"Martial arts. Two words: Horizontal and vertical. There's no right and wrong; the last man standing wins."
Over a decade in the making, Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster is finally here! Initially planned as a biography of Wing Chun Grandmaster Ip Man (Best known as Bruce Lee's master), The Grandmaster has since become an epic drama about three martial artists who walk three very different paths in their road to becoming grandmasters. While the filmmaker touches on familiar themes like unrequited feelings and longing between lonely people, he also tries his hand at new themes by exploring the philosophies behind martial arts and the slow decay of that world's long-standing traditions. To accurately depict the various martial arts schools occupying that world, Wong spent several years visiting martial art masters across China to study the ideological and physical differences between each school. He even recruited martial arts scholar/filmmaker Xu Haofeng (The Sword Identity) to serve as a co-writer of the script.
In addition to WKW regular Tony Leung Chiu Wai starring as Ip Man, The Grandmaster also co-stars Zhang Ziyi in a scene-stealing performance as a strong-willed Bagua Quan master, Chang Chen as a mysterious Baji master who wishes to escape his espionage life, Zhao Benshen as a retired grandmaster, Song Hye Kyo as Ip's wife Zhang Yongcheng and Xiao Shenyang as a Hong Kong hoodlum. The three main stars all underwent extensive training in their respective martial arts schools in order to execute the complex action choreography by Yuen Woo Ping (The Matrix, Tai Chi Master). Always the perfectionist, Wong kept the production of the film going for over three years. After the long, delay-filled wait, Wong finally delivered a gorgeous epic that is also one of the most thoughtful explorations of the martial arts world ever put on film. The opening film of the 2013 Berlin Film Festival, the highly anticipated film is also the biggest commercial success of Wong Kar Wai's distinguished career.
Hailing from a rich family, Ip Man (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) devoted his life to practicing Wing Chun in the city of Foshan. When Gong Baosen, Chairman of the Chinese Martial Artists Union, decides to mark his retirement with a sparring match in Foshan, Ip is thrust into the limelight as Baosen's chosen opponent. Despite objections by Baosen's daughter Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), Baosen goes ahead with the match and breaks his family's unbeaten record with a rare loss. Gong Er manages to save her family honor by winning a rematch against Ip, and the two even strike up an unspoken bond in the process. However, the Sino-Japanese War breaks out, causing Ip to lose his family fortune and Baosen's disciple Ma San (Zhang Jin) to turn to the Japanese for self-preservation. While Ip struggles to care for his family, Gong Er makes a major sacrifice in the name of revenge. Meanwhile, a mysterious man named The Razor (Chang Chen)