Herman Yau’s The Legend is Born – Ip Man is the last film in the semi-biographical Ip Man trilogy, which chronicles the life of one of China’s greatest martial artists. The final film of the trilogy, Legend ventures the furthest back in history to show the years of Ip Man’s childhood and adolescence spent learning the martial art of Wing Chun. His early life is set against the backdrop of unsteady relations between Japan and China in the 20s and 30s which are sketchily presented in the film. A love triangle, betrayal, and a double cross are also part of a barebones narrative that is periodically ruptured by showpiece Kung Fu battles. The battles are meticulously choreographed, and when the camera is allowed to hold a shot for more than a few seconds, watching hands, legs, shoulders, torsos—bodies—flying at each other with exquisite dexterity is pretty thrilling. The camera moves deftly (and incessantly) around the sets and actors, but ascertaining the editing strategy employed in this film would take a master logician. And the dramatic thrust of the narrative is so timid that it doesn’t really build to the final conflict as much as limps towards it. But we can always hope that what this film lacks in storytelling, emotional pungency and visual splendor will be made up for by Wong Kar-wai in The Grandmasters, his long awaited film about Ip Man.
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