Wong Kar-wai’s latest masterpiece.

Acclaimed Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai is famous for being a perfectionist. But even by his standards, the martial arts epic The Grandmaster was a labour of love. The film, which was released in Beijing on January 8, was more than a decade in the making. A member of the crew told a Chinese newspaper that the biggest reason for the delay was Wong’s perfectionism during the shooting. The widely positive reception to the film across China since its release suggests it has been worth the wait. This correspondent, who was fortunate to get hold of a ticket to a packed Beijing show this past week, concurs with the popular judgement.

The film tells the story of legendary Hong Kong martial artist Yip Man, famous globally on account of a certain student of his named Bruce Lee. With Wong’s characteristic treatment, even the gritty merciless world of Hong Kong martial arts becomes a space of artistic beauty.

Chinese moviegoers are raving about the martial arts sequences, but have also praised the strong performances of local favourite Zhang Ziyi — some critics even describe it as the megastar’s best ever performance — and Tony Leung, who plays Yip.

For a martial arts film with incredible action sequences, The Grandmaster has remarkable subtlety, and is full of melancholy and ambiguity — deft touches have made Wong Kar-wai’s latest masterpiece well worth the wait.

ANANTH KRISHNAN