|Directed by||Wilson Yip|
|Written by||Edmond Wong|
|Produced by||Raymond Wong|
|Edited by||Cheung Ka-fai|
|Music by||Kenji Kawai|
|Distributed by||Mandarin Films|
|Languages||Chinese (dialect: Cantonese|
Ip Man (Chinese: 叶问 / 葉問) is a 2008 Hong Kong biographical martial arts film based on the life of Ip Man, a grandmaster of the martial art Wing Chun and teacher of Bruce Lee. The film focuses on events in Ip's life that supposedly took place in the city of Foshan during the Sino-Japanese War. The film was directed by Wilson Yip, and stars Donnie Yen as Ip Man, with martial arts choreography by Sammo Hung. The supporting cast includes Simon Yam, Lynn Hung, Lam Ka-tung, Xing Yu, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, and Tenma Shibuya. The film was a co-production between China and Hong Kong, and was the last film to be distributed by Mandarin Films.
Ip Man is the first film in the Ip Man film series. It premiered in Beijing on 10 December 2008, and was released theatrically in Hong Kong on 19 December 2008, receiving widespread acclaim from critics and audiences. Before the film's release, Raymond Wong announced that there would be a sequel; a second installment titled Ip Man 2, was released in April 2010, a third installment titled Ip Man 3 was released in 2015, and Ip Man 4: The Finale was released in 2019. Ip Man grossed more than US$22 million worldwide, despite not being released in North America and most of Europe. Following its success, the film was nominated for 12 Hong Kong Film Awards, winning awards for Best Film and Best Action Choreography.
In 1935, Foshan is a hub of Southern Chinese martial arts, where the various schools' students compete against each other. Ip Man, the most skilled martial artist in town, maintains a discreet profile while building a reputation for skill through friendly, closed-door competitions with other masters. One day, a local troublemaker named Yuan loses his kite, which lands in a tree in the Ip family's backyard. While retrieving it, Yuan witnesses Ip defeating fellow kung fu master Liu in a sparring match. Although Ip and Liu had agreed that the news of who won would remain a secret, Yuan unwittingly spreads the story around town, inadvertently embarrassing Liu. Yuan's brother Lin, a restaurant owner and disciple of Liu, publicly embarrasses Yuan as he tries to arrange a rematch between Liu and Ip, and Yuan runs away from home.
During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Ip and his family are forced to move into a decrepit apartment after the Imperial Japanese Army confiscates their house for use as a military headquarters. Running out of valuables to sell for food, Ip gets a job at a coal mine in 1938 alongside Lin, who hopes to reconcile with his brother but has so far failed to track him down. General Miura, a Japanese Karate master, sets up an arena where Chinese martial artists can challenge his military trainees for a bag of rice. Former police officer Li Zhao, now an interpreter for the Japanese, visits the mine to recruit anyone willing to fight. Ip declines to participate, but Lin does. Lin and two other fighters face Miura, but Miura fends them off easily. When Lin refuses to surrender, Miura kills him. Ip, worried about what happened to Lin, decides to participate in the fights.
At the arena, Ip witnesses Li Zhao translate for the Japanese during the fights and sees Master Liu get overwhelmed by three karatekas. To the horror of the Chinese bystanders, including Ip, Liu takes a bag, even though he did not win, and is quickly shot in the head by Miura's sadistic second-in-command, General Sato. Realizing that Lin must have been killed here, Ip demands to fight 10 karatekas, to the bewilderment of Miura and Li, and to the amusement of Sato. He then brutalizes all 10, winning the respect of Miura, who inquires Ip's identity. Ip tells Li to say that he is just a Chinese man, but Li gives his full name instead.
Jin Shanzhao, a highly skilled Northern Chinese martial arts master who once defeated all the masters in Foshan except Ip, now leads a bandit gang and harasses the workers at a cotton mill run by Ip's friend Chow Ching-chuen. Ip agrees to train the workers in Wing Chun for self-defense. The workers are able to stall the gang when they return long enough for Ip to arrive and defeat Jin and Yuan, now a part of the gang. After running Jin's gang out of Foshan, Ip confronts Yuan and gives him a small tin that belonged to Lin after informing him of his brother's death. Yuan opens the tin and finds his kite inside; this motivates Yuan to leave the gang.
