About the film:
Ashes of Time is about Ouyang Feng who takes care of other people's problems for money. Mostly, he works as a middleman for other swordfighters. The movie accompanies him through the seasons and tells about his encounters.
Ashes of time is a lesser known movie by Wong Kar-Wai and despite the top-notch cast (a.o. Leslie Chung, Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Jacky Cheung and Sammo Hung as action choreographer)
This is because Wong Kar-Wai denies the genre's conventions and creates his own visions of the whole thing. Or, as camera man Christopher Doyle said:„We are looking for the film inside the Martial Arts.“
Contrary to other genre films, the fighting scene are in the background, they are also hard to follow due to the editing. The story consists of several single episodes, which are loosely connected to each other and are told non-chronological. There is also a big number of main characters. So, the movie may seem unintelligible or even disorganized watching it the first time.
Wong Kar-Wai himself says the screenplay of Ashes of Time was his most complex work yet. The Legend of the Eagle Shooting Heroes by Louis Cha was the inspiration for the characters in his movie. Instead of an adaptation of this work, he decided to create a new, own story. Chronologically, he set it before the books' events and tries to describe the characters' development that way.
Finishing the movie took more than a year, solely Sammo Hung spent (by his own admission) three months finishing the fighting scenes. Kar-Wai virtually shoots Chungking Express right in the middle.
Outside of Asia, the movie only recieved a theatrical release in France and several Chinatowns.
The Redux Version:
The low distribution and the different versions that are in circulation made Wong Kar-Wai revisit the project.
Ashes of Time was also Jet Tone's (the production company of Jeff Lau Chun Wai & Wong Ka-Wai) first production and, at the time, could not be put into effect with the same standards the way the director wanted to.
The lab's surprising closing, in which the original negatives were conserved, involuntarily started the project.
Unfortunately, the warehousing was not optimized there, and most of the negatives were in extremely bad shape and were partially irreparably damaged.
Reshooting several scenes would have been difficult due to main actor Leslie Cheung's suicide. Thus, copies from france and several movie theaters in Chinatown were taken to create the film.
The soundtrack was so heavily damagaed it was decided to record it again. Because some pieces felt "dated" (quote Wong Kar-Wai), Wu Tong was instructed to write additional arrangements. The product is a mixture between old and new which will not please everybody.
The new version was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival 2008, as some sort of thank you to the French audience for releasing the movie in theaters back then.
If you didn't enjoy the old version, you won't enjoy the new Redux version. The movie is still hard accessable and is based on the great images and the mood they create.
The majority of changes consist of some alternative footage, little changes in the order of scenes and differing image details. Most noticably: the two main character's introduction in the beginning are missing.
The season's fade-ins introducing each chapter are new. Originally,
Wong Kar-Wai assumed that the hints in the movie were enough for understanding.
The color schemes were revised for the Redux version.
Runtime Theatrical Cut = 01:37:43 (01:36:10 w/o credits)
Runtime Redux = 01:29:35 (01:26:54 w/o credits)
The HK Laserdisc by Mei Ah (Theatrical Cut has been compared to the UK DVD by Artificial Eye (Redux vesion).
Both discs contain slightly differing English subtitles.
Here a comparison as an example:
Artificial Eye: „It is the year of a total eclipse. Drought sweeps the land. Drought means problems. Problems mean good business. I’m from White Camel Mountain. My name is Ouyang Feng. I specialize in solving problems.”
Mei Ah: „The Five Golden’s meet Star Jupiter this year. There’re famines everywhere. Whenever there’re famines, people will have problems. Problems mean business for me. I’m native of White Camel Mountain. My name’s Ouyang Feng. I specialize in solving problems for others.”
Actor- and role names were taken from the Redux version's credits.
Special thanks to spannick for providing the HK LD.
The opening credits were redone.
The duel between Ouyang Feng (Leslie Cheung) and Huang Yaoshi (Tony Leung Ka Fai) differs a little in the beginning. The Redux version contains additional scene of a prospective solar eclipse and a title fade-in that was adjusted to the opening credits. The theatrical cut shows the sea and the explosion longer.
"Malicious West"'s (Ouyang Feng) and "Evil East"'s (Huang Yaoshi) introduction is missing in the new version.
„In the years to come.....I’ll be given the nickname Malicious West.
Well everyone can be very malicious.....if you’re ever been jealous of someone.
I don’t care how others think of me.
It’s just that I don’t want others to be happier than I.
But there are some people.....who’re just too proud to be jealous.
In the early days of my martial adventures...I came to know a man.
He usually makes his appearance in the east.
Maybe that’s why in the years to come.....people will call him Evil East.”
After the missing introduction, both versions show different images of the desert, while the camera sway is done to the right in the theatrical cut, it is done to the left in the Redux version.
Now, the first season (Jingzhé) is faded in, before Ouyang Feng starts reporting about Huang Yaoshi. The TC contains an additional shot of Huang in the desert.
Before editing back to Ouyang and Huang, the Redux version uses alternate footage.
At the Murong Clan's princess' (Murong Yin/Yang (Brigitte Lin)) first appearance, the little camera take to her face was replaced with a few lanterns.
The cat, which walks around twice earlier, is jumping at a beam in the theatrical cut. In the meantime you see the inn's reflections in the water in the RV.
After the jump to the pillar, the fall is missing, too.
