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Ashes of Time Redux

Sumptuous, angsty swordplay drama
By BETSY SHERMAN  |  October 25, 2008
4.0 4.0 Stars

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Wong Kar-wai’s 1994 swordplay drama, which was shown briefly in repertory and Chinatown cinemas, returns in this definitive director’s cut. Ashes’ sumptuous tapestry depicts intersecting tales in a mediæval China teeming with 20th-century angst. The characters who roam the film’s existential desert — souls who wind up ill-served by fate and by their own stubbornness — are played by the cream of ’90s Hong Kong cinema: Leslie Cheung is an amusingly cynical broker who links swordsmen with those who desire their services, Tony Leung Chiu-wai a swordsman who’s going blind, Maggie Cheung the broker’s lost love, Brigitte Lin a brother and sister who may be the same person, and Tony Leung Ka-fai a languorous mercenary who wonders whether “memory is the root of man’s troubles.” The action scenes, more art than martial art, are dreamlike and painterly, and the expressive sound design is complemented by a newly reworked score featuring Yo-Yo Ma. Mandarin + Cantonese | 93 minutes | Kendall Square

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