Friday, May 15, 2009

Ashes of Time Redux

This film, directed by Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai, is one of those films that took many years to make. He began making the film in 1994 but it was a failure on its first release. He has been re-working it since then and re-released it in 2008. The reason for its initial failure is still true in the new version: the story is very confusing. Told in a non-linear style it would definitely take several viewings to figure out what is going on and who’s who. On the other hand, visually this is an incredible film. With glorious landscapes and an interesting use of light and shadow you can’t take your eyes off the screen. The music selection is also intriguing with music from Sergio Leone combined with cello solos by Yo Yo Ma.
The story is about a cynical man who lives alone in the desert connecting expert swordsmen with those seeking revenge and willing to pay for it. On the box it is described as a “martial arts masterpiece of larger-than-life characters, breathtaking landscapes and exquisite fight scenes.” I agree that the landscapes were breathtaking and the fight scenes exquisite (the fight choreographer was Sammo Hung who has worked with both Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan). But I also am one of those viewers who want a linear story that I can understand. As I was watching the beauty on the screen I was thinking that it was pretentiously art-y. My overall impression was one of disappointment. If I was willing to watch it a couple more times, maybe I would come to love it. But I just didn’t get involved enough with the characters or the story to make me consider more viewings.

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