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Providing an image of the daily life of ordinary Shanghai people, the story is carried out over two periods: from the 1960s to the mid-1970s, the end of the Cultural Revolution; and from the 1980s to the start of the 21st century.
Ou-yang Feng lives in the middle of a desert, where he acts as a middle man to various swordsmen in ancient China. One of those swordsmen is Huang Yao-shi, who has found some magic wine that causes one to forget the past. At another time, Huang met Mu-rong Yin and under the influence of drink, promised to marry Mu-rong's sister Mu-rong Yang. Huang jilts her, and Mu-rong Yin hires Ou-yang to kill Huang. But then Mu-rong Yang hires Ou-yang to protect Huang. This is awkward, because Mu-rong Yang and Mu-rong Yin are in reality the same person. Other unrelated plot lines careen about. Among them is Ou-yang's continuing efforts to destroy a band of horse thieves. Oy-yang recruits another swordsman, a man who is going blind and wants to get home to see his wife before his sight goes completely. The swordsman is killed. Ou-yang then meets another swordsman who doesn't like wearing shoes. Oy-yang sends this man after the horse thieves, with better results. We then find out what a man must give... Written by
Scott Hamilton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Kar-Wai is one of the three best directors working today. Many feel this is his best work. Surely it is the greatest leap since his previous, but I find the Mood-2046 pair more important, even lifealtering.
If you come into this expecting a story that unfolds in good order and makes sense, you will be disappointed. The overlapping of layers, the folding of narrative, the merging of images is what we're in for.
There are two famous stories about this. The first is that at some point he quit work, then quickly went off to make "Chunking Express," during which he "found himself" ...
The other story has to do with "Pulp Fiction." Tarantino is a huge borrower of ideas. Having already written a couple "raw" movies that people admire, he stumbled upon Kar-Wai in the midst of making this a long affair. All the clever bits in the structure of "Pulp" are from this, just as surely as all the clever bits in "Star Wars" are from Kurosawa.
What are those bits? Multiple persons in one body. Multiple bodies for one person. Circular storytelling where any part is the beginning. Nested narrative where one story tells another. Characters that imagine and forget each other, bringing them into our world and out.
Death, love, yearning, accident, encounter.
All of this at the beginning of a luscious partnership between Kar-Wai and Christopher Doyle. They are today what Greenaway and Sacha Vierny were: dangerous adventures in cinematic imagination coupled with mastery of cinematic expression.
This takes a few too many chances and you can see precisely where Kar-Wai abandoned it to search for sense. (He always shoots in order of what you see.) But if you are ready for the transcendental thrills of his later work, you might want to start here.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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