The Grandmaster (Wong, 2013)
If biopics have to be made, I wish they were all made like this: more focused on our subject’s dreams, choices, passions, and regrets than a step-by-step retelling of his life events. Wong gracefully tells the story of one man’s journey through life with the people he loves, the people he loses, and the people he shames. Paying attention to so many minute physical details, the camera finds itself staring down the end of a freshly lit cigarette, on the slow-motion explosion of a puddle as a wooden wheel rolls through, and inches from characters’ faces throughout capturing natural levels of emotional response. And as has always been the case with Wong Kar-wai, the color palette is extraordinary.
In addition to the poetic passage through our subject’s both public and private virtues and shortcomings, we occasionally leave his side to be treated to the same journey with some of those whose lives he has affected – often a beautiful depiction of the same types of struggles he himself has faced from the perspective ‘lesser’ characters. But all characters’ desires and sacrifices are treated as equal worth. Where Wong runs into problems is when he attempts to branch from the already branched subjects; the glimpses into these lives are not allowed the depth needed to provide the same level of poignancy. These focus losses prevent the film from being the elegant masterpiece it could have been. 8.5/10