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Archive for August, 2013

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Wong Kar-Wai presents The Grandmaster at the Museum of the Moving Image on August 10, 2013.

Earlier this month, I caught an advanced director’s screening of The Grandmaster, the new film from cinematic titan Wong Kar-Wai. No more than 10 minutes into the film, I knew I’d  have to see its original Chinese cut before I could discuss it critically. The American cut of The Grandmaster, like no Wong film I’ve seen before, contains a great number of clunky expository passages and narrative jagged edges. Having now seen both versions, I share my thoughts in this review over at Next Projection. You can sample the piece below or read the full article here.

Flecks of rain float through the air. Feet slide along a wooden floor, circling their target. A cigarette smolders in the night.

These are the images you relish in The Grandmaster. The film isolates its moments of white-hot intensity and mounts them like individual works of art. Wong Kar-Wai shoots every cracked neck and body blow with tremendous precision. He allows us to savor every carefully choreographed bodily movement. A hyper-stylized kung fu ballet, the film unfolds as a torrent of gorgeous isolated moments.

Which is a real shame, given how poorly these little pearls are strung together. The most expansive film of Wong’s career, The Grandmaster suffers from its own wealth of ambition. The film spans several decades and strives to capture the inner lives of multiple characters, the transformation of a country and its people at war, and the evolution of various strains of kung fu — all while, you know, kicking ass every few minutes. Given its visual impulse to slow down and marinate in its moments of pure grace, it simply can’t cover that much narrative ground.

It doesn’t help that a ruthless, tone-deaf edit by The Weinstein Company has shortened the film by 20 minutes from its original theatrical release in China.

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