The Go Master Reviews

  • Jul 30, 2013

    Wu Qingyuan (The Go Master) (Zhuangzhuang Tian, 2006) There are touches of Yasujiro Ozu in the way Zhuangzhuang Tian sets up a number of his shots in this film, and that can never be a bad thing; Ozu, one of Japan's masters of slow film, knew how to take the most rudimentary scene and make it into something exquisite, and any director who tries to follow in those footsteps is probably going to end up with something better than he otherwise would have. On the other hand, if you've read any random half-dozen of my movie reviews, you are probably well aware that 99% of the time, when I use the phrase "very pretty" to describe a movie, it's in the pejorative. A movie can be very beautiful indeed, but when the filmmaker also intends that movie to have substance (unlike, for example, Brakhage's exquisite "Window Water Baby Moving", which is just meant to be beautiful), he can make a film as pretty as he wants, but if he misses the mark with his substance, the movie will end up feeling off. And such is the case with Wu Qingyuan, which is a very pretty thing indeed, but also a very flawed one. Plot: Wu (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's Chen Chang) is a Chinese national raised in Japan; his lifelong dream, since he discovered a talent for it at a very young age, is to be the best Go player in the world. And if you're going to be a championship Go player, there's nowhere to be but Japan. Which is all well and good...except for Wu being in the wrong place at the wrong time on a tremendous scale. The movie, which is based on Wu's autobiography, takes place in the early thirties, as Japanese nationalism takes hold, and Japan turns its military might upon its closest mainland neighbor-China. Wu, and many of those around him, including his gaming contemporaries and the people who run the various boardinghouses at which Wu stays during the film, attempt to ignore the growing prejudice against the Chinese. Unfortunately, it breaks into their routine all too often, threatening on a regular basis to derail Wu's Go-playing career. Qingyuan Wu is still alive; he celebrated his ninety-ninth birthday about two weeks before I started writing this review. He stopped playing Go in 1964 after suffering nerve damage in a motorcycle accident in 1961, so the movie's final title card tells us (and the Wikipedia entry on Wu confirms), but (spoiler alert!, though it happens after the end of the movie) he did in fact realize his dream: Wu is considered one of the greatest Go players of the 20th century, having achieved 9 dan status in 1950. I'm telling you all this because you're probably not going to get it from the movie. Tian has done an excellent job at setting the scene, and the sound is wonderful (if you've read the Hikaru no Go manga and always wondered exactly what the "clack" sounded like...). The actors do the best they can with Cheng Ah (Hibiscus Town)'s impressionist script (to date, the last he has written), but there simply isn't a great deal there about the two subjects that are going to raw most people to this film: Qingyuan Wu, the person (as opposed to Qingyuan Wu, the Chinese guy stuck in Japan at the time of the Manchurian invasion and all the Unit 731 goings-on), and the game of Go. So I'm back where I started: it's a very pretty, but shallow, thing. ** 1/2

    Wu Qingyuan (The Go Master) (Zhuangzhuang Tian, 2006) There are touches of Yasujiro Ozu in the way Zhuangzhuang Tian sets up a number of his shots in this film, and that can never be a bad thing; Ozu, one of Japan's masters of slow film, knew how to take the most rudimentary scene and make it into something exquisite, and any director who tries to follow in those footsteps is probably going to end up with something better than he otherwise would have. On the other hand, if you've read any random half-dozen of my movie reviews, you are probably well aware that 99% of the time, when I use the phrase "very pretty" to describe a movie, it's in the pejorative. A movie can be very beautiful indeed, but when the filmmaker also intends that movie to have substance (unlike, for example, Brakhage's exquisite "Window Water Baby Moving", which is just meant to be beautiful), he can make a film as pretty as he wants, but if he misses the mark with his substance, the movie will end up feeling off. And such is the case with Wu Qingyuan, which is a very pretty thing indeed, but also a very flawed one. Plot: Wu (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's Chen Chang) is a Chinese national raised in Japan; his lifelong dream, since he discovered a talent for it at a very young age, is to be the best Go player in the world. And if you're going to be a championship Go player, there's nowhere to be but Japan. Which is all well and good...except for Wu being in the wrong place at the wrong time on a tremendous scale. The movie, which is based on Wu's autobiography, takes place in the early thirties, as Japanese nationalism takes hold, and Japan turns its military might upon its closest mainland neighbor-China. Wu, and many of those around him, including his gaming contemporaries and the people who run the various boardinghouses at which Wu stays during the film, attempt to ignore the growing prejudice against the Chinese. Unfortunately, it breaks into their routine all too often, threatening on a regular basis to derail Wu's Go-playing career. Qingyuan Wu is still alive; he celebrated his ninety-ninth birthday about two weeks before I started writing this review. He stopped playing Go in 1964 after suffering nerve damage in a motorcycle accident in 1961, so the movie's final title card tells us (and the Wikipedia entry on Wu confirms), but (spoiler alert!, though it happens after the end of the movie) he did in fact realize his dream: Wu is considered one of the greatest Go players of the 20th century, having achieved 9 dan status in 1950. I'm telling you all this because you're probably not going to get it from the movie. Tian has done an excellent job at setting the scene, and the sound is wonderful (if you've read the Hikaru no Go manga and always wondered exactly what the "clack" sounded like...). The actors do the best they can with Cheng Ah (Hibiscus Town)'s impressionist script (to date, the last he has written), but there simply isn't a great deal there about the two subjects that are going to raw most people to this film: Qingyuan Wu, the person (as opposed to Qingyuan Wu, the Chinese guy stuck in Japan at the time of the Manchurian invasion and all the Unit 731 goings-on), and the game of Go. So I'm back where I started: it's a very pretty, but shallow, thing. ** 1/2

