‘ASHES OF TIME REDUX’by Chuck Graham on Nov. 20, 2008, under Calendar Plus
Citizen Staff Writer
Rating: Not Rated Length: 93 minutes
Filmmaker Wong Kar Wai’s rhapsodically beautiful and lovingly reworked “Ashes of Time Redux” has the look of ravishing poetry, one breath-taking scene after another stretching across endless vistas that make the big screen seem even bigger. But its dark heart of rue and regret is classic film noir.
As seen through the camera lens of Asian genius Christopher Doyle, emptiness is emphasized on China’s rolling sand dunes by the stark silhouette of a single tree defiantly isolated on the horizon. An instant metaphor of every rejected lover who’s been forced to stand alone in the cold. A passion for revenge may not be as comforting as romance, he implies, but it will definitely steam up the soul.
Bittersweet solos played on wooden flutes wrap around the dream images of sullen eyes in icy faces turning slowly toward the camera as desert winds whip swirls of dust reflecting sparkles of dying sunlight. Ghostly images add to the confusion, as do haunted expressions shared by couples looking equally androgynous, being spirited down narrow hallways filled with shadows concealing all the exits.
A story line? There might be one. Who cares? “Ashes of Time Redux” is advertised as a martial arts movie, but really, it’s all about the atmosphere. As one tattered warrior comments, “The important thing in life is not what happens but how we remember what happens.” Just like in this film.
The protagonist Ou-yang Feng (Leslie Cheung) isn’t even a fighter. He’s a broker. You want someone killed, Ou-yang can arrange it. The Blind Swordsman (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) is a good friend. Another is Huang Yaoshi (Tony Leung Ka Fai), a drifter with his own weapons. He also brings a bottle of wine that is supposed to erase one’s memory.
Ou-Yang is a man held prisoner by his past, choosing this desert hermit’s life after The Woman (Maggie Cheung) broke his heart many years before. Ou-yang always refuses to drink Huang’s wine of forgetfulness, although Huang insists on drinking deeply with every visit. For without memory, every day is a new beginning.
Other restless souls make their way through “Ashes of Time,” as well, leaving mental footprints that always point toward deeper thoughts rather than tidy conclusions.