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Showing 1-10 of 434 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 499 reviews
on February 18, 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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on February 22, 2017
the cinematography and choreography are exquisite.
this is one of the rare and select Chinese Martial arts films that transcend being a mere vehicle for the superficial gratification of elaborately staged combats.
This fim is cinematic poetry; and as Ip Man observes, the story of the lives of the two protagonists in this film is likened to an opera; that being said, with an outstanding corps de ballet in the finest traditions of theatrical artistry.

Overall, the film is a masterpiece of visual and spiritually evocative parlance, with select scenes that rival the western biographical film about the painter Vermeer; "Girl With A Pearl Earring" or certain Peter Greenaway films.

This, however, is no fusion of Eastern and Western traditions, nor does it's Asian roots offer challenge to it's Western counterparts; to understand this is a prerequisite to the comprehension and appreciation of what is being presented to the viewer .

The genius of "The Grandmaster" shines brightly with films such as "Hero" and Tan Dun's Met Opera production of, "The First Emperor" with Placido Domingo.
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on December 30, 2016
About as close to a wing chin bugua love scene you will ever see between Gong Er and Ip - outstanding.
The father daughter bagua in the snow was perfect to symbolize and cement the future- past dynamic that runs throughout the film.
And perhaps the best scene is passing on the Grandmaster baton in the 'cookie' scene bringing Taoist thought to life when the past-future tension is think in the air. We see a sort of push-pull where of past and future meet dancing/spar a little and separate.

Ip: The world is a big place, why limit it to north and south? It holds you back. Break from what you know and know more

Grandmaster: I never thought I'd see the limits of my own vision. Today I've made you famous...I hope you will be like me. Pass the torch. Never give up the faith. Keep the light burning

Ip did and broke from tradition teaching many to include non-Asian students. Martial arts belongs to all who are willing to learn.
After the film - back to the dojo and train. Enjoy
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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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on June 23, 2017
This is a stylish martial arts film, once again retelling the story of Ip Man from an almost peripheral perspective. It's visually impressive and moody with a noir feel. There are many scenes of rain, reflection, snow dark settings casting a silken feel to everything. My favorite scene is actually of Ziyi Zhang's character taking back her family's honor retrieving the mantle of her father's Kung Fu style. This is not a fast paced martial arts movie, it's more like a poetically metaphorical depiction of Kung Fu arts. The story can feel a bit disjointed with various leaps through the timeline of the characters lives but I found it enjoyable.
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on February 18, 2014
I'm not fit to judge this film because I'm just not a fan of the genre.

So I must admit that to me, the whole karate, kung fu, whatever stuff seems rather silly, save the "self discipline" part. I do respect that part. But otherwise, much ado about nothing. Maybe I just don't "get it" somehow 'cause I'm on the same wavelength as Chris Rock when he said, "Russian tanks could be rolling down Flatbush Blvd, but I ain't fightin'."

Anyway I just watched the film because it was nominated for a couple of Academy Awards (cinematography and costume design), but I fell asleep briefly several times. But I'm guessing fans of the genre really liked the film 'cause it gives some history of two of their heroes, the guy (Ip Man) who apparently trained Bruce Lee and some girl, Gong Ir. I did learn a little history of this sort of stuff.

Not sure why this film was nominated over others for cinematography. Seems like so many of the scenes were dark and often rainy and the costumes just were not memorable to me. But likely I should have paid closer attention. The film just didn't grab me. But again, when it comes to this genre, I'm just not so smart.

My advice would be to watch it if your are a fan, but skip it if this sort of stuff doesn't do anything for ya.
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on August 19, 2016
The frequent title cards over-explained the plot and slowed down the action, but this made more sense once I realized the film had been edited from its original version by the distributor for a Western audience. Why the American distributors couldn't give the audience the original cut and trust the viewers to make sense of it is beyond me.
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on April 23, 2014
This is a wonderful movie. Wong Kar-Wai's gorgeous visual style and Yuen Woo-Ping's masterful choreography are a match made in kung fu heaven. However, if you want a fast paced, edge of your seat action movie, look elsewhere. The Grandmaster has some breathtaking action, sure, but it is first and foremost a drama, but it's a good one, so hopefully that won't be an issue for you. A lot has been said in these reviews of the difference between the Chinese and American cuts of the film. I have watched both many, many times, and while I prefer the original, the American edit is also very good. It is more streamlined, plot-wise, has some scenes in a different order for the sake of clarity, and more/different voiceover and exposition. Each version includes some footage that the other does not, but the Chinese cut is longer overall. I wish both versions had been included on the American blu ray release, but they were not. I'm hoping they'll release a "director's cut" or "international version" at some point, but I'm not holding my breath. If they do, hopefully it will have some decent bonus features, which is the one area that this release is sorely lacking in.
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on November 2, 2013
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 director 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. Please take note that Wong Kar-Wai's rendition of Master Ip's life was never meant as a martial arts action flick.

Well, finally the highly anticipated film 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 will 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 expressions 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 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 piety, 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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on June 4, 2017
Wong Kar Wai doesn't make a bad movie especially with a great cast. However, I much prefer Donnie Yen's story of IP Man mainly because The Grandmaster is more confusing than any other Wong Kar Wai movie, which is kind of saying a lot.
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