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The Go Master (Wu Qingyuan)
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Tian Zhuangzhuang

An aged Wu Qingyuan, the real-life protagonist of this movie, is pictured at the beginning of the film with his Japanese wife, Kazuko. At the age of 14 Wu moved to Japan where he embarked upon a professional career as a Go player and soon became the game's most lauded star. Even in the most turbulent years of the Sino-Japanese War, Wu declined to take sides since his loyalty lay with the game, which he regarded as his true faith. In 1955, Wu had to stop playing after a motorcycle accident but, as the film shows, he never lost his passion for the game.

However, despite the onscreen efforts of Taiwanese actor Chang Chen, the movie never really finds its rhythm. Literature guru Ah Cheng's screenplay is too restrained and many of the set pieces, which involve chess, are uninspiring – anyone unfamiliar with the game, or who has never heard of Wu, will find the movie difficult to follow.

The biggest problem with the film is that it fails to convey what a remarkable man Wu was, especially against the dramatic backdrop of turbulent times. It does, however, benefit from beautiful cinematography – director Tian Zhuangzhuang shoots in long takes, which results in a unique visual style, reminiscent of a Chinese scroll painting.

(That's Beijing by Alice Wang October 24, 2007)

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