darkness) is that the special features (unlike the feature itself) do not have any English subtitling -- so unless you read Chinese you won't be able to know what Wong or his crew and cast are talking about. The feature does, however, have full subtitling.

A worthy addition to your Blu-ray library.

PS: One other reviewer criticized the editing of this film which, to me, smacks of putting down the film for not being more conventional. Sometimes it is difficult to put aside expectations of what one wants a film to be in favor of what the actual film on the screen is. "The Grandmaster" is, in fact, brilliantly edited. Wong is, if nothing else, a perfectionist in taking years to mold his assembled footage into his own personal rhythmic poem, idiosyncratically emphasizing downbeats and rests as precise as a great composer. What you see here is Wong Kar-wai's personal vision, take it or leave it. But let's not denigrate it for not being a conventional action picture or someone else's Ip man film. I wouldn't change a frame, or a single edit. It strikes me as a perfect diamond for this exceptional, if eccentric, cinema artist.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
I suppose being Bruce Lee's former teacher and someone who had made the martial art Wing Chun known around the world, the curiosity around his life became so strong that directors Wilson Yip and Herman Yau had their turn in bringing his life to the big screen. Wilson Yip's "Ip Man" was a film with a lot of fiction around it, which focused entirely on action sequences with Donnie Yen in the title role. Herman Yau's "The Legend is Born: Ip Man" was an unspectacular martial arts drama but a little more subtle and certainly not as bombastic as Wilson Yip's films.

Well, finally the highly anticipated biopic about Ip Man directed by Wong Kar-Wai has finally arrived. A little different from his usual films, as the film goes for refreshing ideas and themes rather than decadent emotions, it is a film that has a lot of hype as with any other film directed by him. People should be aware that one needs to temper their expectations with Wong Kar-Wai's "The Grandmaster". It is a film about a true-to-life figure and is a period piece that brings the concept of how martial arts can apply to living. Wong Kar-Wai takes on a premise that he has not done before that his fans would have reason to celebrate. This review is based on the 130 minute film released in Asia, I have heard that another cut of the film was debuted internationally.

1930s China. Ip Man (Tony Leung) is a rich, young martial arts master who does not want to compete and yet he finds himself thrust into the limelight as his peers push him into a sparring match with Chinese Martial Arts chairman Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang). The match was more technical than a display of skills as Ip Man asserts his inner skill to get the best of Yutian. As a result, Yutian's daughter, Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi) who is also a master in her own right of the 64 hands, issues a challenge to Master Ip as to restore her family's reputation. The two spar in a flow of rhythmic movements that almost looked like poetry. This is only the first few minutes of the film, as Wong Kar-Wai co-wrote the screenplay to include certain periods in Ip Man's life. If life has four seasons, then the first 20 years is spring, but then his life takes a turn to winter during the Sino-Japanese war.

Wong Kar-Wai intentionally made the film to feel rather convoluted and episodic. Perhaps in an effort to express his themes and metaphors, and to cover as much of Ip Man's life as best he could. Wong does not primarily takes his focus on Master Ip's life, but rather he brings into the fold the way each period was in his life and how certain people have influenced his life both directly and indirectly. The writing in the film was definitely trying to bring forth the concept as to how the teachings of martial arts could be applied to the living of one's life, as Tony Leung clearly elaborates in the first few minutes in the film; "It is all about the horizontal and the vertical". I take it that one is left standing while the other is laying down in martial arts. Such is something that could certainly be seen in life. One stands while the other lays down, perhaps one needs to learn how to lay down in order to stand, and also at a mirror image, one needs to learn to lay down in order to stand.

Wong Kar-Wai has some rather heavy themes going around here. There is much to take in the film, the dialogue is often filled with philosophical meanings and metaphors, but we all know that it is usually what a Wong Kar-Wai movie is all about. The characters in the film move about its themes, and while its structure felt a little loose, the resonance for each of them is pretty crystal clear. Ma San (Zhang Jin) and Gong Er make choices that often feel that they were based on emotions such as pride, anger, honor and love. The theme of vengeance that comes with the two, was something that keeps them from fully reaching the peak of kung fu. This brings into its narrative as to there are three levels that signify the highest achievement in martial arts: "being, knowing and doing." This lesson comes from Master Gong to Ma San, and strongly expressed through Gong Er's life that she had taken a vow that kept her from becoming a wife and having children in order to avenge her father. Ma San and Gong Er chooses from a very straight-forward emotional level that chooses their destiny for them.

