A minute with: Wong Kar Wai on 'The Grandmaster' and Kung Fu

A minute with: Wong Kar Wai on 'The Grandmaster' and Kung Fu


Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai, best known for pensive dramas "Chungking Express" and "In the Mood for Love," explores the life of Kung Fu master Ip Man in the new film "The Grandmaster," which will be released on August 23 in the United States.

The film tells the story of Ip - the trainer of Kung Fu film icon Bruce Lee - played by longtime Wong actor Tony Leung. It is divided into three parts that span his adulthood in 1930s' southern China and his Hong Kong exile after Mao's communist revolution in 1949.

Wong, 57, spoke with Reuters about the meaning of Kung Fu, exile and writing a fictional love story into Ip's life in the form of Gong Er, the daughter of a Kung Fu grandmaster and played by Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi.

Q: What motivated you to make a film about Ip Man?

A: To make a Kung Fu film in my way. I see today there's a lot (of) misconceptions or misinterpretations about some of these Chinese things, and one of them is the Chinese martial arts. The reason I wanted to make a film about Ip Man is because I believe a lot of people follow Chinese Kung Fu or Kung Fu films because of Bruce Lee.

Q: How well-known is Ip Man, who died at age 79 in 1972, in Hong Kong today?

A: He's not that popular, but he's very respected in the martial arts world, and in the case of Bruce Lee, he has become a legend. Once I knew I wanted to make a film about him, I had a meeting with both of his sons, and they showed me this short film shot three days before he passed away. ... He was doing demonstrations (in the film) of the Wing Chun (a Kung Fu style) combinations. He was 70-something (years old), very skinny, very weak, and he's doing this demonstration with a dummy in the living room.
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