Friday, July 9, 2010

Ashes of Time (Blu-Ray)

Ashes of Time was really the first wuxia movie that I was ever introduced to, back in the day. I saw Wong Kar Wai's Fallen Angels then felt compelled to go back and revisit this film, Happy Together, Chungking Express back around 1998 when Fallen Angels had its theatrical debut in the states. Working for a video store that specialized in obscure and foregin titles in Seattle at the time, getting my hands on the title was not a difficult task, though deconstructing and deciphering said title has been a goal of mine since.

Told from the perspective of a retired swordsman, selling the services of men he recruits to fight bandits, the tale involves several tragic protagonists and their loves, as well as the impact each encounter had on the primary narrator. It's disjointed and confusing, but purposely so, and once you've figured out the point it doesn't cease to be moving or profound. Epic to say the least, and exceptionally poetic, Ashes of Time remains my second favorite film by the director to this day.

The redux is recut and features an all new color palette that enhances the moodiness of the film, and accentuates the soundtrack like the original cut never did. The music here is just as important as the lensing, the color effects, the setting, even the main characters and their varying plights. While it doesn't boast the assuredness that Wong Kar Wai's later works would, especially Fallen Angels and Chungking Express, it is still an expert experiment in abstract and epic filmmaking, itself as poetic as the almanac which it quotes between events in the picture.
Ashes of Time has never looked better than it does here. It's not necessarily reference quality but high definition has treated this film especially well. Sporting a healthy amount of grain, considering the age of the source material, the redone color scheme goes even further to enhance the overall look that the movie has achieved. Combined with some of the most abstract scenes due to lighting and experiments with effects like moving bokeh, where the out of focus element is just as important as what the camera sees clearly, if not more so. 1080p has done a true service to Wong Kar Wai's film, and Artifical Eye should be commended for reintroducing this classic to a whole new slough of viewers that would likely never have given it a chance if it had never come to blu.

AQ is awesome as well, due in large part to the emotional score and the attention given to subtle sound details that most directors would shy away from. The movie itself has actually never technically sounded bad, but here the audio has really been allowed to come alive and immerse the viewer.

Obviously I adore this movie... rarely will you get an opportunity to see something this affecting and genuine, yet at the same time difficult to take in due to the sheer poetry on the screen and abstract detail given the story. But that's one of Ashes of Time's strong points, the complexity of the story it tells rewarding the viewer with an exceptionally moving love story when all is said and done. This is one I cannot help but give my highest recommendation to. See it!

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