Wong Kar-Wai’s long-awaited, long-delayed martial arts epic “The Grandmaster” looked to be the dream opening film at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, but it received a slightly rude awakening when it finally premiered. I was far from the only critic to voice my disappointment with the film, which bore the scars of work that had been labored over a little too long — though it still offered sporadic thrills and ravishing beauty aplenty.
Faced with a mixed response to a film that was arguably always going to suffer from inflated expectations, US distributors The Weinstein Company were probably wise to sit on it for a few months. The film has played other, smaller international film festivals since its Berlin debut, but will be making its first US appearance in the very different environment of Comic-Con this week. Will the film be more warmly embraced by the genre crowd than the festival press? It’s worth a try: the film certainly isn’t typical Comic-Con fare, but that novelty could serve it well, generating a fresh wave of buzz ahead of its August 23 release.
Meanwhile, it was announced today that the film will also be receiving a special screening at the Academy on Monday, as part of their season-long celebration of the kung-fu genre. Wong will be in attendance, while a Q&A with the filmmaker will be hosted by writer, director and “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner — not the first name you’d connect with the Hong Kong iconoclast, though both men know a thing or two about style on screen.
The Academy’s exhibition, “Kick Ass! Kung Fu Posters from the Stephen Chin Collection,” will be available to view in the Grand Lobby of the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater after the screening.
The Academy event, which is already sold out, lends additional class to the film’s profile as one of this summer’s potential arthouse blockbusters. It’ll be interesting to see if it can get a second wind nearly six months after its distant world premiere. Meanwhile, it’s nice to see the Academy showcasing a genuine titan of world cinema under any circumstances. Wong, incidentally, was one of 176 individuals invited to join the Academy last year.
If you’re interested in attending, more details can be found on the Academy’s website.