Brief Reviews: The Grandmaster (一代宗師)

February 5th, 2014, 11pm

If you’ve considered seeing The Grandmaster, consider whether you like foreign films before you sit down and commit.

If there’s one thing I like about the Academy Award nominees this year, it’s that there are a good handful of foreign-produced films: Philomena (produced by the BFI & BBC, and nominated in Best Picture, Best Actress, Adapted Screenplay, and Original Score), Ernest & Celestine (produced by Studio Canal in France, and nominated in Animated Feature Film), The Wind Rises (produced by Studio Ghibli, and nominated in Animated Feature Film), and The Grandmaster (produced by Block 2 Pictures, and nominated in Cinematography). This fails to include Foreign Language Film, the Shorts categories, and the Documentary categories (none of which I have time to review), but you can see that there’s a good bit of diversity in the “bigger” categories, something my limited movie knowledge is unable to confirm as unique or typical.

Nonetheless, sitting down to watch The Grandmaster, one is struck by the foreignness of the film: the story is not written for American audiences, follows none of the typical character or plot tropes, and is both challenging and refreshing for that reason. The cinematography is breathtaking, stepping well into the realm of The Matrix-esque cinematography/visual effects (though I’m not sure where the line is drawn for The Grandmaster, leaving me a bit unsure of how well it competes with the other, less-potentially-CGI contenders in its category). It is, nonetheless, a beautiful movie to watch, for all of its 130 minutes.

I imagine The Grandmaster would be very appealing if you have an interest in Chinese film, or foreign film generally. Sitting through it for the cinematography alone was tough, but the visuals well make up for it.

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Valerie Stimac

Constraints create lots of great things, diamonds and creativity among them.

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