The Grandmaster

Director Wong Kar Wai, who also wrote the screenplay, melds romance and martial-arts fighting into this lush and lyrical re-creation of a neglected era of recent Chinese history. After the 1930s-era grandmaster (Tony Leung) of the southern style of kung fu -- Bruce Lee's future teacher -- defeats the leading proponent (Wang Qingxiang) of the northern method, the loser's daughter (Ziyi Zhang), a fierce fighter herself, challenges the victor in order to restore her father's honor. Though an epic confrontation follows, the pair emerges from it having forged a strong bond of mutual respect and admiration. Wong offers up the expected, namely, stylized fights in slow motion. But, happily, he also presents viewers with more surprising sights: lingering tight close-ups of facial expressions, a raindrop, or a flower blossom. The result is an arty, immersive experience resurrecting a lost world where honor, family, and tradition were sacrosanct. In Chinese. Subtitles.

Watch out for:Intense but largely bloodless martial arts fighting, brief drug use, a prostitution theme, some rough language.

Rated: A-III, adults; MPAA: PG-13, parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970