Ashes of Time ★★★½

(Redux Version) Originally was going to go long on this for InRO, but assignments got switched around and now it’s a little faded from my brain. But it’s closest to 2046 than any of Wong’s other films, both in its reflection on memory and its aesthetic gambits. For what is advertised as a big widescreen wuxia blockbuster, there is no mistaking this as anything but a Wong film – ponderous, poetic (haikus to In the Mood’s stanzas), mostly shot in either close-ups of faces or epic wide shots of landscape, though hardly establishes a linear space as much as a setting for characters to drift. Narrative bits can be a bit difficult to follow, but the mood and intensity of emotions are always present, as characters search to replace old loves with new loves (my favorite sequence was as two lovers lie down next to each other, each imagining the other as an old love). The battle sequences are sparing and much less coherent than the usual Shaw Brothers work, but because the outcome of most battles is more or less already known before they begin, so there’s no need to actually follow each sword cut. Curious to see how this works as a point/counter-point to The Grandmaster.

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