By Willie Krischke — March 1, 2009
Wong Kar Wai made “Ashes of Time” several years ago, but could never find an international market for it, so he pulled it back and re-edited it, which is why it is now tagged “redux.”
I haven’t seen the original, but this version can’t be much better. Set in ancient China, it’s the story of an agent who connects mercenary swordsman with people who require their services. It takes place in five seasons, each relating to the story of one of his swordsman. The storytelling is flaccid, however, and it’s hard to keep the characters separate. Spliced in everywhere they might possibly fit are fortune cookie sayings and quasi-mystical musings. Forlorn beauties abound, as well as memory potions, blind swordsmen, tragically sad warriors with broken hearts, etc.
“Ashes of Time Redux” is overly artsy. Many of the scenes have been digitally recolored. The colors are striking and even beautiful, but ultimately the effect is fatiguing. And the cinematographer loves to dwell on shadows — especially water shadows cast on walls, faces, etc. “Ashes of Time” feels like a film school attempt to marry really artsy techniques with a kung fu theme.
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” it ain’t.