Ashes Of Time Redux Movie Review
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.
What begins with a double-helix betrayal between the "dashing romantic" Huang Yaoshi (Tony Leung Ka Fai) and Murang Yin (Brigitte Lin) bleeds into the tale of a blind swordsman (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) defending a village from horse thieves while dreaming of his beloved Peach Blossom (Carina Lau). Later, focus shifts to Hong Qi (Jacky Cheung), a peasant swordsman who later becomes Ouyang's nemesis, and a homeless girl (Charlie Young) who wants a swordsman to avenge her brother in trade for her only possession: a basket of eggs.
Constantly riding the thematic sea changes between characters, Kar-Wai's martial-arts misfit often turns illegible, but it's still visually ravishing. Swirling and forever engulfing, Christopher Doyle's camerawork dominates the narrative, more so than any other film in the Kar-Wai canon excluding 2046. Both visually and narratively, the filmmaker has defamiliarized his country's major cinematic export, restraining romantic outbursts of swordplay that typified the martial-arts genre and would later signal the work of revisionists like Ang Lee and Zhang Yimou.
The action, all dirty and erratic, is infused with Kar-Wai's central confusions. History and memory are parlor tricks. Endemic of most of his work, specifically 2046 and Happy Together, Kar-Wai's attempt to embrace his country's medial mythology immerses the viewer in a world where past, present and future hold no distinction. Mythology is rendered moot and the hallucinatory beauty of this swirling dreamscape becomes even more pungent.
Kar-Wai based the work on his imagined origins of the heroes written about in Louis Cha's four-volume novel The Eagle-Shooting Heroes in the hopes of rendering his characters as "ordinary people" rather than the heroes they will eventually become. It's a cute thought, but Kar-Wai's idiosyncrasies are all-consuming, and the last thing the Shanghai-born auteur's work resembles is ordinary. The film could be titled Life on Mars and no one would blink. Chungking Express will remain Kar-Wai's first major work but seeing and experiencing Ashes of Time Redux on the big screen after years of its original, gout-ridden DVD quality reconciles the film as the dazzling kick to the head it was always meant to be.
Mmmm, tastes like molybdenum.