When Ip does not return to the arena, Miura beats Li and sends Sato and two soldiers to track him down. After overpowering them at the apartment, Ip and his family flee and hide in Li's house. The Japanese learn about the cotton mill and take the workers hostage. Despite Li's warnings, Ip surrenders himself to the Japanese while arranging for his wife and son to be sent to Hong Kong for protection. Miura asks Ip to train the Japanese soldiers in Chinese martial arts, but Ip refuses and challenges Miura to a match. Though Sato insists on executing Ip, Miura accepts the challenge to uphold his honor and crush the Chinese spirit; Sato threatens Ip with death if he does not allow the General to win.
With the people of Foshan watching, Ip defeats Miura after a long and hard fight. Looking over the cheering crowd and seeing his wife and son, Ip is shot in the shoulder by Sato. As the crowd overwhelms the Japanese soldiers, Li manages to kill Sato with his own gun. Ip is taken away by Chow amid the chaos and manages to escape with his family to Hong Kong. A closing montage and captions reveal that Ip spent the rest of his life working to spread the teachings of Wing Chun, establishing a school and training several students, including Bruce Lee.
- Donnie Yen as Ip Man, the son of a wealthy family and Foshan's only practitioner of the martial art form known as Wing Chun.
- Lynn Hung as Cheung Wing-sing, Ip Man's wife.
- Hiroyuki Ikeuchi as General Miura (Japanese: 陸軍大将 三浦, Rikugun-Taishō Miura/三浦将军; Sānpǔ jiāngjūn), a Japanese general and Karate expert, who is eager to assert the dominance of his native traditions over those of the Chinese.
- Tenma Shibuya as Colonel Sato (Japanese: 陸軍大佐 佐藤, Rikugun-Taisa Satō/佐藤上校; Zuǒténg shàngxiào), a sadistic, cruel Japanese colonel and Miura's second in-command.
- Gordon Lam as Li Chiu (simplified Chinese: 李钊; traditional Chinese: 李釗; pinyin: Lǐ Zhào), a police officer and Ip Man's acquaintance. He becomes a translator for the Japanese officers when they occupy Foshan despite being labeled a traitor by his neighbors.
- Fan Siu-wong as Jin Shanzhao (金山找; Jīn Shānzhǎo), an aggressive northern martial artist who comes to Foshan to challenge other masters, hoping to set up a school and climb out of poverty. When the Japanese invade, he forms a gang of bandits and is eventually chased out of Foshan by Ip Man.
- Simon Yam as Chow Ching-chuen (周清泉; Zhōu Qīngquán), a businessman and Ip Man's acquaintance who borrows money from him to set up a cotton mill.
- Xing Yu as Lin (武痴林; Wǔchī Lín), the first son of a restaurant owner in Foshan, a gifted martial artist and Ip Man's closest friend.
- Wong You-nam as Yuan, the second son of a restaurant owner in Foshan who causes a lot of trouble and often fights with his brother.
- Calvin Cheng as Chow Kong-yiu, the son of the cotton mill owner, who is interested in learning kung fu from Ip Man.
- Chen Zhihui as Master Liu (廖师傅; 廖師傅; Liào Shīfù), a martial arts master of Foshan who turns to prizefighting when the Japanese invade to support himself. Sato kills him when he tries to claim a reward despite forfeiting a match.
We wanted to do this movie because Ip Man was a man who inspired the world and society as a whole. He was a man who believed in certain morals and principles, and we want to use this movie as a platform to convey those values to the audience. For me, that was the most important part of making this movie.
