The Go Master (2008)

Director:  Tian Zhuang Zhuang
Cast:  Chang Chen, Sylvia Chang, Akira Emoto
Plot:  A Chinese man becomes an expert player of the traditional game of Go.

Genre:  Biography / Drama / Romance
Awards:  -
Runtime:  104min
Rating:  PG


The Go Master is a short biopic on the life struggles of arguably the world's best Go player - Wu Qingyuan.  He made himself a name in the early 1930s as a talented mainland Chinese playing a Japanese strategic board game.  Year after year, he became so obsessed with mastering Go that he would often devise controversial tactics to beat his rivals.  

In the late 1930s, when Japan attacked China in WWII, things start to get worse for Wu, whom was contemplating retirement from the game, though he still felt the desire to be the number one Go player. "To play Go, is to be at peace with yourself."  To him, Go was like an enlightening faith, a shining light that guided him through rough times.

Acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Tian Zhuang Zhuang's new film is unfortunately a letdown.  Despite winning several awards in his homeland, The Go Master is in my opinion, a highly flawed film.  The main reason for this is its lackluster screenplay. 

Wu was a man of few words, but Chang Chen (who plays Wu) nearly portrayed him as a man of no words.  Throughout its runtime of a hundred minutes, Chang Chen's character merely moves his lips.  And when he does, the dialogue is often dull and is hardly what one would expect from a strategist like him to say. 

The film's pacing is another flaw
. It moves at such a snail-like pace that it makes Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey seems like a roller coaster ride in Disneyland.  There's too much focus on the main character alone rather than his relations and interaction with the people around him.  Most of the shots are static and filter lens are used to make these shots appear less bright than usual, like a montage of faded photos.  

To its credit, The Go Master is a beautifully filmed motion picture.  And there are a couple of excellently-executed scenes which includes an unexpected motorcycle accident, and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima which is presented in a unique, subtle manner.

Apart from its visual splendor and good direction, The Go Master becomes below average in the other aspects, especially in its screenwriting.  It is the kind of film that ought to inspire viewers.  But does it really do that?  "To watch The Go Master, is not to be at peace with yourself".


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