  • Jun 30, 2013

    Remarkably slow. It's actually just a story told in a linear timeline. Nothing special about that. The grandeur of the person involved and the accurate description of the atmosphere make up for all of that. For a non go lover it may be a bit hard to get through though.

    Remarkably slow. It's actually just a story told in a linear timeline. Nothing special about that. The grandeur of the person involved and the accurate description of the atmosphere make up for all of that. For a non go lover it may be a bit hard to get through though.

  • Mar 30, 2013

    Go Seigen is well acknowledged as "go master" in eastern Asian countries. Go, a tradition game related to binary game theory, has been shown as soul of many athletic sports.

    Go Seigen is well acknowledged as "go master" in eastern Asian countries. Go, a tradition game related to binary game theory, has been shown as soul of many athletic sports.

  • Mar 02, 2013

    This biopic of 20th century greatest Go master, reveals the intensity of life achievement through art in Japan. This film is clearly under rated. Nonetheless I do believe that explaining the deep influence of Wu Qingyuan in modernizing Go strategy would have been a big plus. Not a must see unless you play and like Go (as I do).

    This biopic of 20th century greatest Go master, reveals the intensity of life achievement through art in Japan. This film is clearly under rated. Nonetheless I do believe that explaining the deep influence of Wu Qingyuan in modernizing Go strategy would have been a big plus. Not a must see unless you play and like Go (as I do).

  • Feb 16, 2013

    This movie has very little going for it.

    This movie has very little going for it.

  • Dec 12, 2012

    One of the more confusing movies I've seen recently.....

    One of the more confusing movies I've seen recently.....

  • Aug 07, 2010

    excellent cinematography, bad script

    excellent cinematography, bad script

  • Aug 23, 2009

    This version is pointless. It as if the original movie's fixation on the war was too offensive, and thus had to be rewritten. The treatment of jingoism is flaccid, reports of atrocities such as Nanking were skipped entirely, and even the atomic bomb merited about ten seconds. Without treating WWII centrally, the motive behind all the mental conflict and the analogy with competitive sport is completely missing. I believe that it is Go Seigen himself is in the first scene, and he was obviously consulted on this version. Perhaps this simply reflects the fact that he was preoccupied with cults and his job that he barely noticed the war. The original award winning "The Go Masters" was a *great* movie. In spite of being very popular when coming out and winning awards world-wide, that movie can only be found used on VHS for over a hundred dollars each. Whenever a university library or rental place has it, that copy ends up stolen. Just re-release the original on DVD already.

    This version is pointless. It as if the original movie's fixation on the war was too offensive, and thus had to be rewritten. The treatment of jingoism is flaccid, reports of atrocities such as Nanking were skipped entirely, and even the atomic bomb merited about ten seconds. Without treating WWII centrally, the motive behind all the mental conflict and the analogy with competitive sport is completely missing. I believe that it is Go Seigen himself is in the first scene, and he was obviously consulted on this version. Perhaps this simply reflects the fact that he was preoccupied with cults and his job that he barely noticed the war. The original award winning "The Go Masters" was a *great* movie. In spite of being very popular when coming out and winning awards world-wide, that movie can only be found used on VHS for over a hundred dollars each. Whenever a university library or rental place has it, that copy ends up stolen. Just re-release the original on DVD already.

  • Jan 26, 2009

    hermosa visualmente, que buena dirección de artes, de las cosas maravillosas del cine es que nos permite conocer culturas "lejanas" como en este caso

    hermosa visualmente, que buena dirección de artes, de las cosas maravillosas del cine es que nos permite conocer culturas "lejanas" como en este caso

  • Oct 20, 2008

    A delicate and oblique glance over the life of one of the legendary Go players of the 20th C. Instead of focusing on the arcane intricacies of the game which he saw (only really accessable to professional players anyway), the film weaves together many elements from the impact of history through intimate and spiritual yearnings. A film full of beautiful imagery, sabi and soul.

    A delicate and oblique glance over the life of one of the legendary Go players of the 20th C. Instead of focusing on the arcane intricacies of the game which he saw (only really accessable to professional players anyway), the film weaves together many elements from the impact of history through intimate and spiritual yearnings. A film full of beautiful imagery, sabi and soul.