Make no mistake, when a film is directed by Wong Kar Wai ("2041"), it will be artistic no matter what audience expectations may be. Naturally he includes martial arts, but as we already know, most martial art films depend heavily on visual and audio editing. Remember "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" with the gravity-defying action? There is a bit of that here as well. But the visual editing is perfection: each scene is framed with loving care and a careful eye.
The film is loaded with Eastern aphorisms which floated in one ear and out the other, although I liked the one about two martial elements: horizontal and vertical. If you are vertical at the end of a bout... you won. Even I can understand THAT one!
Along with the visualexcellence I always expect from this director, I had the pleasure of watching two of my favorite Asian actors:
- * Tony Leung ("In the Mood for Love") is Ip Man, our martial arts master who, after fundamental changes and loss in his life, eventually ends up in Hong Kong and establishes the school where Bruce Lee trains.
- * Ziyi Zhang ("Memoirs of a Geisha") is Gong Er, the gifted daughter of a martial arts grandmaster who had the misfortune to be born female. She is the master of a specialized school of martial arts but swears to never disclose her secrets.
If you have been lucky enough to see "In the Mood for Love
" you know not to expect gunshots or sweaty bodies but you also know there will be an achingly poignant love story. The sound track has a touch of western music that we recognize, plus some eastern pieces, as well.
We see our star-crossed lovers as they and their families are caught up in the invasion of China by the Japanese, WW II and a sea change in the way Hong Kong is governed. We see starvation and cruelty, elegance and beauty, i.e., the full panoply of Far Eastern history in the mid-1900s.
And those actors are STILL two of my favorites!