The Grandmaster: Wong Kar Wai returns with a martial-arts epic on the life of the legendary Ip Man. Plus Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman and the resurrection of Michael Keaton, John Berger on Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, teapots – and our critics’ roundup of all the best movies of 2014.
Wong Kar Wai’s respect for traditional martial arts is firmly in evidence in his vividly authenticThe Grandmaster, which explores the life of the legendary wing chun teacher Ip Man. But does his narrative lose its way in the battle between style and substance? By Tony Rayns.
Plus: In the mood for kung fu
Wong Kar Wai explains his lifelong fascination with martial arts, why he was determined to bring a new realism to the genre, and why quality films, like the finest stews, should never be made in a hurry. Interview by James Bell.
Plus: The birth of a legend
The Grandmaster sits in a tradition of kung fu movies showcasing genuine fighting techniques alongside the fictional exploits of real-life historical martial-arts masters like Ip Man . By Leon Hunt.
Flight of fancy
Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s tale of an actor looking to get his career flying again years after walking out on a superhero franchise, sees the director jettisoning the weighty metaphysical issues of his previous work in favour of a welcome lightness of touch. By Paul Julian Smith.
Films of the year
Quality narrative cinema gets the usual thumbs-up in our 2014 poll, but some exceptional documentaries were arguably more important – while shifts within the industry, particularly in its relationship with television, should make for an intriguing 2015. By Nick James
Plus: The year in review
Lists and comment by 50 of our year-end poll contributors.
Some notes about the art of falling
In the century that has passed since The Tramp first strolled into the frame on cinema screens, the world has changed deeply. Yet Charlie Chaplin’s early films have lost none of their surprise or humour or bite or illumination, and their relevance now seems more urgent than ever. By John Berger.
Films of the month
Enemy The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Interstellar
plus reviews of
Algorithms The Best of Me Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Black Sea Bogowie Bonobo Bringing Tibet Home The Circle Diplomacy Dumb and Dumber To Eastern Boys Electricity The Face of Love The Grandmaster The Green Prince Hello Carter Horns Horrible Bosses 2 The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness Kon-Tiki Manakamana Mea Culpa Me, Myself and Mum Men, Women & Children Merchants of Doubt Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?! Northern Soul One Rogue Reporter Open Bethlehem Ouija Redirected School of Babel St. Vincent The Theory of Everything We Are the Giant The Woman in Black: Angel of Death