Sunday 10 May 2009

Ashes of Time Redux [1994, 2008]

Given the grand production design, intoxicating visual beauty and the amount of trouble that besieged its making, Ashes of Time might very well be the movie that Hong Kong maestro Wong Kar-Wai might want to be remembered by. Though perhaps not his best work, vis-à-vis Chungking Express, Happy Together and In the Mood for Love, this epic martial arts movie is a visual feast and a brooding meditation on heartbreak, loneliness and the inescapable and treacherous nature of memory. It is as far removed from other HK movies typically belonging to this genre as perhaps Emir Kusturica’s Underground was from other war movies. In fact, the movie may be considered as a companion piece to the auteur’s 2046, structurally as well as thematically. Employing multiple voiceovers and a Byzantine narrative that has done away with the chronology of time, this is an expressionistic, surreal and deeply melancholic exploration of existentialism and unrequited love – arguably two of Wong Kar-Wai’s favourite motifs. Christopher Doyle’s mesmerizing cinematography (digitally rendered even more gorgeous in the Redux version) and the haunting soundtrack have added to the incredible beauty of this moody, lyrical and sensuous tale of lost souls. The movie comprises of the 'who’s who' of the Hong Kong film industry, including Leslie Cheung, both the Tony Leung’s, Maggie Cheung, Brigitte Lin and Carina Lau, among others.

Director: Wong Kar-Wai
Genre: Drama/Romance/Adventure/Existentialist Drama/Martial Arts Movie/Epic
Language: Cantonese
Country: China (Hong Kong)


sitenoise said...

ok you convinced me. I'm soured on WKW, don't think much of his story-telling, or his direction, frankly. I came to think more of Doyle than WKW, especially after witnessing his work on Green Tea.

In the Mood for Love will always be a fave film of mine but as I pondered the rest of WKW's work, it mostly added up to a colorful mess.

But, as per usual, your persuasive and evocative prose has prompted me to give this a whirl ... never saw the original.

sitenoise said...

I do love "existentialism and unrequited love."

Shubhajit said...

Thanks a lot, I didn't know I had such a persuasive power ;)

Well, on a more serious note, I am a big admirer of WKW. Christopher Doyle is undoubtedly one of the finest DOPs around, but its a director's vision, his control over the medium and his genius that brings the best out of his support staff. And I have a feeling Doyle got to develop that signature expressionistic style of his thanks largely to WKW. I've seen 7 of his movies, and some like 2046 and Ashes of Time haven't been straightforward movies to watch, but so far none has put me off; on the contrary I felt there's great beauty, melancholy and at times even whimsical playfulness in his films the kind of which always manage captivate me.

As for "existentialism and unrequited love", well so do I :)