Ashes of Time is inspired by characters from Louis Cha’s 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.
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Lush, beautiful and evocative. Narratively, this film is notoriously sketchy and perhaps (consciously) underdeveloped, but this doesn't diminish the diverse visual impact of the experience. And by gesturing at characters and emotions in broad, sweeping brushstrokes, Wong foregrounds the haze of memory and the fickleness of love and human connection that becomes his theme.
Easily the most complex of his films, where he prefers "painting" scenes and characters rather than using a more conventional narrative structure. Yes, his almost trademark non-use of a script can put certain persons off (and I can't blame them), it is so remarkably directed and choreographed that you have to surrender to the flow and let your spirit go.
This is my least favorite of Wong Kar-wai's movies. It feels like one giant over-saturated music video, which is odd because most of his movies are hyper-kinetic and feature pop music, but they're looser and less forced.
The landscape as a mirror, reflecting the characters' inner turmoil, solitude and grief. No conventional plot to speak of, but fragments of memories scattered across the fields, the play of light, and the poetic voiceover create a two-way confessional between protagonist and viewer. Faint traces of Godard - the voice on the landscape: mournful, tragic, contemplative - but anchored by Wong's whirling melodrama.
I have yet to see a Sirk film, but I can't imagine his films to get more melodramatic than Ashes of Time. We all know that Wong Kar Wai is a visual master - this film doesn't disprove that. The story, however, is a complete mess and the editing doesn't help it. While many elements of the plot connected with me, I felt that the film was too disjointed to leave any lasting thoughts or feelings. A rare miss from Wong.
It was a bit hard to get a grip on what this film and it's narrative were really about, but it didn't matter as I liked it just as a dreamlike abstract wash of scenes, characters and gorgeous colours. I enjoyed it very much.
Interesting throughout but it never reaches an emotional peak even approaching those that can be found in Kar-Wai's best. Also, though it's an admittedly unfair criticism, I can't help but feel that the abundance of recent films with blue-orange color scheme that flood the market has somewhat tempered my enjoyment of this film's visual, with the exception of the shots of the women and horse which were sublime.
Ashes of Time is a funny one, the visuals are wonderful and the last 15 minutes holds some incredibly profound moments, but I'm afraid the plot is ridiculously convoluted and makes little sense, making it a bit unsatisfying in the end. 3/5