Sunday, June 29, 2008

'Yip Man' Biopics Settle Title Dispute

By Mark Pollard

It was recently reported that conflict had broken out between the camps surrounding two upcoming biopics of Wing Chun Grandmaster Yip Man. The issue concerned the film title, “GRANDMASTER YIP MAN,” first claimed by director Wong Kar-wai after announcing his plans to make the movie back in 2002. Investors for director Wilson Yip’s film also claimed that title for their movie, which stars Donnie Yen, but its producer Raymond Wong has since announced that Yip’s film will stick to its original title.

“All along, we had called our film YIP MAN but our investors said that Yip Man was a great master of our times,” said Raymond Wong. “So we changed our title to GRANDMASTER YIP MAN out of respect for him. Yet this brought about a series of debates over the title. To settle this matter amicably, after discussions with our various investors, movie consultant Yip Chun [and] director Wilson Yip we changed back to our original title.”

Wong took a conciliatory tone in his continued response. “The title is of secondary importance. Our main aim in shooting the film is to propagate Wing Chun. All studios should cooperate with and support each other, especially in a time when the film industry is not doing well.”
The biopics will not be different in name only. While assuring the public that Wong Kar-wai’s version, long in development limo is being made, its expectant star Tony Leung Chiu-wai pointed out the differences between the two films. “Our film will still be produced. I think Donnie Yen’s version will be more focused on martial arts, of younger age, but the Yip Man I am playing will be more drama-oriented. It deals mainly with the latter half of his life. The two are completely different works.”

All this kafuffle over the Hong Kong title for Wilson Yip’s film will likely mean little to international audiences. While kung fu movies in Hong Kong are traditionally given titles bearing the names of a prominent kung fu style or historical character in the film, their international titles are almost always changed to something less specific. For example, the complete and original Romanized title for Tsui Hark’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA is “WONG FEI HUNG,” the character portrayed by Jet Li. Likewise, Jet Li’s FEARLESS was originally titled HUO YUAN JIA, again the name of the historical character that Li portrayed onscreen.

Donnie Yen’s YIP MAN has completed shooting in Shanghai and is expected to be released at the end of the year. It features the action direction of Sammo Hung and also stars Simon Yam (FATAL MOVE), Fan Siu-wong (SHAOLIN VS. EVIL DEAD), Gordon Lam (THE SPARROW), and Xing Yu (KUNG FU HUSTLE).

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