| HONG KONG
HONG KONG Jan 9 Hong Kong art house director
Wong Kar Wai, whose slow-paced, pensive films earned him laurels
at international festivals such as Cannes, where he won best
director, has just come out with "The Grandmaster," his latest
kung fu epic.
The fruit of eight years of labour and selected as the
opening movie for February's Berlin International Film Festival,
The Grandmaster tells the legendary tale of Bruce Lee's master
Yip Man, played by Wong's long-time collaborator and Cannes best
actor award winner Tony Leung.
The concept of the movie hit Wong even before he released
his most celebrated work, In The Mood for Love, back in 2000,
said the director, wearing his trademark sunglasses, at the
movie's Hong Kong premiere on Jan 8.
The idea kept brewing in his head and eventually took him on
a three-year journey, knocking on the doors of over 100 kung fu
masters across China.
"In the world of martial arts, there's a saying that goes --
'the skies outside and inside the door are different,' he said.
"When you look at it outside the door, it will forever stay
a mystery. But when you have a chance to put your head inside
and take a peek, you then realize that (the world) inside draws
you in," added Wong, who will also serve as the president of the
jury for this year's Berlinale.
The auteur set his eyes on four martial art clans for his
feature film, but stressed that he wanted to convey a common
spirit shared by grandmasters and aficionados alike.
"In the world of martial arts, there are many people who are
not 'masters', but they have a deep affection for martial arts.
They always hope to leave something behind for their clan and
martial arts during their lifetime," he said.
"I think this spirit is the spirit that 'The Grandmaster'
wants to convey -- lingering thoughts that are never forgotten,
echos that will always come," Wong said.
Set at the infancy of modern China in the early 1900s, the
retirement of a martial arts guru leaves the title of
Grandmaster up for grabs.
Among the four top fighters for the position is the feisty
Gong Er, played by Zhang Ziyi of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
and Memoirs of a Geisha.
For her role, Zhang trained under the teacher of kung fu
star Jet Li, and said the movements were key to expressing the
spirit of the characters.
"She (Gong Er) is a combination of almost all the unique
features and merits of women of that era," Zhang said.
"In terms of movements, we trained for such a long time
because the director hoped when we went inside the world of the
characters, we already carried their spirit in our bodies."
Wong took the Best Director Award at Cannes in 1997 for
"Happy Together," which depicts a tempestuous romance between
two men and was also nominated for the Palme d'Or.
Plagued by delays, The Grandmaster finally made its global
premiere in Beijing on Jan 6, and opened across China on Jan 8
before showing in Berlin on February 7.
(Reporting by Venus Wu, editing by Elaine Lies)