Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wong Kar-wai epic 'Grandmaster' kicks up storm at Hong Kong premiere

By Vivienne Chow, SCMP

Tony Leung, Wong Kar-wai and Zhang Ziyi at the Hong Kong premiere of the martial arts epic at iSquare, Tsim Sha Tsui. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai's long-awaited martial arts epic, The Grandmaster, finally hit the big screen in the city last night after nearly a decade in the making.

The film's leading lady, Zhang Ziyi, said she hoped to see an extended version released in future in order to do justice to the crew's hard work.

At the premiere in Tsim Sha Tsui, Wong was joined by leading man Tony Leung Chiu-wai, who plays Ip Man, grandmaster of the wing chun school of martial arts and teacher of kung fu legend Bruce Lee.

Also present were mainland star Zhang and Taiwanese actor Chang Chen, both cast as top exponents of martial arts.

Wong has called the HK$300 million epic a tale about the martial arts world during the era of the first Republic of China.

Zhang, speaking exclusively to the South China Morning Post prior to the premiere, said the filming had taken three years to complete and at least half of her performances had ended up on the floor of the editing room.

"Each frame was carefully selected by the director, but we still have an abundant amount [of footage] that didn't make it to the final cut," the svelte 33-year-old actress said.

She said mainland director Zhang Yimou, who has watched the film, hoped another version would be released that included the extra footage.

"A lot of fighting scenes didn't make it to the film. It's a pity. We had injured ourselves a lot, you know … I feel really sad." The filming had led to a relapse of her old injuries, she said.

It was earlier reported that Leung broke his arm twice and rested in bed for five days after shooting a fight scene in the rain for 30 nights. Chang, however, has become a master in real life, winning a martial arts competition last year.

Asked if the 130-minute film should be split into two to make a longer version, Zhang gave her thumbs up. "It will definitely be a great film. Everyone please give [Wong] some encouragement," she said.

Even before its release, the film has received a lot of attention over the years as Wong commands a huge global following for his unique auteur film language. He was best director at the Cannes Film Festival for the 1997 gay drama, Happy Together.

The Grandmaster had been slated to open on both sides of the border last month, but post-production ended only just before Sunday, when the film held its world premiere in Beijing. It was released across the mainland yesterday, followed by Hong Kong cinemas tomorrow.


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