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Ashes of Time Redux

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27, 2013 8:21 pm    Post subject: Ashes of Time Redux Reply with quote

'Ashes of Time' official site

ASHES OF TIME is inspired by characters from Louis Cha’s martial arts novel The Eagle-Shooting Heroes. It centers on a man named Ouyang Feng. Since the woman he loved rejected him, he has lived in the western desert, hiring skilled swordsmen to carry out contract killings. His wounded heart has made him pitiless and cynical, but his encounters with friends, clients and future enemies make him conscious of his solitude...


The film is set in five parts, five seasons that are part of the Chinese almanac. The story takes place in the jianghu, the world of the martial arts. Ouyang Feng (Leslie Cheung) has lived in the western desert for some years. He left his home in White Camel Mountain when the woman he loved chose to marry his elder brother rather than him. Instead of seeking glory, he ends up as an agent. When people come to him with a wish to eliminate someone who has wronged them, he puts them in touch with a swordsman who can do the job.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

'Ashes Of Time Redux': Sumptuous All Over Again

by Mark Jenkins
October 09, 200811:00 PM

Blades flash and arteries spurt, yet the restructured version of Wong Kar-wai's gorgeous Ashes of Time can hardly be called an action movie.

In fact, the Hong Kong cult director's only martial-arts flick is actually about memory and longing — much like such sword-free Wong films as In the Mood for Love.

Made in 1994, the original Ashes bewildered swordfight fans worldwide, and it received only a limited U.S. release. Ashes of Time Redux features a new score, adds and subtracts scenes, and enlists computer-generated-image technology not available in 1994. The new cut is only 10 minutes shorter, but feels significantly brisker.

Despite the more linear structure and the faster pace, the movie remains episodic and atmospheric; like most Wong films, Ashes is a mood piece that emphasizes sumptuous images and elusive feelings over characterization and narrative.

The story, if it can be called that, is loosely derived from The Eagle Shooting Heroes, a Chinese adventure novel that has inspired numerous cinematic adaptations. Assassin Ouyang Feng (the late Leslie Cheung) lives on the edge of the Gobi desert, where he's visited annually by Huang Yaoshi (Tony Leung Ka-fai).

Also traveling to Feng's hideout are brother-and-sister twins (both played by Brigitte Lin) with a serious love-hate relationship; a swordsman (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) who insists on facing scores of bandits even though he's almost blind; and a fledgling brawler (Jacky Cheung) who fights to avenge a young woman's murdered brother — a task Feng rejected because the woman couldn't pay his fee.

At some sort of distance, meanwhile, is the woman who propelled Feng into exile, played by Wong's longtime muse, Maggie Cheung. Glimpsed entirely in flashback, and often in slinky slo-mo or sensuous close-up, this unnamed woman is the reason that Feng just might drink the magic wine that banishes memories forever. ("Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could go back into the past?" Feng's lost love asks, a line that could fit into any of Wong's films.)

Ashes was filmed by one of the director's frequent collaborators, the brilliantly inventive cinematographer Christopher Doyle. He and Wong turn from their customary urban palette to heightened natural colors: Desert sands range from bright yellow to hot orange, and an oasis pond swirls in vivid blue and green. The evocation of desert sun and heat suggests Sergio Leone's spaghetti Westerns, which the director has acknowledged as an influence, but there's a psychedelic flourish that's distinctively Wong's.

Even after the success of such intensively art-directed martial-arts movies as Zhang Yimou's Hero and House of Flying Daggers, Ashes of Time Redux is probably too idiosyncratic — and antiheroic — for action buffs.

The movie is captivating, however, as a dream-like evocation of melancholy and loss. It's almost ironic: Wong went to great lengths to shoot in China's western deserts, yet the film he produced there turns out to be an emotional twin to the ones he's made in his own backyard. (Recommended).
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ashes of Time Redux

Source: The Age (Melbourne, Australia). (Oct. 22, 2009): Lifestyle: p16.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2009 Fairfax Media Publications Pty Limited. Fairfax Media Publications Pty Limited. Not available for re-distribution.


Ashes of Time Redux M, Madman Rating: 4/5 THIS haunting 1994 film from Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai had a difficult history from the outset, a fact that suits the tormented subject matter of the work.

It is a singular, poetic interpretation of the martial arts genre; a meditation on time, memory, betrayal, love and loss. Wong took liberties with his original source, a popular martial arts novel by Louis Cha. He assembled a dream cast a the late Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Brigitte Lin and Jacky Cheung, as well as Carina Lau and Charlie Yeung a and filmed in a remote desert in China.

