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Ashes Of Time Redux Review


Excellent
Six months after he went all gooey over America in My Blueberry Nights, Wong Kar-Wai returns packing a re-tooled cut of his indecipherable 1994 martial-arts whatsit Ashes of Time, now provocatively titled Ashes of Time Redux. The missing link between the buzzed buffoonery of the Chinese filmmaker's first two films and the intoxicating hysteria of Chungking Express and Fallen Angels now finds itself aligned more with the latter stylized works of an auteur rather than the baby steps of a confused film school graduate.

Not much clearer for the digital colorization, edits, and a new score by Yo Yo Ma, the rushing surge of the film's narrative strands might remain perplexing unless you're equipped with the film's press notes. Focused mainly on the hazy remembrances of Ouyang Feng (Leslie Cheung), Kar-Wai facilitates a whirling, desert-set phantasma where swordsmen brood like Goethe when they aren't doing battle with thieves... and their women are simultaneously incapable of forgetting or remembering their lovers.

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Farewell My Concubine Review


OK
Chen Kaige cemented his international film credentials with the lush Farewell My Concubine, which presents a compendium of his expressionistic techniques and thematic concerns (striking imagery, fluid camera, emotional intensity, and, also, simple-minded historicity, banal character development, and an uninvolving narrative line).

Kaige's film charts the course of a unique romantic triangle that would even give Frank Borzage pause, following the relationship of two boyhood friends over half a century of turbulent Chinese history. After being abandoned by his prostitute mother at the Beijing Opera training school, young Douzi (Ma Mingwei as a child, Yin Shi as a teen, and Leslie Cheung as an adult) soon makes friends with the cocky Sitou (Fei Yang as a child, Yin Zhi as a teen, and Zhang Fengyi as an adult), and they both provide emotional support for the other as they undergo the grueling and pitiless opera school training that finds them, as adults, as the female and male role stars of the Beijing Opera. However, at the height of their fame, Sitou (now known as Duan Xiaolou) announces his intent to marry the sex-bomb prostitute Juxian (Gong Li). Douzi's (now known as Cheng Dieyi) obsessive jealousy and immediate dislike for Juxian leads him into the creepy arms of opera patron Yuan (Ge You) and to seek solace in opium-induced stupors. As the years pass and the old friends became increasingly estranged, they are finally, during the Gang of Four years, forced to publicly denounce each other as counter-revolutionaries. The result is humiliation and tragedy.

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Farwell My Concubine Review


Very Good
If you've seen one Chinese period piece, well, you'll probably feel like you've seen Farewell My Concubine, a lush epic that traces 50 years in the lives of a pair of Beijing Opera stars.

Overlong and overwrought, our heroes (played by Leslie Cheung and Fengyi Zhang during their adult years) find themselves undergoing the torture of opera training during the 1920s, find fame and fortune on the eve of the Japanese occupation during WWII, find themselves outcast as traitors following the communist revolution in the 1960s, and try to make a comeback as a kitschy nostalgia play in 1977. Zhang takes the butch role of the king in the titular opera, while Cheung plays like a girl. Bisexuality is hinted at, never shown. Beatings are plentiful, as is that semi-off-key Chinese operatic warbling (which, I might add, gets old after 2 1/2 hours...)

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Happy Together Review


Weak
Wong Kar Wai is up to his old tricks -- using various film stocks and camera speeds, using in-and-out-of-focus shots, mixing color and black-and-white -- only this time he's not enhancing the grittiness of his tale, he's hiding its defects. Happy Together is at first an interesting look at an extremely dysfunctional relationship between two Hong Kong men now living in Argentina (no idea what inspired that one...), but its histrionics eventually grow wearisome. The study of contrasting lives and lifestyles is hardly unique save for its inexplicably original setting. Terribly conceited and almost unbearably padded.

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A Better Tomorrow Review


Weak
John Woo's ode to slow-motion blood splatters has earned raves from his adoring fans, but this tale of two brothers -- one good, one bad -- certainly has some much better contemporaries. Chow Yun-Fat and Leslie Cheung are mildly memorable in the aforementioned roles (one's a counterfeiter, the other is a cop on his trail), but Woo's penchant for slo-mo violence as a means of getting from one scene to the next wears thin after about 25 minutes. An atrocious dubbing job doesn't help (though subtitled versions do exist), and the dated 80s plot line makes things all the worse.

Die-hard fans of Chow and Woo will find plenty to like, but frankly, I'll take the overblown theatrics of Suture instead, when it comes to a warring brothers flick.

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Ashes Of Time Review


OK
Between the lousy DVD quality (dig the big gray bar that covers the bottom half of the screen -- that's where the subtitles go!) and the baffling story line (ancient China, guy living in the desert, magic wine, dual identities, and horse thieves!), the average viewer isn't going to exactly thrill to Ashes of Time's charms. As mood music, the movie's got its share of beautiful, tragic, and poetic moments. As an entertainment experience, the detractors who find the movie to be on the dull side have a point or two.

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Ashes Of Time Redux Movie Review

Ashes Of Time Redux Movie Review

Six months after he went all gooey over America in My Blueberry Nights, Wong Kar-Wai...

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