Steve's China Blog

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ip Man

Last week Tina and I went to see the movie Ip Man (Grandmaster Yip Man will be the international English title). The original is in Cantonese, but the version of the movie I watched was in Mandarin. Who ever did the voice-overs in Mandarin had really good accents, since I had an easier time understanding them than I thought I would. The movie is a story based on Yip Man, who was a Grandmaster of Wing Chun style kung fu and was famous for being Bruce Lee's teacher.

The way this movie was put together is different than most martial arts movies in that it isn't really an action movie. There are some martial arts fights in the movie, but there is a lot more to the movie. There are so many different elements weaved through out the story that it was easy to see why the audience seemed very moved at different times for different reasons. It is definitely a movie that even people who do not like kung fu movies would like. Of course, the martial arts scenes were very very good. Wing Chun style kung fu is really fluid, and watching Donnie Yen perform this martial art is just beautiful to see. Hiroyuki Ikeuchi's karate is also amazing to watch when he finally unleashes all his speed and power.

I won't go into much of the details of the story, but the only part that I didn't care for was that latter part of the movie wasn't very historically accurate. I have not been able to find any stories of Chinese and Japanese martial arts competitions during World War II, and I can not imagine the Japanese putting themselves in the position of doing martial arts competitions with kung fu masters in occupied China. From what I have been able to find, the Japanese asked Yip Man to teach some of their soldiers kung fu but he declined.

It seemed to me they made these changes to Yip Man's life story, not so much to make the story more exciting, but more to increase the nationalistic mood of the movie. When we were leaving the theater I heard someone say that watching a movie like that makes them hate the Japanese even more. I doubt if many people watching this movie outside of China would think this way (I didn't); but there is no shortage of movies and TV shows here (that are mostly fictional) that run along the theme of hating Japanese, or hating Manchurians, or hating so-and-so. It's kind of depressing sometimes.

Even though part of the movie was not historically accurate, I would recommend the movie. It was very good. Audience reaction (both inside and outside of China) is so good that they have already got the green light to start on the sequel. I do not know what the sequel will contain, but I disagree with the article at Twitch which says that the original movie needs no continuation. I think it would be interesting to see a movie about Yip Man and his students, especially Bruce Lee.


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