It was a gruelling location but it provided a setting of which Wong's regular collaborator, cinematographer Christopher Doyle, could make striking use. Wong also worked with martial arts legend Sammo Hung, although the fight scenes, full of slow-motion and close-up detail, have the director's distinctive touch.

The result is an immersive, bewildering and beautiful work, tricky to follow but easy to lose yourself in if you are prepared to give yourself over to the pleasures of sound and image. Ashes of Time was two years in the making a an eternity in the hyperactive Hong Kong industry of the time a but it failed at the box office and had a mixed critical reception. Meanwhile, Chungking Express, a film he shot in a matter of weeks and released while Ashes of Time was in post-production, rapidly became a critical favourite worldwide.

As Wong's reputation grew, Ashes of Time was the film that languished, rarely seen and available only, for the most part, on substandard DVD and VCD releases. It can now be seen in a new version. At Cannes last year, Wong unveiled Ashes of Time Redux a essentially a restoration rather than a new vision, made necessary because of the poor quality of the original master.

There are small adjustments and additions and occasional transformations of the palette of the film that give it a brighter, sometimes almost Day-Glo trippiness. According to Wong, in a brief interview that is among the extras, the restoration of the sound was more urgent than that of the image. He took the opportunity to combine the original score with new orchestral compositions and cello solos by Yo-Yo Ma.

Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition)
"Ashes of Time Redux." Age [Melbourne, Australia] 22 Oct. 2009: 16. Infotrac Newsstand. Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

Forging artistic identity in swords of old China

Source: The New York Times. 158.54459 (Oct. 10, 2008): Arts and Entertainment: pC17(L).

Document Type: Article

The New York Times

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2008 The New York Times Company

Full Text:

There is no such thing as the end when it comes to a Wong Kar-wai film, or so it seems. Famous or notorious, depending on who's writing the checks or spinning the spin, Mr. Wong has a long-nurtured reputation for taking his time when it comes to making movies. His romance ''2046'' was at least five years in the making and still unfinished when it had its scandalously delayed screening at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. His 1994 swordsman film, ''Ashes of Time,'' a delirious swirl of color and blinding star wattage -- both Tony Leungs, Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau and Leslie Cheung! -- was two years in the making, though given Mr. Wong's recent work on it, you could say it was closer to a 14-year labor of love.

In a world where time is money, this stubborn independence has sometimes hurt Mr. Wong's reputation, particularly in a business in which the tick-tick-tock of the clock is measured in millions of dollars. (The industry's grip on the discourse is never clearer than when movie critics turn into bean counters, flogging filmmakers for alleged transgressions like going over schedule.) Yet it's understandable that Mr. Wong would stall and delay and stretch months into years because time itself -- passing, elusive, cruel, vanished time -- is one of his great themes. And so it is with ''Ashes of Time,'' which, as Mr. Wong explained at Cannes in May when he introduced the new version, was in danger of being lost to time.

More precisely, there were so many different prints in existence that Mr. Wong was inspired to make a definitive version: ''Ashes of Time Redux.'' In truth there is no such thing as the end for any movie, in the digital age or not, and the director's cut is just one expression of this art's plasticity. D. W. Griffith used to visit projection booths to snip his films already in release, which I'm sure Mr. Wong has contemplated doing on more than one occasion. Instead, in an act of aesthetic resurrection, he gathered together all the prints of ''Ashes of Time'' he and his team could find, shuffled and tweaked its scenes, underlined still-fuzzy relationships between characters, added some cello soul from Yo-Yo Ma, redesigned the credits and deepened the palette.

I never really understood what was going on in ''Ashes of Time'' when I initially saw it years ago, and it took two looks at the redo for me to parse the narrative, such as it is. (See, there's this swordsman. ...) But transparent, forward-thrusting narrative has never been Mr. Wong's thing; time is his thing, as are camera moves, moody lighting, shimmering color, beautiful faces and the lingering, lonely ache of romance. For Mr. Wong the graphic lines of a bird cage and the shadows that crosshatch Mr. Cheung's face are more important than who the actor plays, though the remix makes it very clear that his character, a desert dweller called Ouyang, is a broker for itinerant swordsmen and their prospective clients.

