Rouge ★★★½

A tale of "nostalgia" and "passion" — the rouge of the title doubling as both ardor and blood. Moves between the lush, heightened, candle-lit interiors of 1930s Hong Kong and the steely greys and muted urban geography of the 1980s, exploring—indeed, deconstructing—a reckless passion, an amour fou that makes the "present" feel dull and drab by comparison. (Although the initial cut to the contemporary city-scape and its innumerable lights is breathtaking.) But it's not just the notion of Time that's significant, but that of Art as well, since its distillation of experience and emotion is, perhaps, the only that can transcend the boundaries of the afterlife. (And so it's significant that Twelfth Master aspires to be an opera singer, but, cruelly, is resigned to the fate of a movie extra.) Brilliantly conceived, though the conceit also ensures that by design, nearly half of the film—the contemporary sections, that is—feels drab by comparison. Only in that finale—located, crucially, within a (wuxia) movie-set, complete with smoke, lights and ruins—does it achieve the same heightened quality; only then does it become forged into Art, into an involving spectacle from which the contemporary couple can only walk away from, teary-eyed, holding each other in mutual understanding—just as they would after seeing a movie.