China Beat Archive


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November 7, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright November 7, 2008 Matthew David Johnson. Used by permission.


Six years before Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Wo long cang hu, 2000), Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai was a pioneer in the genre of stylish, star-loaded, and festival-ready wuxia filmmaking. His Ashes of Time (Dung che sai duk / Dong xie xi du, 1994) reinterpreted martial arts fiction for a generation more accustomed to motion pictures and television serials than novels, at a time when Hong Kong’s economy was riding a crest of growth triggered by the opening of adjacent Guangdong to direct investment. Ashes represented a major investment for its producers, with a reputed budget of HK$40 million. Despite disappointing returns, the film’s technical merits won it top honors in Venice, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, while solidifying the reputations of Wong and cinematographer Christopher Doyle as emerging international talents.

Ashes of Time Redux is essentially the U.S. premiere of Wong Kar-wai’s 1994 film. Yet much has changed in the fourteen years since Ashes’ original release. Wong himself has become an auteur par excellence; with this newest move, he has undeniably become principal curator of his own legacy. As Wong’s introductory blurb in the Sony Pictures Classics press kit accompanying Redux states: Over the years, I’ve come to realize that there are several different version of ASHES IN TIME in circulation, some approved by me, some not, as well as the fact that the film was never released in much of the world including the United States. To rectify this situation, we decided to revisit this project and to create the definitive version (Ashes of Time Redux press kit, 3).