The idea of an Ip Man biopic originated in 1998 when Jeffrey Lau and Corey Yuen discussed the idea of making a film based on Bruce Lee's martial arts master. However, Paragon Films Ltd, the studio producing the proposed film, closed and the project was abandoned. Producer Raymond Wong decided to develop his own Ip Man film with full consent from Ip's sons, and had filmmakers head to Foshan to research Ip's life. Ip Chun, Ip Man's eldest son, along with martial arts master Leo Au-yeung, Jun Gao, and several other Wing Chun practitioners served as technical consultants for the film. Principal photography for Ip Man began in March 2008 and ended in August; filming took place in Shanghai, which was used to architecturally recreate Foshan. During filming, conflicts arose between the producers of Ip Man and filmmaker Wong Kar-wai over the film's working title. Wong, who had been developing his own Ip Man biopic, clashed with the producers after learning that their film would be titled Grandmaster Ip Man (Chinese: 一代宗師葉問), which was too similar to the title of Wong's film, The Grandmaster.
Ip Man is the first film based on the life of Ip Man. It also marks the fourth film collaboration between director Wilson Yip and actor Donnie Yen. The two also reunite with co-star Simon Yam after 2005's SPL: Sha Po Lang. The screenplay for Ip Man was written by Edmond Wong, the son of film producer Raymond Wong. Wong was the screenwriter of Yip and Yen's second collaboration, 2006's Dragon Tiger Gate. Ip Man's eldest son, Ip Chun, his student Leo Au-yeung, and Changquan gold medalist To Yu-hang served as technical consultants for the film, providing advice on the film's story and martial arts choreography. The music for the film was provided by veteran Japanese composer Kenji Kawai, who also served as a composer on the 2006 film, Dragon Tiger Gate which featured Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen as director and actor respectively.
The film was originally conceived in 1998 when Jeffrey Lau and Corey Yuen first thought of the idea of making a film based on Ip Man's life. Donnie Yen signed onto the project, hoping to star as Ip, with Stephen Chow co-starring as Bruce Lee. Yen had signed the contract and received part of the acting fee. However, the studio producing the film closed, and the project was abandoned.
In December 2007, plans to make a new Ip Man film were announced with the filmmakers researching Ip's life in Foshan. Producer Raymond Wong stated that the film would take on a similar look and feel to SPL: Sha Po Lang. On 26 February 2008, a press conference for the film was held in Foshan, where it was announced that Wilson Yip would be directing the film, while Yen would appear in the leading role as Ip. Lynn Hung, Lam Ka-tung, Simon Yam were announced to be appearing in supporting roles, while Sammo Hung would serve as the film's martial arts choreographer. Casting director Zhang Yan Bin spent three months casting actors in various roles for the film. He had completed casting during principal photography in March 2008.
Principal photography for Ip Man began in March 2008, and was completed by the end of August. A majority of the film focuses on events surrounding Ip Man that took place in Foshan in the 1930s and 1940s during the Sino-Japanese War. Since the buildings in modern-day Foshan are architecturally different from the ones of the film's period, the filmmakers decided to shoot the film in Shanghai.
Filming first took place in a storeroom in the industrial district of Shanghai. Having difficulties scouting a cotton factory suitable for shooting, set designers decided to recreate one in the style of the 1930s. They spent weeks transforming an abandoned storeroom into the Zhen Hua Cotton Mill Factory, a 1930s cotton mill factory founded by Ip's friend Chow Ching-chuen (played in the film by Simon Yam) during the Sino-Japanese War. It was where Ip Man first taught Wing Chun openly to the public.
Production designer Kenneth Mak included Western elements in his design, since Foshan, in earlier years, was a unique place where Chinese and Western cultures converged. Pillars were made to resemble English lampposts, and Western lighting, chairs, and tableware were also used. To convey the culture and feel of the time, the buildings were made to look obsolete and worn out. Apart from historical references, Mak also created a glass house which was used in a scene in the film.
Stunts and choreography
...his biggest achievement lies in playing a true historical figure, unlike fictitious characters he had been doing in the past...he'd have to try his best to understand the thoughts of Yip Man, to be him, and to fit in within the past.
