Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Grandmaster (2013)- It's both grand and masterful (3½ Stars)

Wong Kar-Wai is a visual filmmaker. You don't say "I want to see this movie!" because of its story, you say it because you want to see Wai's visual style. First and foremost, this film looks EXCELLENT. The environments in the film look stellar. The martial arts in the film is choreographed well too. Thank heavens the film has such a good cinematographer (Philippe Le Sourd) behind the lens, because it would be a real shame to see the film's stunts in quick cuts.

The cast is also really good. Tony Leung is a good emotional anchor and an easy protagonist to follow. Ziyi Zhang carries scenes of her own in the middle, and she also does a good job. Chen Chang, who is a mysterious kung-fu rival called 'The Razor' is actually in only one scene for the American release. He feels incredibly under utilized, which is the fault of the film.

The film's fault is Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein, a man notorious for using his scissor-hands for cutting, splicing, and manipulating many of his releases, has got his chops on this film too, and it shows. I felt a sense of dislike from the beginning when there was an excessive amount of fights without any breathing room, almost video-game like. As I later found out, these scenes were added to highlight the film's choreography and action to excite American viewers. These scenes bored me, and definitely messed with the film's pacing.

Legend says that this film also has a four-hour cut. I would love to see this mythical, maybe non-existent cut because I feel that there was too much story to fit in 120 minutes. The film, spanning many decades, was at its best when it felt smooth like a river. A cut of great length could really make the film flow well.

None the less, America is stuck with an imperfect cut of what may be a perfect film. It is definitely worth seeing, because The Grandmaster is a true visual treat, one of the best of the year.

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