To celebrate Cine Asia’s UK release of the award-winning hit “The Final Master”, KFK catches up with renowned filmmaker Xu Haofeng. As well as being the writer of Wong Kar-wai’s modern classic, “The Grandmaster”, Xu Haofeng adapted “The Final Master” from his own novel. In addition to his directing duties, Xu choreographed the stunning martial arts action.
A martial arts student from the age of 14, Xu was fascinated by the arts and later enrolled at the Beijing Film Academy to study directing. As a talented writer he has had successes with the books “The Bygone Kung Fu World” and “Monk Comes Down the Mountain”, the latter being adapted for the screen. In 2011, he made his directorial debut on “The Sword Identity”, followed by “Judge Archer”, before Wong Kar-wai invited him to screenwrite “The Grandmaster”, bringing Xu worldwide recognition.
“The Final Master” stars Jia Song (“Shock Wave Tunnel”, “Red Cliff”), Shih-Chieh King (“Brotherhood of Blades II”), Yang Song (“Judge Archer”) and martial arts movie veteran Chen Kuan Tai (“Dragon Tiger Gate”, “Blood Brothers”), the film’s authentic fighting style won Best Action Choreography at the prestigious Golden Horse Awards.
Welcome to Kung Fu Kingdom! Could you tell us a little about the story of The Final Master?
Thank you. Well, “The Final Master” depicts the unique master-disciple relationship in the martial arts world. It is portrayed in the story of a man determined to open his martial arts school in the 1930’s. While a martial arts master will become the figurehead of his school, it is his disciple that proves his worth, and who will himself be banished as a sacrifice to appease the rival schools that have been defeated.
“The Final Master” features some very authentic looking and award-winning martial arts choreography. What sets it aside from other period martial arts films?
You see, unlike action movies in Hong Kong that feature fancy jumping, flying through the air, and fast editing, “The Final Master” is grounded in reality and authenticity. I focus on the sudden movements and reversals of a real fight that are like cha-cha dancing steps. In each duel, I show the whole-body dynamic of the fighters in full-length shots without relying on editing tricks.
We certainly thought it featured some great action! Many of the fight scenes include some iconic Kung Fu weapons. What made you choose the different weapons?
Every weapon has its own symbolic meaning. Since Northern China has been the centre of political power for centuries, the shape of its blades are solemn with a need to reflect etiquette and customs. In the South, blades are more simple in design without this need for symbolism. “The Final Master” is about a Southerner coming to the North; their different personalities are reflected in the designs of their weapons.
They did prove to be interesting metaphors in the story. How does the movie reflect actual Chinese history?
After the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912, local warlords appeared in great numbers. The military class, which traditionally had a low social status, began to take control of the economy and businesses through mergers and acquisitions. Thus came the era of warlords in China. This is reflected in “The Final Master” in which a warlord takes control of the local martial arts community, taking away their independence. Does one accept this inevitable change or fight against it? The northern blade is a symbol of political consciousness. The southern blade reflects personal will. I believe that ultimately, the latter will endure.
Thank you Xu Haofeng for this fascinating insight into “The Final Master”!
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