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November 04, 2013

Ip Man: The Final Fight

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Yip Man: Jung gik yat jin
Herman Yau - 2013
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

For those following Hong Kong cinema, the number of films about Ip Man is a bit overwhelming. By now, a fair number of people already had at least read about the martial arts master, whose most famous student was Bruce Lee. What Herman Yau's film can boast of is a few seconds of actual footage of Ip practicing Wing Chun.

Documentary footage aside, Yau's film, like the others, is a fictionalized version of Ip's life. And as a film, I wish it was better. Wong Kar-Wai's film, like other Wong films, was a meditation on love and loss, with a few balletic fight scenes thrown in. Wilson Yip's films have the advantage of Donnie Yen staging his own fight scenes. Even though the age difference is two years, Anthony Wong looks much older than Yen or Tony Leung, and comes closer to resembling the real Ip. Still, the best way to enjoy this film is to ignore any concept of historical veracity.

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Instead, there is a chance to marvel at a fight scene between Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang. According to one of the DVD supplements, Tsang has a background in martial arts. The guy is older, and chubbier, and neither he nor Wong used stunt doubles. As rival martial arts masters, the two go behind closed doors for a friendly fight. There's fun in seeing two of the least likely combatants in Hong Kong cinema go against each other using their fists instead of guns.

There is also the love story between Ip and a cabaret singer named Jenny. Ip stands up for Jenny after she is pawed by another man. Things escalate into a huge fight between two martial arts schools. Later, Jenny starts showing up at Ip's place, bringing him food. Others disapprove of Jenny because she rocks a cheongsam dress like nobody else in this movie. Was there really a Jenny or someone like her? I don't know. Hopefully some smart filmmaker will know how to make the most of actress Zhou Chuchu's undeniable presence.

Bruce Lee is a minor character, showing up in Ip's life again after establishing himself as Hong Kong's first international star. I wouldn't be able to judge the accuracy of this portrayal of Lee as man flaunting his fame and wealth, seen at a restaurant with a specially reserved table, a posse in tow, and a Rolls-Royce following him as he takes a short walk with Ip. As much as Herman Yau might want to be reverential towards Ip Man, I would question taking swipes at the one man who made him famous in the first place.

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Posted by peter at November 4, 2013 07:54 AM