—Director Wilson Yip on Donnie Yen being cast as Ip Man
The martial arts choreography was designed by Sammo Hung and veteran fight and stunt coordinator Tony Leung Siu-hung. Hung had previously collaborated with Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen as an actor in the 2005 film SPL: Sha Po Lang. He was hired as the choreographer mainly because of his experience on the 1978 film Warriors Two and 1982's The Prodigal Son, both of which involved Wing Chun. When asked how he would work with Yen to direct the action scenes, Hung replied matter-of-factly, "With my mouth."
Yen described the role as the most emotionally and mentally difficult in his career. He spent months preparing for the role by going on a strict diet which consisted of eating one meal a day, training in Wing Chun, and learning more about Ip Man through his two sons. This was all in the hopes of portraying an erudite and cultured Ip Man, as well as bringing out the special traits of Wing Chun. Yen even went as far as to stay in character after filming, wearing his costume and changing his voice and movement patterns. While rehearsing a fight scene, Yen was reportedly injured when an axe wielder accidentally slashed the side of his left eye. Yen also had a masseur on set as he could not raise his right shoulder due to an injury.
Japanese actor Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, who holds a black belt in Judo, found it "difficult" working under Hung's command. In one scene, he suffered a mild concussion after receiving four consecutive blows from celebrated fight co-ordinator Edward 'Sweco' Chan. Hung later praised Yen and Ikeuchi's performances in the film, even though Ikeuchi was not trained in Chinese martial arts and was not given a lot of complex moves.
Film title controversy
Ip Man's original title was controversial. It was disputed when film director Wong Kar-wai announced plans to make his own Ip Man film with Tony Leung Chiu-wai while filming 2046. Wong had planned his own Ip Man biopic titled The Great Master (一代宗师), with Leung playing the role of Ip. Wong's film, however, had been in development hell, having been announced several years earlier. Producer Raymond Wong wanted to name his film Grandmaster Yip Man, which bore a resemblance to the title Wong Kar-wai wanted to use for his film.
To settle the dispute, Raymond Wong publicly retracted the film title, stating "Actually, all along, we have called our film Ip Man, but our mainland investors said that Yip Man was a great master of his times, so we changed our title to Grandmaster Yip Man out of respect for him." In a 2008 interview, Raymond Wong revealed that The Great Master was in development. Wong Kar-wai's Ip Man film, titled The Grandmaster, was released on 8 January 2013 in China.
Ip Man premiered in Beijing, China on 10 December 2008, only two days prior to its release in China. The film was later released in Malaysia, Singapore, and New Zealand on 18 December 2008, one day prior to its release date in Hong Kong.
Prior to its theatrical release in China, Ip Man held a test screening in Beijing on 4 December 2008. The film was highly praised, based on survey sheets returned by the audience. Donnie Yen's portrayal of Ip Man was repeatedly hailed as the year's best performance. High praise was also given to the film's co-stars, Fan Siu-wong, Lam Ka-tung, and Lynn Hung. Ip Man also received positive reactions from film critics. Salon's Andrew O'Hehir deemed Ip Man a "well-paced and satisfying piece of Chinese-nationalist pulp," referring to the film's heavy anti-Japanese sentiment.
Derek Elley of Variety Magazine wrote in his review, "Yen, who's taking on real star charisma in middle age, is aces as Ip, with a simple dignity that exactly mirrors the movie's own and a gracefulness in combat that's very different from his trademark whiplash style." Malaysian film critic Lim Chang Moh of The Malay Mail awarded the film three stars out of four, writing that the film was "nicely balanced with great martial arts action and an engaging narrative." Lim later placed the film at number six in his list of "Top Ten Movies of 2008." Jen Ogilvie of Fortean Times wrote, "what carries Ip Man is its dramatic charge: it is the story's entanglement in the real horrors of Japanese occupation that pulls the viewer in and builds tension into the fight scenes."
