Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Less than 4 Stars

For the past several years, I have gone to the Chinese American Film Festival at the 4 Star. At least twice (maybe three years running), the film I go to is not subtitled. I recall sitting through Ip Man and Shanghai Red without subtitles. So it was no surprise that I when I arrived at the 4 Star at Saturday to see Humble Soul and read a sign at the cashier's windows that stated Humble Soul was not subtitled. Actually, that's an improvement because in past years, I paid my admission and they didn't mention it. Perhaps they thought I spoke Mandarin.

The lineup for the 2011 Chinese American Film Festival didn't appeal to me. Humble Soul was the only one I planned to see. Since it was unsubtitled, I looked for an alternate. I tentatively set my sights on If You Are the One 2; mainly because Qi Shu starred in it. However, I couldn't get over to the 4 Star tonight so I missed the film and tonight is the final day of the festival.


I did go the 4 Star a few weeks ago to see the latest Ip Man film.

The Legend Is Born: Ip Man starring Yu-Hang To; with Sammo Hung; Cantonese with subtitles; (2010)

For the second time in my life (that I can remember), I saw a film in the theater by myself. It was the 8 PM or 8:30 PM show on a Tuesday night. The Legend Is Born: Ip Man (aka Ip Man 3) played in the big theater at the 4 Star. That's an awfully large theater to sell one ticket for but that's what happened.

As for the film, Ip Man 3 is not officially affiliated with the Donnie Yen series. Neither Donnie Yen or director Wilson Yip was involved in the production of Ip Man 3. Sammo Hung who co-starred and choreographed Ip Man 2 returns, in a different role, in Ip Man 3. Suet Lam, who frequently appears Johnny To films, makes an appearance in Ip Man 3. Finally, Ip Man's actual son, 87 year old Ip Chun, appears as one of Ip Man's masters.

Recently, I've seen a number of Chinese films where the Japanese are the villains. That's been a staple of Chinese cinema for years but Ip Man 3 takes it to ridiculous extremes. A prequel set in early part of the 20th century, Ip Man 3 posits that the Japanese were placing sleeper agents in China in the form of kidnapped Japanese boys, smuggled into China, placed as orphans in prominent Chinese families and called to action as adults. If the movie is to be believed, Ip Man's "brother" is one of these Japanese sleeper agents.

Sammo plays Ip Man's Wing Chung master. He dies from natural causes fairly early in the film. Ip goes off to Hong Kong for university studies. While there, he encounters the ancient Leung Bik (Ip Chun) who teaches him a nonstandard (even sacrilegious) form of Wing Chung. When Ip Man returns to the Wing Chung school where his brother, Ip Tin-Chi (Fan Siu-wong), is now a respected master. Ip Man's deviant Wing Chung puts him at odds with his brother but by the end of the film, it's clear that Ip Tin-Chi is a tool of Japanese operatives.

Like any good kung fu film, Ip Man 3 goes through some motion to set up its fight scenes. Kenya Sawada and Bernice Liu play the Japanese father-daughter duo who look to take down Ip Man. They get in some of the best fight scenes (especially Liu).

Dennis Yu-Hang To plays Ip Man. He bears some resemblance to Donnie Yen and acquits himself satisfactorily. Having seen all the Ip Man films, I think the second one was my favorite; in no small part due to Sammo's choreography. Ip Man 3 is my least favorite but it's still not half bad. I've certainly seen worse Chinese kung fu flicks.

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