• Germany's news in English
 

Berlinale kicks off with kung fu epic

Published: 08 Feb 2013 10:41 GMT+01:00

Wong, who also leads the Berlinale's jury this year, is using the event as a launch pad for the worldwide release of "The Grandmaster", which opened in China last month to rave reviews and a box office bonanza.

The film, whose original two-hours-plus length has been chopped slightly for the global market, stars Hong Kong heart-throb Tony Leung from Wong's 2000 hit "In the Mood for Love", and Beijing-born actress Zhang Ziyi ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon").

The picture, which was warmly applauded at a press preview, spans several decades of Chinese history to tell the story of legendary martial artist Yip Man, who went on to train Lee, and features mesmerising battle scenes.

Take a walk down the red carpet here

Wong, 54, told reporters he was confident the movie, which is screening out of competition at the 11-day Berlinale, had appeal beyond China, the world's second biggest cinema market after the United States.

"There is something in this film which is universal. It's about family values and the code of honour," he said. "If they are curious enough... it is also a step for (the international audience) to learn more, to explore."

The film follows the Grandmaster through some of China's most tumultuous recent history including the Japanese invasion in the 1930s.

It spent around a decade in gestation, with extensive re-shooting and injured actors.

Leung said he started learning kung fu at the age of 46, practised for four years for the film and broke his arm twice doing some of his own stunts. But he said the biggest challenge was capturing the Grandmaster's state of mind.

"After four years of hard training I understand kung fu is not just physical training or fighting techniques," he said.

"There is a spiritual side of kung fu and that side you cannot be learning from books or by fact-finding. It grows spontaneously with the mind free of emotions and desires. That is why I had to practise four years."

Zhang plays the sole inheritor of the "64 Hands" technique of her father, another martial arts master, and uses them to lethal effect in the tale of betrayal and vengeance.

She said she accepted the gruelling training and filming schedule to work with Wong, who shot for 20 months over three years.

"If Wong Kar Wai asked me again to give this amount of time, I would do it again, that's how great he is," she said.

Reviews in the international trade press on Thursday were glowing.

"The film contains some of the most dazzling fights ever seen on screen," the Hollywood Reporter wrote.

It added: "Wong's art-house fan-base also will find much to savour, with the kind of longing that defines the filmmaker's oeuvre," in films such as "In the Mood for Love" and "My Blueberry Nights" with Jude Law.

Variety concurred: "Wong Kar Wai exceeds expectations... fashioning a 1930s action saga into a refined piece of commercial filmmaking."

But German critics were decidedly less impressed by the flick, with one telling Berlin broadcaster RBB he lost interest by the end.

Wong, who made his international breakthrough in 1994 with "Chungking Express", later joined his stars on the red carpet in his trademark sunglasses for a gala screening at the festival's Berlinale Palast main cinema.

He is leading the panel handing out the Golden and Silver Bear top prizes among 19 contenders on February 16.

Wong told a press conference with his jury that the Berlinale was an "intimate" festival where the "true pleasure" of sharing ideas was cherished.

"We are here to serve the films, we're not here to judge films, we are here to appreciate films, to champion the films that we really find inspiring... and move us," he said.

The first major European film festival of the year and traditionally its most politically minded, the Berlinale this year is showcasing pictures about the human impact of the West's economic crisis, two decades of upheaval in eastern Europe as well as fresh releases from US independent directors.

Last year the Golden Bear went to Italian veterans Paolo and Vittorio Taviani for the docudrama "Caesar Must Die" about prison inmates staging Shakespeare.

AFP/hc

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Wolf spotted in North Rhine-Westphalia
File photo: DPA

Wolf spotted in North Rhine-Westphalia

Camera traps have spotted a wolf for the second time in a month in North Rhine-Westphalia, the state environment ministry reported on Friday. READ  

German ranchers murdered in Paraguay
Paraguayan police on patrol in an area known to contain EPP rebels. File photo: DPA

German ranchers murdered in Paraguay

The Foreign Ministry in Berlin confirmed that two Germans living in Paraguay were kidnapped and killed earlier this week. READ  

AfD braces for busy conference weekend
"Vote AfD!" reads the flyover message. Photo: DPA

AfD braces for busy conference weekend

As leaders of the Germany's anti-Euro upstart party Alternative for Germany (AfD) prepare for its party conference this weekend, the potential for chaos is rising. READ  

Sudden dose of winter causes traffic chaos
Snow in Oberharz. Photo: DPA

Sudden dose of winter causes traffic chaos

UPDATE: Two people were rescued from avalanches as a blast of winter has taken Germany by surprise, while snow and ice accounted for several traffic accidents across the country on Friday. READ  

BND collects 220 million phone records a day
Photo: DPA

BND collects 220 million phone records a day

Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) collects 220 million pieces of information about foreign phone calls and SMS every day, Zeit Online reported on Friday. READ  

U-turn on minimum wage for foreign drivers
Photo: DPA

U-turn on minimum wage for foreign drivers

Germany temporarily hit the brakes Friday on applying its new minimum wage to foreign truck drivers transiting the country in a move welcomed by Poland, which vigorously opposed the system. READ  

Crises make Germany EU foreign policy leader
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Photo: DPA

Crises make Germany EU foreign policy leader

Foreign policy think-tank the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) gave Germany top marks in its annual check-up of EU member states released on Thursday. READ  

Prost! Beer sales hop up for first gain in 8 years
Photo: DPA

Prost! Beer sales hop up for first gain in 8 years

New figures released Friday by federal statistics office Destatis are numbers breweries can drink to, as German beer consumption saw its first year-on-year rise since 2006. READ  

Germany has thousands of uni spots open
Photo: DPA

Germany has thousands of uni spots open

New research published by Spiegel on Friday shows that there are thousands of university placesa unoccupied across the country, while certain hot spots cope with too much demand. READ  

Borussia coach admits to 'downward spiral'
Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp at a press conference. Photo: DPA

Borussia coach admits to 'downward spiral'

Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp admits feeling the pressure as his side resume their fight to stay in Germany's top flight on Saturday at fellow Champions League side Bayer Leverkusen. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Business & Money
FATCA: 'The age of financial privacy is over'
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
The rise and spread of Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Photo: DPA
Politics
The Local's report from Pegida's largest ever demonstration.
Sponsored Article
Top-notch tech boosts bilingual schools
National
Six stories that will rock Germany this year
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Photo: DPA
National
What were your favourite news stories of 2014?
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,570
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd