Monday Movie: Ashes of Time Redux
In the middle of a harsh desert, the equally dry Ouyang Feng (Leslie Cheung) makes a living as a middleman between assassins and their clients. As the seasons come and go, all sorts of odd characters come to see him: a cross-dressing princess (Brigitte Lin), a warrior about to lose his sight (Tony Leung), and a woman who hopes to buy vengeance with a basket of eggs and a mule... But as killers and customers come and go, Ouyang Feng's mind is forever on the woman who broke his heart (Maggie Cheung, no relation).
As you should expect from a Wong Kar Wai film, Ashes of Time has no plot or structure to speak of, its draw stemming entirely from its lush visuals and understated emotions. When it comes to the former, WKW and cinematographer Christopher Doyle are at the top of their game. I struggle to think of a more sumptuous and vividly realised film, full of fantastic uses of light, shadow, colour, reflections and, of course, that incredible desert. The emotions, though, while they may simmer quite nicely throughout the film, rarely survive emergence into the harsh sunlight, seeming, to me, somewhat forced.
Whether or not any of the multiple story threads grab you, this film is absolutely 100% high grade beautiful throughout. The fact that it was almost lost to history, leading to this "redux" edit of the surviving footage, is rather scary to consider.