The soundtrack/score for Kar Wai Wong’s The Grandmaster, yet another film about the iconic martial arts master Ip Man, was an interesting listen. The album is a diverse project that’s made so by the inclusion of both Japanese composer Shigeru Umbayashi as well as French composer Nathaniel Mechaly, plus some borrowed tunes from legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone that have featured in past film soundtracks. Wow.
The album begins with the more traditional themes that had a varied range for me. I’m a Martial Arts film nut, but I find that a lot of the films that I’ve seen over the years incorporate a sameness while trying to capture the era or tradition of a specific region. While some of these more traditional compositions were rather beautiful, mostly strings but an odd inclusion of a moody piano, they seemed a bit done before. The Beijing Opera track was a bit out of left field but brought a fresh curve to the opening of the albums second act.
The score for the film is what I actually enjoyed the most. The music was intense and wasn’t afraid to head in different directions at times. It wasn’t so much a traditional martial arts film score but it was easy to see where it could fit in. It’s not hard to assume these parts of the soundtrack were created to intensify fight scenes.
All in all, after listening to the album all the way through I found that The Grandmaster does what it’s supposed to do. It gives you a sense of time and place with its more traditional themes and then moves right on in to the more intense parts of the film before giving you an epilogue of sorts with ending music that signifies a change of environment. It basically tells a story the way music for a film should.