The princess is shown longer after the sword thrust against Huang.
At the discussion's beginning, in which Huang promises Yaoshi to marry Yang's sister, the faces of the two were, again, replaced with the inn's reflections in the water.
Murong Yin is hanging longer on the branch as she waits for Huang.
Yin is shown at the curtains in the TC before there is the edit to sleeping Ouyang (after the "resolution" that Yin & Yang are one and the same person).
Here, Yin and Yang's order of appearance was swapped. The TC additionally contains a short scene depicting Yin in her room.
During the caressing, a shadow play on the wall is missing.
Before this cut, the voice-over by Ouyang Feng starts later in the Redux version. The order of the completing strokes is different in the two versions. At the end of the scene, the wall is shown longer in the TC.
At the conclusion of the episode with Yang & Yin, another small change considering the order of the scenes was made.
The RV starts with the bird flying across, which happens only at the end in the TC, also, a jump and the line „He called himself the Defeat-Seeking Loner.” are missing.
After the self-duel of Yin against Yang, the final scream is mising.
Second fade-in of the season (Xiàzhì) in the Redux version.
Redux +2,88 sec
To further visualize Ouyang Feng's dream, after the first encounter with the girl (Girl with a Mule (Charlie Young)), peach blossoms were integrated into the new version.
The Redux version features a close-up of the flame before the torch.
Redux +2,92 sec
The swordfighter (Blind Swordsman (Tony Leung Chiu Wai)) is shown longer in the beginning of the talk with the girl.
At the bandit's and the swordsman's encounter, the first firespit was removed.
The end of the former cut (the flames in the end), was added to the second fire spit, therefore the third and final fire spit of the TC and the consequences are missing.
The part of the fight taking place on the roof is missing in the TC.
To visually underline the swordsman's declining eyesight, the fight was graphically edited (glaring/dimming) in the following. The swordsman's glaring forms the beginning.
Another glaring and after the newly added short glance at the heaven, a drastic dim takes place.
Some more playing with the eyesight.
Here, additional to the effects, the sun is shown for a short moment.
Before the view on the bandit lords, the Redux version offers falling sand.
Redux +2,8 sec
Before the swordfighter is hit with the death blow, 2 frames were added into the RV, depicting the heaven.
Redux +0,08 sec
The extravasating blood from the swordman's sword is now shown more clearly.
The bleeding neck again.
The TC shows a scene with Huang Yaoshi eating after the swordsman's death.
„Ever since that night, my friend never returned. I came here to look for him. But he wouldn’t forgive me till his death.”
The Redux version contians the third season fade-in (Baílù).
The Redux version misses one horse tripping and another one rearing up as Hong Qi (Jacky Cheung) appears for the first time. Instead, the horses legs and the jump out of the water are shown.
The RV only features the middle part of the horseman falling into the water.
Some horse legs and one of the opponents are missing.
Furthermore, the scenes' order differs slightly as the battle continues. The TC additionaly shows one enemy dismounting a horse.
Ouyang and Hong a little earlier at the swordsman's body.
After the victory against the horse bandits, a body in the sand is missing, just before the cut to Ouyang.
The theatrical version gets bright at the end of the take over the bodies again.
Ouyang Feng in his housing after he has sent away Qi's wife.
Additional voice-over, subsequently to the young lady asking once more for help.
„Everyone needs something to live for. Other may think it’s a waste of time, but it was important to her.”
no time difference
The fight "for the egg" was shortened and slightly rearranged in the RV.
In the RV, it is raining after Hong Qi and Ouyang Feng talk about whether it was worth to lose his finger for an egg.
Redux +3,76 sec
The girl sits longer next to Hong.
While the theatrical version shows Hong Qi again, you here see Ouyang Feng in his housing (from cut TC: 01:02:12/Redux: 00:56:35) and the girl's departure in the RV.
Mrs. Qi (Li Bai) manufactures the shoe longer and tends her husband. The young lady's departure takes place after this in the TC.
Different views of the desert during the talk between Ouyang Feng and Hong Qi.
As you see Hong Qi and his wife at their departure, the further story of Hong is being told with an overlay. In the theatrical cut, you see both moving forward next to the overlay, the Redux version fades to black.
The image section was drastically changed as Ouyang Feng's former lover and future sister-in-law (Brother's Wife (Maggie Cheung)) sneaks through the house.
Maggie Cheung climbs the steps earlier.
The two's encounter is cut a little differently.
Different views of the candle as the two argue.
A short part of the argument is missing.
The season is faded-in.
Redux +3,88 sec
The switch to the sea is done by a black screen in the TC.
Maggie Cheung is shown longer at the beach and a few frames are missing as the change to the next scene takes place.
There are different shots of Ouyang shown as the woman tells that Ouyang Feng wanted to abscond with her at the wedding night.
The peach Huan Yaoshi eats at the end of the talk with the brother's wife was replaced with a view out of the window in the RV.
There were peach blossoms added to end this section again.
The last time the season gets faded in (Jingzhé). Ouyang Feng leaves his housing here in the TC.
Just like in the beginning of the film, the ending features new shots of the desert in the RV and different turning directions (TC right, Redux left).
The retrospective was shortened in the RV, it only shows Ouyang Feng and leaves out Huang Yaoshi, Murong Yin/Yang and Hong Qi.
The credits have been modified in accordance with the opening credits.