Luo Hongwu returns to Kaili, the hometown from which he fled 12 years earlier. As memories of an enigmatic and beautiful woman resurface - a woman he loved and whom he has never been able to forget - Luo Hongwu begins his search for her. Past and present, reality and dream interweave in Bi Gan's stunningly beautiful and highly innovative film noir.Written by
The marketing of the film was met with major controversy after its opening. The marketing of this art film was targeted massively towards the general public, instead of art film lovers. The film opened on December 31, 2018 since it was the last day of the year and it was intended to be "a good event to celebrate the new year". It was estimated that a lot of people went to see the film without knowing that this is an art house film. This resulted in major backlash as netizens complained against the film, as well as calling the ones who appreciated it "jia wenyi (phony-artistic)". The film earned 38 million USD on the first day of opening, yet the box office of the second day was decreased by 96%. See more »
Dreams rise up and I wonder if my body is made of hydrogen. And then my memories would be made of stone.
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In the very first scene of Gan Bi's LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT we are tipped off that everything we see and hear is suspect. Our hero Luo (Jue Huang) recounts a memory, but, the woman isn't having any of it, telling him that it sounds like a story from his little green book he carries around with him.
Despite the title, this isn't Eugene O'Neil, but, a pseudo Neo-Noir full of dark streets and even darker characters. Luo is chasing a pair of mysteries - the disappearances of his mother and an old friend. The trail(s) are murky and seemingly impenetrable with easy resolutions not in sight.
We are well over an hour into the movie when Director Gan Bi pulls the rug out from the viewer. The OPENING credits are shown as Luo enters a grindhouse movie theater and dons a pair of 3D glasses. From there we are plunged into a dreamlike world (the remainder of the movie was post-converted into 3D for some engagements). Most daringly, the final hour or so of the picture is seemingly done as a single take without obvious edits (there are a couple of points where edits could have been hidden). The camera prowls with Luo as he walks under the theater into an abandoned mine, takes a scooter ride, goes down a ski lift and eventually descends into a small amusement park where a karaoke show is underway.
During all of this Luo encounters Wan Qiwen (or is it Kaizhen?) a woman he may or may not have encountered before along with other characters (or their chimeras) that we have seen in the first half of the movie.. They parry back and forth as they traverse Luo's trance.
How one sees how the two halves of the movies work together will certainly color your takeaway. The first half is so deliberately obtuse that it threatens boredom (a few walkouts at my screening), but, it's necessary to set up the finale. At the end of the dream sequence, there is no obvious resolution. I'm certain that it was partly a deliberate choice by Writer-Director Gan Bi, but, that's too easy an out. Part of the problem is that depicting dreams on film is always difficult as the symbols and meanings are often so highly personal that only the dreamer can comprehend them (if they can at all). Anybody that's been forced to listen to co-worker's recounting of their dream the night before can attest!
What makes JOURNEY worth seeing is the bravura final hour. Possible edits notwithstanding, the floating camera is a marvel, and one truly gets the sense of being IN the character's mind. The POV shifts a few times, but, it's not a major issue (perhaps others have dreams that shift from strict POV to God's POV to Over The Shoulder two-shots?). It's not entirely a first (the famous classic era Noir LADY IN THE LAKE was shot entirely from the lead character's POV; albeit not in one seemingly unbroken take), but, it truly works here. Even with the technically compelling second half, LONG is only partly successful. If only the first half weren't so sluggish, then the dream which Gan Bi/Luo share would have been one truly worth sharing.
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