Ashes of Time

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  • R
  • 1994
  • 1 hr 40 min
  • 7.0  (16,572)
  • 69

Ashes of Time is a 1994 wuxia film directed by the acclaimed Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, known for his visually stunning and emotionally complex movies. It stars a group of talented actors, including Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung, Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, and Li Bai. The film is loosely based on Louis Cha's wuxia novel The Legend of the Condor Heroes and tells the story of a swordsman called Ouyang Feng, who lives in the desert of southwestern China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Ouyang is a loner who earns a living by hiring his swordsmanship to people who need to settle scores or seek revenge. He is haunted by the memory of a woman he loved and betrayed many years ago, along with other bitter memories of past relationships and lost opportunities.

As the seasons change and the years go by, Ouyang's world is populated by a diverse cast of characters, each with their own stories and secrets. There is a blind swordsman who seeks revenge on his ex-lover, a woman who seduced him and then abandoned him for another man. There is a bandit who kidnaps the wife of a provincial governor and falls in love with her, only to realize that she is not as innocent as she seems. There is a small-town girl who dreams of becoming a famous warrior and challenges Ouyang to a duel.

All these characters come and go, intersecting with each other in surprising and poignant ways, and their stories are told in a non-linear, fragmented way that emphasizes the fragility and impermanence of human connections. Wong Kar-wai's signature style is in full display, with breathtakingly beautiful images, slow-motion sequences, and poetic voiceovers that add layers of meaning and emotion to the already rich and complex story.

The acting in Ashes of Time is superb, with Brigitte Lin and Leslie Cheung standing out as the most memorable performers. Lin plays two roles, the male swordsman Hong Qi and the mysterious woman Mu-rong Yin, and brings a sense of melancholy and vulnerability to both. Cheung plays the woman who abandoned Hong Qi, and her performance is both seductive and heartbreaking, capturing the ambiguity and complexity of her character. The other actors are also excellent, with Maggie Cheung delivering a touching portrayal of the kidnapped wife, Tony Leung Ka-fai bringing a sense of menace to his role as a sadistic killer, and Li Bai adding humor and charm as the aspiring warrior.

The music by Frankie Chan and Roel A. Garcia is also noteworthy, with a haunting and evocative score that perfectly matches the mood and atmosphere of the film. The cinematography by Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping-bing is simply stunning, capturing the beauty and desolation of the desert landscape and the nuances of the actors' expressions and movements.

Overall, Ashes of Time is a masterpiece of Hong Kong cinema, a poetic and profound meditation on love, loss, and human frailty. It is not a conventional wuxia film, as it eschews the usual sword fights and martial arts in favor of a more introspective and character-driven approach. However, it is precisely this unconventional approach that makes it stand out and linger in the memory long after the credits have rolled. If you are a fan of Wong Kar-wai's films or of Asian cinema in general, Ashes of Time is a must-see.

Ashes of Time
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 40 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.0  (16,572)
  • Metascore