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 86% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 28 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "At once beholden to the established conventions of the genre and delightfully subversive of them, Ip Man is one of the most exciting – and refreshingly character-driven – martial arts films in years." At Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 59 out of 100 based on 9 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Fact and fiction
The film was never meant to be a true biographical film to Ip Man's life, but to broadly touch on the elements from his life. Most of the central turns of the plot are there only for the purpose of making a movie more exciting, including the scenes depicting duels between Ip Man and the Japanese, including Consul General Miura Yoshiaki (三浦義秋), as well as Ip Man encountering hardship during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
Ip Man grossed ¥14,948,157 (US$2,188,982) on its opening weekend in China. The film's revenues increased in the second week by 86.1%, grossing ¥27,812,224 (US$4,073,201) to retain second place at the box office. The film experienced a small decrease in revenue in its third weekend, dropping 10.5% to ¥24,889,189 ($3,645,112), though remaining in second place. Ip Man continued to decrease in revenue, grossing ¥19,956,454 (US$2,922,695) in its fourth week while staying in second place. After six weeks of theatrical release, Ip Man grossed a total of ¥93,740,529 (US$13,728,640). The film was China's 13th highest-grossing film of 2008.[failed verification]
During its opening weekend in Hong Kong, Ip Man came in first place at the box office, grossing HK$4.5 million (US$579,715). In its second week, Ip Man moved to second place, while grossing HK$6,156,765 (US$789,303) with a 36.2% increase in revenue. The film continued to decrease in revenue in its third week, grossing HK$3,494,366 ($447,981), while staying in second place at the box office. Ip Man moved to third place in its fourth week, grossing HK$2,075,250 ($266,055). After seven weeks of theatrical release in Hong Kong, Ip Man had grossed HK$25,581,958.69 (US$3,300,847) domestically. The film ranks as the 8th highest-grossing film in Hong Kong of 2008. In total, the film had grossed $22,108,789 worldwide, despite not being released in North America and most of Europe.
Ip Man was released on DVD and Blu-ray formats on 13 February 2009. Releases include single-disc and two-disc special-edition formats. Features for the special edition include deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, a theatrical trailer, interviews with director Wilson Yip and actor Donnie Yen and featurettes on both Ip Man and Wing Chun martial arts. Ip Man was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States on 27 July 2010. A 3-disc Deluxe Collector's Edition was released in China, but only contains Mandarin-dubbed soundtracks and no English subtitles.
|List of Accolades|
|Award / Film Festival||Category||Recipient(s)||Result|
|Beijing College Student Film Festival||Best Actor||Donnie Yen||Won|
|Favorite Director||Wilson Yip||Won|
|2009 Fantasia Festival||Technical Achievement||Won|
|Best Asian Film||Wilson Yip|
|Most Energetic Film||Wilson Yip|
|46th Golden Horse Film Awards||Best Action Choreography||Sammo Hung, Tony Leung Siu-hung||Won|
|28th Hong Kong Film Awards||Best Film||Won|
|Best Director||Wilson Yip||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Donnie Yen||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Lam Ka-tung||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Fan Siu-wong||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||O Sing-pui||Nominated|
|Best Film Editing||Cheung Ka-fai||Nominated|
|Best Art Direction||Kenneth Mak||Nominated|
|Best Action Choreography||Sammo Hung, Tony Leung Siu-hung||Won|
|Best Sound Design||Kinson Tsang||Nominated|
|Best Visual Effects||Henri Wong||Nominated|
|Best Original Score||Kenji Kawai||Nominated|
|Huabiao Film Awards||Outstanding Abroad Actor||Donnie Yen||Won|
|Outstanding Co-production Film||Won|
|Shanghai Film Critics Awards||Film of Merit||Won|
|Sitges - Catalan International Film Festival||Orient Express Award||Wilson Yip||Won|
|2nd Iron Elephant Awards||Best Picture||Won|
|Best Action Choreography||Sammo Hung, Tony Leung Siu-hung||Won|
|Best Actor||Donnie Yen||Won|
Ip Man is the first film in a tetralogy. Donnie Yen reprised the lead role in the sequel Ip Man 2, the second feature film based on the life of Ip Man. The film focuses on Ip's movements in Hong Kong as he attempts to propagate his discipline of Wing Chun martial arts; at the end it also briefly introduces a young Bruce Lee prior to becoming one of Ip's most famed disciples. Ip Man 2 was released theatrically in Hong Kong in late April 2010. Lynn Hung and Fan Siu-wong reprise their supporting roles, while martial arts choreographer Sammo Hung appears as a master of Hung Ga martial arts.