Underloved on its release if not unnoticed (it racked up awards in Asia), the original version was overshadowed by the pop-happier ''Chungking Express,'' which Mr. Wong shot and completed during a several-month break from ''Ashes of Time.'' (Not unexpectedly, there are different explanations for this hiatus.)

With its parallel romances, cool modern surfaces and intoxicating desires, ''Chungking Express'' was easier on the eyes (and brain) than the elliptical, drifty ''Ashes of Time,'' with its Buddhist adages, flowing robes and dunes, and confusion of falling and flying bodies. But time -- that word again -- suggests that ''Ashes'' was far more important to Mr. Wong's evolution, because it is the film during which he shook off genre and abandoned the banalities of mainstream narrative for visual abstraction, beauty, art.

'Time' for a re-release
by Patrick Frater

Source: Daily Variety. 293.24 (Nov. 2, 2006): p4.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2006 Reed Business Information, Inc. (US)

Fortissimo Films has picked up international sales to Wong Kar Wai's reworked version of "Ashes of Time," the arthouse helmer's venture into the martial arts genre.

Original pic, released 12 years ago, featured a starry cast of Hong Kong talent who've (mostly) survived the slump since the territory's "golden age." Cast includes Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Tony Leung Kar-fai, Jacky Cheung, Charlie Yeung, Maggie Cheung, Brigitte Lin--and the late Leslie Cheung. But it was scarcely released outside Asia.

"Ashes of Time--Redux" is an end-to-end re-envisioning of the movie about a fallen swordsman driven by greed. Wong is adding new scenes, re-editing others and rescoring the piece. Delivery is skedded in time for the fall festivals in 2007--after Wong has completed his first English-language movie, "My Blueberry Nights."

Frater, Patrick
Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition)
Frater, Patrick. "'Time' for a re-release." Daily Variety 2 Nov. 2006: 4. Infotrac Newsstand. Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 1:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Ashes of Time" reworked into a visual treat

"Ashes of Time Redux," starring Maggie Cheung and the late Leslie Cheung, is Wong Kar Wai's extensively reworked version of his only martial-arts movie. Music, editing and Christopher Doyle's cinematography have all been revised, and the images are very nearly everything.

By John Hartl, Special to The Seattle Times

Originally published October 23, 2008 at 2:06 PM | Page modified October 23, 2008 at 2:06 PM

Wong Kar Wai's only martial-arts movie — the rarely shown, 14-year-old box-office flop "Ashes of Time" — has now been extensively reworked by its writer-director.

Music, editing and Christopher Doyle's cinematography have all been revised, although the running time is just a few minutes shorter. Doyle shot several of Wong's most praised movies, including "In the Mood for Love" and "Chung King Express," and once more the images are very nearly everything. A sandstorm becomes poetry in their hands.

The dreamy opening frames and pounding music suggest a sun-blasted fairy tale, set in an everlasting desert that seems lit from within. The scenery, which changes with the seasons, tempts the audience to see what's on the other side. Just another desert, as one character suggests? Or does something else beckon us?

Described by one critic as "Hong Kong's premiere cinematic iconoclast," Wong maintains a sense of mystery throughout the film, partly by telling his story in a roundabout way. The narration isn't shy about spinning off into philosophical asides about unrequited love and the nature of memory ("the root of man's troubles").

Although "Ashes of Time Redux" looks and sounds new, it's inevitably haunted by the fact that its star, Leslie Cheung, killed himself in 2003. Only 46 when he died, Cheung remains the central character: a master swordsman who hires bounty hunters and carries a torch for a woman who marries his brother.

The all-star cast includes Maggie Cheung as the woman who spurns him and Tony Leung Ka-Fai as his best friend from childhood, who claims to be able to wipe out bad memories by drinking a magic wine.

The movie may have failed to connect the first time around because the battle sequences rarely generate suspense or identification with the characters. The mayhem, underlined by slow-motion and other time-altering effects, is often so abstract that it's difficult to tell who's winning or losing.

The original "Ashes of Time" probably paved the way for such box-office smashes as "Hero" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," which broke all kinds of records for foreign-language films presented at American multiplexes. The reworked version is a visual feast, even if the human dimension seems somewhat shortchanged.

