Before Ip Man, there was this man... I was going to say, but he and Ip Man are the same man apparently. The man who trained Bruce Lee. The grandmaster of Wing Chun; this is his story.
We've already had two stories about him (in Ip Man 1 & 2), but this one's a bit different. This is not only about war - this is about love. It's his love story, or rather: his lack-of-love story. It tells the tale of how he first became a master, and of his move to Hong Kong, all the while following the story of another (female) martial artist in parallel, her trials and tribulations, and their few but fateful encounters. A bit cheesy, but somehow it all feels natural with this particular country of origin, and the cultural customs depicted.
The filmography is beautiful, with plenty of close-ups, and focus on motion rather than force. There is plenty of fighting but it's all very stylized and poetic, not at all as brutal as the other interpretations of the Ip Man legacy with Donne Yen as grand master.
While this movie tells the same tale over a larger span of time, with focus on more intimate bonds and relationships, it also feels surprisingly distant. When it's over I for one don't feel like I know the main character at all - even though the whole tale is told through his narrative. We hear his words, but we never get inside his mind, and the vague folds of the plot focus on events more than they do emotion.
Maybe that's just how they were. They kept their emotions bottled in - master as much of the arts as of their emotions. But for a movie that focuses on relations it felt a bit strange. It was a beautiful movie, but not really what I expected.
rated 4/5: fo shizzle