Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ashes of Time Redux

Wong Kar-Wai, 1994, China (8.3*)
Redux Version 2008
This film is a work of art. Director Wong Kar-Wai never films a straight narrative story, but makes cinematic art: visually stunning, lyrical, a visual statement about time and memory, yet done with the seasons cycling around as if to imply all of life is circular. In a way, this is like a Chinese spaghetti western, about a man who hires swordsmen for contract killings. One can actually see visual homage to Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, with blurred action images and extreme closeups, and also Antonioni's Red Desert, with long slow tributes to abstract beauty in nature. Wong Kar Wai has never been one to disappoint me, even if the story is a little slow, the visuals are enough to keep me riveted, such as in Fallen Angels, the sequel to Chungking Express.

This is a poetic, haunting film, I'm glad that Wong recut it and made it a little more woven together, even as it is, it's free flowing like "the river of time", and even the narrative, usually boring, adds some poetry of its own. (Not sure about the addition of the Yo-Yo Ma score though, the music is actually distracting). I can't get one thought out of my mind, "a man's worst enemy is his memory", and since part of this film uses the plot device of a wine that makes one forget, it's a painful point that one cannot escape, as a character says "the more you try to forget, the more you remember".

This is a great cast, the last names reading like a haiku: Chueng, Leung, Lin, Lau, Leung, Cheung, Young, Chou, Cheung. There's even two Tony Leungs (Ka Fai and Chiu Wai for you real fans! ..also Maggie Cheung, thankfully). If you're not a Wong Kar Wai fan, start with Chungking and Angels, then In the Mood for Love - these films have a breathtaking beauty thanks to the cinematography of Christopher Doyle, who also works with Zhang Yimou.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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