This film narrates the life of the Wing Chun grand-master Ip Man, beginning in the 1930s in Foshan and moving on to cover his flight to Hong Kong after the Second Sino-Japanese War, and the events leading up to his death. The movie begins with Ip Man reflecting on martial arts, and then cuts to a scene of a fight under the rain between Ip and a dozen combatants. Ip Man wins, and experiences flashbacks of his life, from his early training at the age of seven to his induction into martial arts by his master Chan Wah-shun, and his marriage to his wife Cheung Wing-sing..
The past plays a huge role in the work of Wong Kar-Wai. His characters are haunted by friends, lovers and eras both long and recently departed. Wong's cinema recognizes that the passage of time is inevitable. Nothing can stop it. In this film in particular, characters are literally fighting the future. Yet no mater who wins any particular match, history marches on. It is a wave that cannot be stopped. Some things are allowed to endure. Others are pulled out to sea in a rip current. Those are the cold, hard facts. Yet unlike other Wong Kar Wai films which tend to focus on the person in mourning, this film gives voice to the one being mourned as well. It's just as hard for the horizontal as for the vertical. Nobody gets an easy break.
“My father would always say, people who practice martial arts go through three stages: seeing yourself, seeing the world, seeing all living beings.” 🇨🇳
— The Grandmaster (2013) by Wong Kar-Wai 🎬🍿