Ashes of Time Redux

ough the seasons of one year, each one bringing a different story of woe or revenge.

In one, Brigitte Lin (“Chungking Express”) plays a brother and sister, Murong Yin and Murong Yang. The brother wants a man killed who promised to marry the sister, but then abandoned her, and the sister wants her brother killed because he is too possessive.

Feng also tells us about a stranger who comes out of the East and visits him every year. One year he brings a bottle of magic wine as a gift for Feng from someone he won’t identify. The film moves in and out of its stories until we learn from whom the wine came and the cruelty of its real property.

The trick to following all this, especially for audiences who are used to the straightforward linear, classical Hollywood way of telling a story, is to not worry too much about plot points. The mysterious, foreboding imagery and intensity of the acting are constant reminders that all is not as it seems. There is never a chance that giddy happiness is going to break out and you don’t need to understand Cantonese or Mandarin to get it. And by the movie’s conclusion, you will know that you have overheard a meditation on loss, regret and the cruelty of memory.

The director is above all a memorable stylist, making striking use of color, stillness and the human face. There are quick moments of martial arts action, choreographed by the great Sammo Hung (TV’s “Martial Law”), but this is not Jackie Chan stuff. This is a dream of martial arts with blurred images and nearly unintelligible action.

Forgive me if this sounds snobbish “” something I am not usually accused of being “” but this is a movie that’s for cineastes and not casual moviegoers. Of course, anyone can watch it, but each type of person is likely to remember it for entirely different reasons.

“”Doug Bentin


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