On March 4, Anchor Bay Entertainment and the Weinstein Company will release the official United States Blu-Ray of Wong Kar-Wai’s martial arts film THE GRANDMASTER. For a review of the film, go to my review HERE.
The film itself, the 108-minute American version, is presented in widescreen with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio is beautifully done when seen on a high definition television. There are four special features on the U.S. Blu-Ray, including some featurettes, behind the scenes, and more. Here is a breakdown of what to expect on the U.S. Blu-Ray of THE GRANDMASTER:
THE GRANDMASTER: FROM IP MAN TO BRUCE LEE
A behind the scenes look at the film hosted by mixed martial arts personality Gina Carano. Includes interviews with Wong Kar-Wai, Elvis Mitchell (film scholar), Shannon Lee, showing home video of Ip Man. John Fusco (screenwriter of The Forbidden Kingdom), Tony Leung, Keanu Reeves, Zhang Ziyi, Andy Klein (film critic), showing Yuen Woo-Ping choreographing the action scenes; discuss Ip vs. Gong Er, the train fight scene between Gong Er and Ma San; home video of Wong meeting various martial arts masters; Tony and Zhang in training for the film; Tony discussing how he channeled a bit of Bruce Lee in his role of Ip and studied hard to train in Wing Chun for the film; the rain sequence; Wong admits the casting of Cung Le was a surprise, even to Tony; interview with Cung Le; Tony admits he was shocked at Cung’s size; Cung was impressed with Tony’s tenacity for the role; Zhang Ziyi was the focus next; Gong Er trained in 8-Diagram Fist; Klein gives Zhang props for doing graceful fluid fights. She trained in martial arts for the film, home video of training; Reeves discusses his experiences in training for films; Wong Kar-Wai focus; Cung describes Wong’s films are true art, like paintings; life events for Ip Man.
A CONVERSATION WITH SHANNON LEE
Shannon discusses her father’s training with Yip Man at the age of 13, Lee was threatened by other students when they learned Lee wasn’t 100% Chinese, so Grandmaster Yip trained Lee in private. Influence on Lee’s teaching whoever wanted to learn, which infamously drew the ire of Chinese masters; cha cha dancing; Shannon thinks Lee’s connection to dance helped his influence in martial arts; compares martial arts choreography to dancing; 1972, Lee was goaded by stuntman who thought Lee wasn’t a real martial artist but rather a “paper tiger”, challenge by Lee resulted in Lee victory. Photos of Lee and Ip Man and video footage of Lee demonstrating moves.
THE GRANDMASTER: BEHIND THE SCENES
The best of the special features on this Blu-Ray, this is a 50-minute documentary that focuses on the entire production of the film from start to completion. This behind the scenes documentary is featured in chapters as well:
Wong Kar-Wai’s Journey to Martial Arts
To capture the essence of traditional martial arts, Wong Kar-Wai spent a few years visiting various martial arts schools. Wong admits he came up with the idea of the film in 1996 while making HAPPY TOGETHER. After seeing a magazine cover with both Mao Zedong and Bruce Lee, Wong had thought about making a Bruce Lee film. However, he felt there were too many movies about Bruce, so he began thinking about making a film about Yip Man, Bruce Lee’s teacher. By visiting various schools, interviewing many masters and collecting photos and books, Wong eventually came up with a film that would delve into the world of martial arts circa early 20th Century China and Hong Kong. He met with the likes of Wu Bin (Jet Li’s teacher, who would serve as martial arts consultant on the film), Darren Leung, and lastly, Yip Man’s eldest son, Yip Chun.
Focus on Fighting Styles
Wong ultimately decided that Yip Man wouldn’t be the only “grandmaster” featured in the film. Yip’s Wing Chun is not the only traditional martial art used in the film. To capture the heart of martial arts, the arts of Ba Gua (8-Diagram Fists), Hsing-I, and Ba Ji. This part of the featurette features interviews with Darren Leung (Yip Man’s student who trained Tony Leung), Ba Gua experts Guo Yuanchun and Han Yanwu (who trained Zhang Ziyi), and Ba Ji expert Wang Shiquan (who trained Chang Chen).
Recreating Imperial China
This focused on the set decoration of the film to recreate China during its imperialism. Art director Alfred Yau explains how arts help make a movie. Zhang Ziyi’s Gong Er has a pivotal scene in the film which was set at a temple. The Gold Pavillion, a brothel in Hong Kong, took over a year to build. Zhang Ziyi even praised costume designer, bringing in details of the wardrobe of that era.
Tony Leung explains what it took to play the role of Yip Man. He trained with Darren Leung, Yip Man’s disciple, for two years prior to filming. Leung revealed during his training, he fractured his arm not once but twice during training. The first was a hairline fracture and the second was a zigzag-like fracture, all when he crashed his arms against the protective padding used by one of Leung’s students.
Zhang Ziyi feels there is a strong woman in everyone and that was the personification of her character, Gong Er. Trained in secret from her father, Gong Er is strong willed yet at the same time, has a level of respect for Yip Man. She feels that meeting him in Foshan and then again after the war is a sense of destiny. Zhang described her strict training with Ba Gua masters Guo and Han and yet is very thankful for it helped her performance overall.
Director Wong Kar-Wai
The cast are all in agreement about Wong Kar-Wai. Wong always brings a sense of emotion to life in the characters and goes as far as willing to work with the actors themselves to bring the characters’ true essence. Leung praises Wong on his detail to get research for a film prior to filming.
What Makes a Martial Artist?
The more appropriate title of this chapter should be “What Makes a Grandmaster?”. Wu Bin explains there are three things necessary to be a grandmaster. The first is to be a venerable person. The second is prestige. The third is to have good skills to represent your style to the highest level. Wong Kar-Wai gives his own take on being a “grandmaster” in three simple steps: being, knowing, and doing. If one can pass his skills on to his apprentices, he can be considered a grandmaster in his view.
THE GRANDMASTER: ACCORDING TO THE RZA
This was a somewhat unnecessary featurette as it could have been used in the first special feature. The RZA explains that being a grandmaster doesn’t have to pertain to just martial arts, but in aspects of life. He considers himself a grandmaster of rap along with his group Wu-Tang Clan. It’s about freedom of expression. He then delves into praising two fight scenes and showing respect for Yuen Woo-Ping and Zhang Ziyi and how they evolved in terms of fight choreography and acting respectively. He ends his brief take with saying how grandmasters pass their skills onto their apprentices, resulting in the spirit of martial arts living on. He goes as far as saying in a sense, with fans showing their love of martial arts films and passing their love onto new generations, the spirit of martial arts cinema will live on as well.
With seeing the film from the eyes of not only the director and cast, but those who had some connection to working in martial arts film, notably working with Yuen Woo-Ping; as well as seeing the preparation and hard work director Wong and cast had in making this film, the Blu-Ray has a decent release in terms of its extras, but the RZA special feature would have been better with pieces of his interview used in the first special feature rather than have his own. Definitely see the third special feature in its entirety and just like it did this reviewer, it may just bring a whole new level of respect for Wong Kar-Wai and his martial arts film. Definitely worth a rental, perhaps a possible buy.
Blu-ray • The Grandmaster (2013) • Tony Leung • Wong Kar-wai • Zhang Ziyi