Now, Master Ip also has potential for all these emotions, but he is more passive. His approach to life is a more peaceful one, as his love for Gong Er remained inside and that such a thing could not be in the past. Master Ip is married to Wing Sing (Song Hye-Kyo in a limited screen time) while Gong Er was engaged. Ip Man choose to rise above such desires and ambition, that he approaches life from a less than aggrandizing path. There is a subtle subversive message around its narrative, and yet it sees things from a humanist point of view. Life has its regrets, and yet, here, it is not something that drives its narrative but merely a consequence. Wong places the film's priorities on the world around the individual rather than what the individual does to the world.

As with Wong Kar-wai's usual style, the film is very lush and a little pretentious. This is not a negative comment, but rather something that I have just grown to be fond of when it came to Wong's films. Wong uses slow-motion with overblown art direction and redolent details to bring the power, the beauty and the flair of the martial arts. All angles were utilized to display the moves and even some close ups to bring forth its effects and intensity. It is a true visual feast but I could've done without the `fighting in the rain' since it had been done so much in other films. The cinematography and the atmosphere of the film fit just should be expected of Wong Kar-Wai; this is after all a style all his own and what made him the renowned filmmaker that he is today.

The screenplay in "The Grandmaster" is pretty strong, and yet it does not come with some issues. I mean, I know this is meant as a biopic, but one is left to wonder if this is Ip Man as seen through his eyes, or is it Master Ip as seen through Wong's viewpoint? I know the film's intentions was a less than fictional one, but really, it feels a little unfocused at times. The script takes some detours that I thought unnecessary, I was a little dumbfounded how a nationalist agent turned ass-kicking barber called "the Razor" could've made a good device to further Ip Man's transitions and yet he was only in three scenes. Chang Chen's the Razor was shamelessly used and felt like a `filler' since the film could've gotten along fine without him. I also thought that the narrative played a little too heavy on Zhang Ziyi's character rather than its supposed main protagonist.

"The Grandmaster" could've easily been called "The Grandmasters" as in the plural form. It feels little unfocused to be a biopic on Master Ip, and truth be told, its messages could've easily been delivered in a film by any other director about a martial artist's journey experiencing the same things in the world. Tony Leung does a great job as the lead, as he felt a little smug and yet, tempered. Stoic, yet filled with emotions. His performance was certainly better than Donnie Yen's. It was also great to see Zhang Ziyi's to once again do her thing; she was elegant, beautiful and graceful as always. Despite some flaws, "The Grandmaster" is a good film that deals with devotion, humility and humanist ideas, and rather than using love as a driving force, it is a mere upshot. It is about just what it means to stand upright, that how one chooses the right path is often the one left standing. This message is truly complete and grown-up that this film gets a High Recommendation from me.

[4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 19, 2014
I've seen the U.S. version of this film about a half dozen times in theaters. Needless to say, I'm a huge fan. But I've been wondering if, as some have suggested, it's a "dumbed down" edit for American audiences compared to the longer Hong Kong release. So when this Blu-ray's launch date was delayed, I decided to buy the HK version and I was surprised by the differences in ways I did not expect at all.

Let me start with the bad news first: if you're a fan of the film, you really need to own both versions. Both have important strengths, and neither one is a wholly satisfying substitute for the other. BUT… if you forced me to pick just one, I'd have to say the U.S. release would be it, and that's not the conclusion I expected to reach. Here are the pros and cons of each:

HK PROS:

1) It fully fleshes out a few characters who have been edited down to cardboard cutouts in the American release. In particular, you'll be astonished at how much more there is to the stories of The Razor, Madame Ip and Ding Lianshan (the guy who only shows up in the cigarette lighting scene with Ip in the U.S. version.)

2) There is just a little more background information to many things throughout the film, which makes for a more complete story.

HK CONS:

1) It eliminates the amazing scenes of Gong Er, both as a child and an adult, practicing martial arts in the snow!!! These are some of my favorite scenes in the whole movie, and I was shocked to find them gone in the longer version.

2) It doesn't mention that Ip Man trained Bruce Lee! Again, I was shocked, since this is such a key revelation in the U.S. release, and it brings Ip's story full circle. Maybe the assumption was that Asian audiences would just know this.

