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Film legends Jane Fonda and Isabella Rossellini graced the red carpet for the opening gala of the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival.
The opening film of the Berlinale was ‘The Grandmaster’ by Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai, who is also the President of the Jury at the cinema showcase this year.
Starring regular collaborator Tony Leung Chiu Wai as Kung Fu master Ip Man and Zhang Ziyi as his rival and friend Gong Er, the heavily-stylised picture is a story of honour, principle, betrayal and forbidden love all set in a time of turmoil.
Speaking during a news conference Wong said he was determined to get beneath the surface of martial arts in a way most films in the genre had not.
“‘Grandmaster‘ is actually a film about Kung Fu. It tells you more than the skill, it tells you more about these people, martial artists. The world of martial arts. What is their code of honour? What are their values? What are their philosophies?” he said.
The period drama is set in China at the time of the Japanese invasion in the 1930s.
The idea for ‘The Grandmaster‘ first came up more than a decade ago and it took the notoriously slow filmmaker four years to make,
involving rigorous training for both Leung and Zhang which both actors said changed them profoundly.
Leung’s character, which dominates the first part of the film, is based on a real life master of the same name who developed the Wing Chunschool of martial arts and
counted Bruce Lee among his students.
Gong Er’s character gradually takes a central role, and her repressed longing for Ip Man brings to the fore Wong’s mastery of melancholy, which he showed so
memorably in his best known film to date ‘In the Mood for Love‘ also starring Leung.
11 days, 400 films
‘The Grandmaster’ marks the official start of 11 days of screenings, photocalls, interviews and parties across Berlin where movies will be screened, reviewed and traded at the film market that accompanies the Berlinale.
Shanghai-born Wong and his fellow jurors — among them American actor-director Tim Robbins — will have to choose from 19 movies in the festival’s competition section.
These include the Steven Soderbergh thriller ‘Side Effects’ with Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Gus Van Sant’s ‘Promised Land’ about the shale gas industry, starring Matt Damon.
Juliette Binoche portrays a troubled French sculptor in ‘Camille Claudel 1915’ while ‘Gold’ tells a tale of German immigrants seeking their luck in late 19th-century North America.
Competing also are romantic thriller ‘The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman’ with Shia LaBeouf and Evan Rachel Wood, and ‘Closed Curtain’ by Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi, who was barred from leaving Iran to attend the festival.
The winner of one award has already been announced. French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann will be honoured for his life’s work. Lanzmann’s nine-and-a-half hour documentary ‘Shoah’ about the horrors of the genocide of European Jews was screened at the festival in 1986.
In total more than 400 films will be shown at the Feb. 7-17 event known for its focus on social and political works.