John Hartl:

'Ashes of Time Redux': Director returns to make definitive version of 1994 film
By: Jeff Simon

Dec. 5--Let's remember that we have John Updike to thank for the popularization of the Latin word "redux." When it came time for the revered novelist and critic to bring back his most emblematic fictional creation -- Rabbit Angstrom -- he did so in a book called "Rabbit Redux," meaning "Rabbit Returns" or "Rabbit Brought Back." ------ ASHES OF TIME REDUX Two and a half stars

STARRING: Maggie Cheung, Leslie Cheung, Brigitte Lin and Tony Leung DIRECTOR: Wong Kar Wai RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes RATING: R for nudity and violence.

THE LOWDOWN: Master Chinese director's reworking of an obscure fantasy of romance, memory and martial arts. ------ Then, it seems, Francis Ford Coppola had second thoughts about his great Vietnam masterwork "Apocalypse Now." Voila. We had his recut "Apocalypse Now Redux." (I've seen both. The original was better.)

Now we have "Ashes of Time Redux" by Wong Kar Wai, a Chinese film director who is, to some, extravagantly admired in the world but nowhere considered on the same level as such established giants as Coppola and Updike. Which is where the story behind "Ashes of Time Redux" is as interesting -- if not more -- than what's on-screen. Wong made the film in 1994. It was never widely released here but eventually there were, to Wong, so many unpalatable versions of it out there in the cyber and DVD worlds that Wong decided to go back to the film and make -- for a while -- a definitive version 14 years after the fact. He got Yo-Yo Ma to add to the original music, which is already reminiscent of the great Ennio Morricone's music for Sergio Leone movies (one of the best extant CDs of Morricone's music is, in fact, a collaboration of Morricone and Yo-Yo Ma). Whether or not scenes were reshot is moot, because Wong is apparently being cagey about that and so few people saw his original in 1994.

This is almost an entirely different figure from the Wong Kar Wai known here for his seductive "In the Mood for Love," his first Western success "Chungking Express" and his haunting contribution to the three-film anthology "Eros," which, despite others by Michelangelo Antonioni and Steven Soderbergh, was far and away the best.

The Chinese film genre it inhabits is called wuxia, which seems to signify martial arts with swordplay and who knows what else. Apparently, there's a lot of it in Chinese film (and certainly we've seen amazing Chinese specimens and relatives of it in the last decade). "Ashes of Time Redux" seems to be what you'd get by adding wuxia to Sergio Leone, Marcel Proust, Proust's Japanese forebear Lady Murasaki, D. H. Lawrence and whatever Latin American magic realists happened to be having coffee with Gabriel Garcia Marquez at the time. As I took notes while watching the movie, the phrase "visionary hooey" kept showing up.

Heaven knows Christopher Doyle's cinematography is sumptuous and magnificent. But the narrative is so off-putting -- folk narrative gone anti-Proust -- that the film is likely to be, for many, the same rapturous nonsense it was for me. The film is in sections, corresponding to the seasons.

There is a samurai warrior, a long-unconsummated love tale about that warrior and his brother's wife, a magic wine that eliminates memory with just one cup (without memory, we're told after all, "every day would be a new beginning") and flashbacks that seem as if they were concocted under the influence of that very wine. There's also a good deal of obscurely motivated action in deserts and taverns.

If, at times, it seems as if skies and deserts and weather and exteriors are more compelling than the characters, remember that Wong told one interviewer that he'd learned from Antonioni that "sometimes the main character is not the actors or actresses, it's the background." It's a splendid experience, I suppose, to watch and hear, because of its cinematic beauty. So help me, though, a week after I saw it, I remembered almost nothing about it. Without notes, I'd have been sunk writing this.

Source: Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY). (Dec. 5, 2008): Business News:

Wise Man Wong Wows With Wistful Desert Walk

Ashes of Time Redux
Running time 93 minutes
Written and directed By Wong Kar-wai
Starring Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-wai

Wong Kar-wai's Ashes of Time Redux, from his own screenplay (in Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles), is based on the novel by Louis Cha. It combines a martial-arts background with a fatalistic meditation in the foreground on lost loves and the vagaries of memories. One feels the passionate intensity of the filmmaker in every strand of his luminously intricate narrative. In a year in which Max Ophuls' 1995 Lola Montes is being revived for the third time at the New York Film Festival, and rereleased at Film Forum, Wong Kar-wai suddenly strikes me the Asian Max Ophuls, and I can think of no higher praise.

