Ashes of Time Redux (Dung che sai duk redux) (R)

Action/Adventure 93 October 10, 2008
By MICHELLE ORANGE
Cynics make the worst romantics; they should know better, they know they should know better, and they’d die if you knew better. Forced underground by heartbreak, a cynic’s romantic nature can flourish into a sort of private dementia. You can take my weary word for it, or you can take Wong Kar Wai’s, whose new/old film, Ashes of Time Redux, gorgeously sets up the paradox he has returned to throughout his career—romantic memory as both scourge and succor. Wong began shooting Ashes of Time in 1992; he made his breakthrough film, Chung King Express, while still wrestling Ashes to the ground in post-production. Ashes received only a smattering of distribution and has been little-seen in the U.S. That should change with Redux, a full-scale refurbishment of the original. Structured over five seasons taken from the Chinese almanac, Redux’s touchstone is Ouyang Feng (Leslie Cheung), an assassin-for-hire who runs a drifter hotel in East Buddha Nowhere while refusing to pine for the woman (Maggie Cheung) who married his brother. “The root of man’s problems is memory,” Ouyang says, a theory taken up by various barefoot, blind, lovesick men and berserk, devoted, defeated women. In a move that would become his trademark, Wong rejects the happy ending for the almost ecstatically sad, making your heart soar even as he tells you, essentially, that it’s impossible, all of it—that it’ll never work.
Kar Wai Wong Jacky Cheung, Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Brigitte Lin, Charlie Yeung Kar Wai Wong Sony Pictures Classics

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