Ashes of Time Redux
Cynics make the worst romantics. They should know better, and they know they should know better. Forced underground by heartbreak, a cynic’s romantic nature can flourish into a private dementia. You can take my weary word for it or you can take Wong Kar Wai’s. His Ashes of Time Redux sets up the paradox that he has returned to throughout his career — romantic memory as both scourge and succor. Wong began shooting Ashes of Time in 1992; he made his breakthrough film, Chungking Express while still wrestling Ashes to the ground in post-production. Ashes received only a small distribution and has been little-seen in the United States. That should change with Redux, a full-scale refurbishment of the original. Its touchstone is Ouyang Feng (Leslie Cheung), an assassin who runs a drifter hotel while refusing to pine for the woman (Maggie Cheung) who married his brother. “The root of man’s problems is memory,” Ouyang says, a theory taken up by various barefoot, blind, lovesick men and berserk, devoted, defeated women. Wong rejects happy endings in favor of an ecstatic sadness that makes your heart soar.