3) The HK version just doesn't feel as taut and powerful as the U.S. release. Yes, this is a very subjective comment, but I thought the longer lengths of just about everything in the film left the pacing feeling sluggish and "off" by comparison.

HK DIFFERENCES (not pro or con, just different from U.S.)

1) The U.S. release focuses on Gong Er's later opium addiction, and is clear that she died from it. The HK version mentions but doesn't focus on the addiction, and is vague about whether she died from it… it's presented as just one possibility rather than a certainty. I'm not sure which version is the more accurate.

2) Gong Er is more focused on vengeance in the HK version.

3) In the key early scene where Ip Man breaks the cake in the hand of the Northern Grandmaster, Ip says something very different after breaking it than he does in the U.S. version.

U.S. PROS:

1) Ultimately, while you lose what I've mentioned above in this edited version, the editing makes for a tighter, better paced and more powerful film. And this is why I'd pick this release if I could only choose one.

2) There's a difference in the scoring of the U.S. version (though not a new score)--probably driven by the differences in editing--and it also contributes to the U.S. release being more powerful.

3) It contains the unmissable scenes of Gong Er practicing in the snow.

4) It contains the important info about Bruce Lee.

U.S. CONS:

1) Poor development of a few important characters (see above)

2) Less background info throughout (but the story is still completely understandable)

Well, there you have it! Thanks for taking the time to read my review, and I hope you find in helpful in making a buying decision!
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2013
This is the watered (dumbed) down international version that was in USA theaters this August. Import the TRUE version from Hong Kong which represents the directors vision. And don't worry its Region Free & of course is encoded with DTS HD MASTER AUDIO 7.1!
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2013
Splitting quan into soft and hard, the dialectics reflect each other, but in the end they destroy each other in a fatalistic and karmic cycle. Circular in structure mirroring the movements of bagua and its 64 palms, the movie breaks and temporal cohesion seem to skip and jitter. Perhaps also mirroring the broken and non-linear movement of the mind, the movie's internal structure and story-line can easily confuse a literal and linear-minded audience, as easily as a circular-palm disorients a clumsy opponent.

Supposedly in the end, the 2 different styles of Bagua and Xing-yi are fused and unified into the modern representation of Wing chun through Ip Man, but the true Grandmaster, Gong Er dies before she can pass her art to another heir.

Hidden and mysterious masters are linked through a tangential path weaving the cobwebs of the mind with the dark alleys of Hong Kong, as the movie moves serpentinely through history. It is a highly complex and artful movie made by one of the greatest living directors today. Spending over 13 years of research and a decade to make, this movie is truly a masterpiece, that can only be appreciated by a discerning viewer.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2014
This just released (March 4, 2014) version of The Grandmaster is not the original 130 minute version that the Amazon information above claims it is. It is the 108 minute much-abbreviated film that Wong Kar Wai reedited for American theatrical release. It is a shame that WKW hacked up his film under pressure from the Weinsteins, a shame that Martin Scorsese has lent his name to this mutilation, and a shame that Amazon continues to falsely advertise this DVD as the full-length version of the film that opened in Hong Kong last year.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2013
Look at them both. You'll see scenes in the weinstein truncated version that were cut from the Hong Kong version and having seen both have no idea why they were. Someday I'm sure Wong Kar Wai will release a longer version that both of these with even more scenes. I hope so!!!!!!!!!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2013
THIS IS A REVIEW ON THE ORIGINAL CHINESE UNCUT (130 min.) VERSION!

It was finally time for the great iconoclastic Hong Kong director to turn to martial arts action in his intense and atmospheric telling of the great grandmaster teacher, Ip man, and he doesn't disappoint.

Wong Kar-wai brings all the poetic beauty of his earlier masterpiece "In the Mood for Love" to martial arts action and executes it with a precise rhythmic heightening reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah at his best, while bringing out the sensations of living through the Japanese invasion of China during WWII. The cast is magnificent, especially Tony Leung as the Ip man and Ziyi Zhang as Gong Er who perfectly embodies a kungfu mistress trying to avenge her father.

But the star of the film is Wong Kar-wai who parades before us a non-stop gallery of brilliant images in which virtually every shot is a great painting, and a story wonderfully trumped by a nuanced style that, while all his own, ranks with the finest filmmakers of all time.

Anyone who loves how filmmaking can provide insight into the human experience needs to see this work of art by a Hong Kong filmmaker who seems to be showing the rest of the world how great films should be made.
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