The director explains the genesis of Ashes of Time Redux in the film's production notes: "In the winter of 1992, someone suggested that I make a film adaptation of Louis Cha's famous martial-arts novel The Eagle-Shooting Heroes--I reread all four volumes of it and finally decided not to do an adaptation but instead to develop a new story about the early years of two of its main characters, Dongxie (Lord of the East) and Xida (Lord of the West). In the book, both of them appear only in old age. I chose these two because they have exactly opposite personalities; you could think of one as the antithesis of the other."

Wong Kar-wai made an earlier version of Ashes of Time about 14 years ago, but it was never distributed in the United States. He reshot most of the scenes, and commissioned a new score that includes solos by the celebrated Chinese cellist Yo Yo Ma. This dynamic new score is a crucial element of the film's rapturous sweep through time and memory. Mr. Wong's regular cinematographer, the Australian Christopher Doyle, is on hand again to supply the desert canvases evoking the alternate universe of the martial-arts genre.

Still, despite a very helpful narration expressing the inner thoughts of Ouyang Feng (Leslie Cheung), I found the narrative a bit hard to follow. Ouyang has lived a reclusive life in the western desert ever since the woman he loved jilted him to marry his brother. He now makes his living by hiring skilled swordsmen to carry out arranged contract killings.

He is visited every year by Huang Yaoshi (Tony Leung Ka-fai). In their youth, Huang and Ouyang were the two best swordsmen of their generation. On his latest visit, Huang offers Ouyang a new beverage that is guaranteed to eliminate all prior memories. Ouyang declines the drink, but Huang imbibes it so freely that he wakes up the next morning with a terrible hangover, though his own memories remain intact. Yet unbeknownst to Ouyang, Huang returns every year from his visits to Ouyang to the village where the now regretful woman who once spurned Ouyang, but now longs for him, resides. Yet she will never acknowledge her true feelings to her former lover.

In what amounts to a final aria of renunciation, the woman (Maggie Cheung) expresses in a lingering close-up the fatalistic philosophy of the filmmaker. It is encapsulated in an old Buddhist saying: "The flag is still, the wind is calm. It is the heart of man that is in turmoil."

This turmoil is repeatedly projected not only by the three major characters, but also by a succession of intrusive invaders of Ouyang's solitude, beginning with a sibling conflict between a brother and sister, Murong Yin and Murong Yang (played by the same actress, Brigitte Lin). After Yin asks Ouyang to arrange the murder of a man who walked out of an engagement to his sister, Yang asks Ouyang just as malignantly to kill her own brother for refusing to allow her to marry the beloved suitor because of Yin's own passionate possessiveness of her. Ouyang quickly intuits that the souls of Yin and Yang are mirror images of each other. A legend then arises of Muran, a skilled swordsman, battling his own reflected image in a lake.

Then there is a swordsman (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) who is rapidly losing his sight, who wants to go home to Peach Blossom Village to see "peach blossoms" one last time. A woman coincidentally called "Peach Blossom" turns out to be the only peach blossom to be seen in the village. Also, she is the blind swordsman's wife .

There is also a poor peasant girl (Charlie Young) who wishes a swordsman to avenge her brother's death. But all she can pay for the service is a mule set aside for her dowry and a basket of eggs. Ouyang advises her to go home, because she cannot afford the price of a contract killing, but she chooses to remain with her mule and basket of eggs, obdurate in her objective.

Finally, there is Hong Qi (Jacky Cheung) a swordsman on a camel, hungry and shoeless, seeking a life of adventure. Ouyang gives him a pair of boots, and a commission from the villagers to help them drive off a band of horse thieves. Hong Qi also agrees to avenge the murder of the peasant girl's brother. But when Hong Qi is at last ready to leave the village, his wife (Bai Li) refuses to be left behind from what he imagined at the outset to be a solitary quest for glory.

The recurring mass sword fights are rendered in an almost cartoonishly abstract visual style. No matter. Their outcome is not what Ashes of Time Redux is all about. Instead, it is about men and women, their lost love and their conjoined struggle to forget and yet remember what time has deliberately destroyed. Cherchez la femme and all that. It is Wong Kar-wai's great achievement to make us and his characters exult in their despair. How else can they know that they are truly human? As I mourn Manny Farber and Paul Newman and many of my other contemporaries in the far from merry game of life, I receive more than a little consolation from the cinematic epiphanies of Max Ophuls and Wong Kar-wai and so many other masters of my chosen medium. In this respect Lola Montes and Ashes of Time Redux are films for the ages.

Source: The New York Observer (New York, NY). (Sept. 30, 2008): News:
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