On one hand, I don’t think this is a perfect movie. Many of the scenes are beautiful by themselves, but I’m not sure that it comes together into a structure that makes sense. On the other hand, I’m fascinated with this movie, having watched the U.S. version twice in theaters then the original on blu-ray. The U.S. makes some major blunders, changes the order of events to the detriment of all emotional build-up and overuses title cards. But those title cards came in handy for me, and the original version made more sense for my having seen the other one first. Also, even though the U.S. is a half hour shorter, it somehow contains entire scenes that weren’t in the original.
My favorite edit:
Tony Leung has been in Red Cliff and Lust, Caution but I haven’t seen him since 2046. He plays Ip Man, a renowned martial artist and teacher, introduced fighting a hundred dudes including a final boss played by Cung Le (Bronze Lion) under the slow-motion rain. Action isn’t abstracted like in Ashes of Time – it’s actually more commercial-looking than usual for Wong, shot by new guy Philippe Le Sourd but edited by William Chang who worked on Ashes of Time and the others.
Ip moves away from his wife to Hong Kong then isn’t allowed to return. He and Zhang Ziyi have a mutual fascination, and the best part of the movie follows her story as she reclaims her father’s title from his traitorous former disciple Ma San. This sidetrack from the “Grandmaster” story plus the movie’s splintering into different versions make it seem more open-ended, like every character could unexpectedly lead his own movie. For instance, Chen Chang (male star of Three Times) has a minor scene in the U.S. cut, and two completely different scenes (including a major anti-government battle) in the original. Usually we hear rumors of trouble in the editing room then Wong delivers a final, completed film – this time he seems to have given in to artistic indecision. Or maybe it’s simply the Weinsteins’ fault – either way, I’ve enjoyed assembling the pieces in my mind, dreaming my own Grandmaster.
Jiang, for instance, deserves his own entire movie: