The marketing is really ramping up for the American release of Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster, or Martin Scorsese Presents The Grandmaster to give it its 'proper' title.
It was also announced this week that Samuel L. Jackson is also lending his name to the film. Er… So, Martin Scorsese And Samuel L. Jackson Present The Grandmaster?
It would be nice if Wong Kar-wai's name was in there somewhere wouldn't it.
The above poster was one of many the many new promotional items released this week to help publicise the film. It debuted at IGN, where it was described as the "final poster". Presumably the final one until the film gets a release in other countries.
There's still no sign of it here in the UK. Well apart from that HK Blu-ray of it sitting on my shelf.
I'm not a big fan of either of the taglines on that poster – the first is a horrible pun that awkwardly ties into unrelated films and the other unnecessarily pushes the Bruce Lee connection – but at least it has Wong Kar-wai's name on it. That seems almost surprising at this point.
Yahoo also debuted a new trailer for the film this week and for some reason it's scored by RZA. Don't get me wrong I love RZA – well his production more than his vocals – but it doesn't particularly fit the mood of The Grandmaster and it seems an odd choice to use a track that is associated with another martial arts film that recently flopped at the box office.
A new featurette was also released at Hulu this week and it features Keanu Reeves, John Fusco and Elvis Mitchell talking about Yuen Woo Ping's action direction.
With the new American cut of the film having screened to American critics, those that imported the film from Hong Kong are beginning to make comparisons between the two cuts.
David Ehrlich at Film.com posted a list of the changes in the American cut that he felt ruined the film but critic Glenn Kenny was much more forgiving in a series of Tweets about the two cuts,
Just saw the U.S. cut of Wong Kar Wai's "The Grandmaster" and am pleased to be able to say the film remains exquisite.
— Glenn Kenny (@Glenn__Kenny) August 9, 2013
Looking at HK BR of GRANDMASTER. The US cut is a radical restructure emphasizing unrequited love over martial arts history. Both valid
— Glenn Kenny (@Glenn__Kenny) August 9, 2013
Wong Kar-wai himself has been quizzed about the different cuts in an interview at Indiewire and there is the definite sense that he relished the opportunity to cut the film in a different way.
How does the Weinstein approved cut I saw differ from the cuts that played in Berlin and abroad?
Actually we worked together on this version because we have an obligation to release a film within two hours in the United States. And the international version is actually two hours and seven minutes.The structure of the international cut is very delicate.
[For the American cut] I looked at the film, I spoke with Harvey [Weinstein] and Megan [Ellison], and then I started to work on this version. It's actually a brand new version because there's so much unseen footage in it. I built this structure; this is also another way to look at the film.
Did you tailor the American cut to simplify it for audiences who are not wholly familiar with Ip Man's story?
No, actually. The American audience has a long following. They've been following kung fu film. I think they are, besides the Chinese audience, the experts in kung fu film. I wanted to make the film more straightforward, because there are things that we don't need to explain. Basically I wanted to have more fun with Americans audiences here. Because when you look at the film, there are certain scenes that are not in the international version. It's a homage to the kung fu films of the past.
There is a common feeling among many critics that if the director is involved in the re-cutting of their film for a foreign market then this validates the activity. I certainly think it is a better situation than when a producer, such as Harvey
Scissorhands Weinstein, takes the film away from a filmmaker and recuts it, but the length of a film being determined by a contract rather than the time an artist needs to tell the story or a cut that is influenced by perceptions about people's attitudes in a particular country do not seem to me to be a good thing.
I'm sure that Wong Kar-wai did enjoy taking another stab at editing The Grandmaster, he's a famed tinkerer and he did something similar with Ashes of Time, but is it not still a bad thing that American audiences will be sitting down this weekend to watch a film that has been truncated to fit a contractual requirement and tailored to fit a stereotype of what an American audience wants?
I fully understand that this is, in a way, what happens with every film released but when there is a finished film, a great and already financially successful film to boot, ready for release then I just find this incredibly hard to see as a good situation.
The Grandmaster will be out in American cinemas tomorrow.