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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews The Grandmaster

December 3rd, 2014 by Conor ONeill Comments

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The Grandmaster (15)
“Yi dai zong shi” (original title)
Directed by: Kar Wai Wong
Starring: Tony Chiu Wai Leung, Ziyi Zhang & Jin Zhang
Running time: 130 min

Want a film that breeds interest like a pay-day loan firm? Want One hour and 48 minutes while you plead for your parole date, stepping and stretching everything bloody happening, I’m just tied to the mast, I’m not the captain? I was expecting the normal martial arts movie when I stepped from winter sun to the small preview screen. I couldn’t have stepped from light and light to back again with such a sumptuous flood on the eye as one man can expect of the silver screen.

And for the first 10 to 20 minutes that’s all it was. A dark room, a twisting wish of a smoke of tobacco and the usual Kung Fu moves we expect of such movies. I put down my pen, dreading the next couple of hours, knowing I was going to be titillated by slow-mo fight scenes reticent of Bruce Lee, adopting a self-styled abortion of the one layered punches, kicks and moulded folders of philosophy of what we Europeans consider the East.

But look at little deeper and you’ll find a Romeo and Juliet of a pearl in this film; on a grander scale, it’s not just ways of life but an exploration of true and the blue of cinematic brilliance. An hour in, mesmerised, I picked up the paper and pen and started to write again. Bladder squeezing, I was waltzed into this epic like a suckling to a tit.

Forgoing the fleshly, I tried to keep my mind on several plots, and thankfully by the end, or ends, they all came together as one beautiful story. But be beware, you have to keep your eye on this convoluted set of dynasties, decades, masters, styles of Kung Fu, allegiances, corruption, elation, false invitation. North versus South, the invasion of the Japanese nation, one must pay attention to every moment of this film. And that might be its failing point.

The director, Hong Kong born Wong Kar Wai, backed by a squad of talented actors puts everything into this movie. It might just be the fractured reading mishaps and nuances of interpretation, or it may just be too many stories happening at once, but we’re drawn into a world we know little about. Tantalising? Of course. Hard to stay on top of the viewer’s recognition? Without doubt. But I must put this film into the brackets of ‘Watch again’.

There’s a ton of the right stuff flowing through this flick, but without the fight scenes which are as Torvill and Dean as could be seen on a screen, the maddening following of an enchanting yet barbed-wired inter-entwined plots make this a difficult film to take in on a first gulp. I suggest and implore you watch this film, but have to confirm from one watch I didn’t get it all.

Go to the cinema and watch this movie. But to truly appreciate its beauty I think it’s one you have to watch at least thrice to understand and adore the magic this flick deserves.

Under reluctance, after all the delicacies of the last hour and a bit I have to be honest and declare this movie: 

3 out of 5 Nerds


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Conor O'Neill is at times a playwright and a qualified journalist. He has worked for the Belfast Telegraph, Portadown Times and South Belfast Advertiser. He also contributes to various online e-zines, specialising in theatre, gig reviews and other cultural events. If you were to ask him what he does, he will say 'I'm functioning'... that's a lie. Best suited to pressure and deadlines, O'Neill thrives on the moment, the passion and the thrill of now, he's only happy when he's watching or reviewing a play.

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