Yen expressed his lack of interest in making a third film, feeling that, "Ip Man 2 will incontrovertibly become a classic, bettering the first." Yen later stated that after Ip Man 2, he would no longer be involved in a film based on Ip's life. While both Donnie Yen and Raymond Wong were not keen on making a third Ip Man film, director Wilson Yip expressed interest in making one that would focus on the relationship between Ip and Bruce Lee. While Ip Man 2 very briefly shows Lee as a child, Yip hoped to find a suitable actor to portray Lee as an adult for the third installment.
In January 2014, Variety reported that Ip Man 3 would begin shooting in 2015 with Donnie Yen reprising his role as Ip Man and Wilson Yip returning to direct. The film was initially scheduled for a late 2015 release, but eventually it was released in early 2016.
- History of Wing Chun
- Wing Chun terms, for names of various Wing Chun techniques.
- Branches of Wing Chun, a student-teacher family tree within the Chinese martial art Wing Chun.
- List of martial arts films
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10 years back, Jeff Lau teamed up with Corey Yuen to bring the story of Yip Man on the screen, with Donnie Yen as Yip Man and Stephen Chow as Bruce Lee. Donnie Yen had signed the contract and received part of the acting fee. However, the studio folded resulting in the project being abandoned.
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《叶问传》 Legend of Yip Man, produced by Mandarin Films, will begin production in late February 2008. Wilson Yip is directing, with the main production behind SPL being involved as well. Apart from Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung will also be joining the cast. And for maximum impact, they'll be performing their own stunts in this action oriented feature. Ngai Sing and a few martial artists are also being considered. Raymond Wong says that they are gathering information on the life of Yip Man, and have even been to Hall of Yip Man in Foshan as part of the research. The movie has full support from Yip Man's son, who's agreed to be the consultant. Raymond Wong says that the film will take on a similar look and feel as SPL.
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When at a promotional event on March 25, Donnie Yen was wearing sunglasses. It turns out that there was a gash on the area around Donnie Yen's left eye, "When rehearsing an action scene in Yip Man whereby I fight against a group of people, an axe wielder accidentally slashed the side near my left eye. Blood was gushing out."
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We were expecting Donnie Yen's Ip Man – the biopic of the life of Bruce Lee's martial arts teacher – to be heading straight to DVD in the U.K, but it seems they have other ideas. Ip Man (released by Showbox Entertainment) will be opening the film first, in selected UK cinemas on October 2nd.
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Test screening for Ip Man was held in Beijing on Dec 4. Based on the survey sheets returned by the audience, it's an unanimous recommendation. Donnie Yen's portrayal of Yip Man was billed as the year's best performance. Donnie Yen has acquitted himself well as a great master, besting his two other works this year. High marks were also given to Fan Siu-wong, Lam Ka-tung, and Lynn Hung. The first half of the film is filled with more laidback, humorous moments, amply showing Ip Man's kungfu. The second half is thoughtful, stirring and nationalistic, amply showing Ip Man's grandmaster spirit. As a traditional kungfu film, Ip Man's martial arts scenes were awarded 8 to 9 out of 10 by 85% of the audience, while full marks were given by the rest.
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Yip Chun says, "No matter how well-received Ip Man was, there were areas that could have been better. For example, the film was obviously set in Foshan, yet it was not shot on location on the actual place. Neither was the mansion like the original. Hence, we have The Legend is Born: Ip Man shot in Foshan, showing Foshan as it is meant to be."
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- Official website EN
- Official website Chinese
- Ip Man at IMDb
- Ip Man at the Hong Kong Movie DataBase
- Ip Man at AllMovie
- Ip Man at Metacritic
- Ip Man at Rotten Tomatoes
- Ip Man at MandarinFilms.com (English)
- Ip Man at MandarinFilms.com (Traditional Chinese)
- Ip Man at MandarinFilms.com (Simplified Chinese)
- Ip Man movie review
- Ip Man movie review at oldschoolkungfu.com (English)