Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ip Man: The Final Fight


By Moira Sullivan
Herman Yau’s Ip Man The Final Fight had its European premiere at the Far East Film Festival in Udine April 23, closely following its release dates in China , Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam in March and April. It’s quite a feather in Udine’s cap to get Ip Man to Italy before any other festival outside of Asia. This is proof that Udine remains the number 1 portal of festivals for popular Asian cinema outside Asia.

The film is shot mostly in a studio in order to recreate the time period in which Yip Kai Man also known as Yip Man and Ip Man lived in Hong Kong during the early 50s. He learned his special form of martial arts Wing Chu in China and was the grandmaster.  As the legend goes, the name according to Yip Kai Man came from Kim Wing Chun, a woman during the Qing dynasty who refused to marry a warlord and challenged him to combat to free herself from his claim on her. She won and taught the style to her husband. Wing Chun is called the Snake/Crane style. This style was later taught to master Bruce Lee by Yip Kai Man who he meets in the beginning of the film. There is certainly enough reverence already from the opening moments of this narrative in the transmission of martial arts skills from grandmaster to master. The distinctive striking in rapid speed and grappling to offset attack is known to audiences from the first and second Ip Man films directed by Wilson Yip. Herman Yau directed a prequel Ip Man The Legend is Born in 2010.

Careful attention was paid to the props and interiors, costumes and design in Ip Man the Final Fight. It is a colorful extravaganza with brilliance in detail. The story line is a little thin, however and unfortunately the art direction doesn’t help. Much of the film is Wing Chun action sequences. Yip Man is followed around by his students who worship him. For the romance angle, his wife is called back to the mainland. Later in an outdoor club Ip Man comes to the rescue of a beautiful young singer played by Zhu Chouchou who is harassed by patrons. The deadpan performance of Ip Man by Anthony Wong is the same whether in combat or in love : he never twitches an eye. The only act of violence that goes over the edge is when his young admirer gives him a drink to ease his powerful back pain. She is scorned by his protégées who are jealous of his attention to her and they are not altogether sure of her intentions. But it turns out she is sincerely interested in him and he as well, in sickness and in death. The screenplay by Erica Lee is especially observant of this special relationship, which in many ways is the heart of the film.

Ip Man The Final Fight was made with full endorsement of Yip Man’s son, and in the end of the narrative,  authentic footage of Yip Man shot by his son is shown.

The film aims to entice viewers with the claim of a final fight between Yip Man and his protégées against Dragon and the Triad. Dragon is severely scarred on his bald head, which makes him a noticeable bad guy, and the fighting tactics include drugging opponents and pounding them to oblivion.

Ip Man the Final Fight is a nostalgic trip to Hong Kong of the 50s and 60s and an honor to one of the best martial artists of modern times.

© 2013 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date:05/01/13
Movie Magazine International

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