Martial arts drama kicks off Berlin film festival

Thu Feb 7, 2013 10:35am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters) - The 2013 Berlin film festival kicks off on Thursday with the red carpet premiere of "The Grandmaster", Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai's martial arts period drama set in China at the time of the Japanese invasion in the 1930s.

Starring regular collaborator Tony Leung Chiu Wai as kung fu master Ip Man and Zhang Ziyi as his rival and friend Gong Er, the heavily stylized picture is a story of honor, principle, betrayal and forbidden love all set in a time of turmoil.

Wong, also president of the jury at the cinema showcase this year, said he was determined to get beneath the surface of martial arts in a way most films in the genre had not.

"'Grandmaster' is a film about kung fu. It tells you more than the skill," he told reporters after a press screening and ahead of the opening night gala.

"It tells you more about these people, martial artists, the world of martial arts. What is their code of honor? What is their value? What is their philosophy?

"I hope this film can bring the audience a new perspective about martial arts, kung fu and also Chinese," he added, wearing his trademark dark glasses and speaking in English.

The idea for "The Grandmaster" was first announced more than a decade ago and it took the notoriously slow filmmaker four years to make, involving rigorous training for both Leung and Zhang which both actors said changed them profoundly.

Leung's character, which dominates the first part of the film, is based on a real-life master of the same name who developed the Wing Chun school of martial arts and counted Bruce Lee among his students.   Continued...

Actor Tony Leung Chiu Wai, director Wong Kar Wai and actress Zhang Ziyi (L-R) pose after a news conference to promote the movie Yi Dai Zong Shi, "The Grandmaster" at the 63rd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 7, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Peter