Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai’s long-awaited martial arts film The Grandmaster was shown in public for the first time in Beijing on Sunday, after more than six years in production.
The film spans several decades of Chinese history to tell the story of legendary martial artist Yip Man, who went on to train Bruce Lee, and features lengthy battles between rival kung fu masters.
Wong is best known for his 2000 slow-burn drama In the Mood for Love.
His new film, packed with Chinese stars including Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Beijing-born starlet Zhang Ziyi, appears well placed to capture the local audience.
In his first press appearance to promote the film, Wong was also confident that The Grandmaster, which runs for over two hours in its current edit and is steeped in traditional martial arts culture, would be well received abroad.
“There is no such thing as a Western or Eastern audience... the elements of cinema are the same worldwide, although their expression is different,” said Wong, wearing his trademark dark glasses.
The film, set to hit Chinese cinemas on Tuesday, follows its lead character through some of China’s most tumultuous recent history including the Japanese invasion in the 1930s.
It has been delayed several times, amid rumours of extensive reshooting and injured actors, but Wong shrugged off claims that the filming had taken too long.
“It felt like three years of university... we didn’t want filming to end,” he said.
Wong made his international breakthrough in 1994 with Chungking Express and was the first Chinese director to sit on the jury at Cannes.
In February he will lead the jury of the Berlin film festival, which traditionally highlights Asian cinema.