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Wong's 'Grandmaster' unveiled after 6 years

CHINESE director Wong Kar-wai's long-awaited martial arts film "The Grandmaster" was shown in public for the first time in Beijing yesterday, after more than six years in production.

Director Wong Kar-wai (right) laughs next to actor Tony Leung and actress Zhang Ziyi at a press conference for "The Grandmaster" ahead of its premiere in Beijing yesterday.

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 and Beijing-born Zhang Ziyi, appears well placed to capture the local audience.

Wong is also confident that "The Grandmaster," which runs for over two hours 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," he told reporters.

The film, set to hit Chinese cinemas tomorrow, 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 rumors of extensive reshooting and injured actors, but Wong shrugged off claims that filming had taken too long.

"It felt like three years of university ... we didn't want filming to end," he said.

The director 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 at the Berlin Film Festival, which traditionally highlights Asian cinema.

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