Ashes of Time: Redux (Dung che sai duk) (Directors Suite) (1994)

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Released 9-Sep-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Martial Arts Interviews-Crew-first interview with Director Wong Kar-Wai
Interviews-Crew-second interview with Director Wong Kar-Wai
Interviews-Crew-with Cinematographer Christopher Doyle
Interviews-Cast-with Actress Carina Lau
Interviews-Cast-with Actor Tony Leung
Interviews-Cast-with Actress Charlie Young
Featurette-Making Of-Born from Ashes: The Making of Ashes of Time
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Four Directors Suite trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 89:28 (Case: 93)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (37:25) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kar Wai Wong
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Brigitte Lin
Leslie Cheung
Maggie Cheung
Tony Leung Chiu Wai
Jacky Cheung
Tony Leung Ka Fai
Li Bai
Carina Lau
Charlie Yeung
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Frankie Chan
Roel A. García


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Alternate Subtitles
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Wong Kar-Wai's adaptation of Louis Cha's 3-volume epic novel, The Legend of the Condor Heroes will leave you scratching your head after your first viewing. Even if you are familiar with Cha's novel, you will still need to watch Ashes of Time: Redux again to try to put together the story. This is because the only thing really adapted from the novel were the main characters, the story itself has not really been used. Now, it helps when one views a traditional narrative to identify a character who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist. Again, I regret to inform you that this film doesn't offer this either. So why has Ashes of Time: Redux retained a cult following over the years after its mixed critical acceptance at the time of its theatrical release in 1994?

    A traditional narrative plot has an orientation (or beginning) where the main characters and settings are identified, a conflict (and sub plots related to this) and a resolution (where by the end of the story the main character/s have adapted from their experiences). Again, Ashes of Time: Redux cannot be analysed in this simple fashion as one finds that the opening and closing dialogue scenes of the film are essentially the same and the story is non-linear, the audience doesn't even know the time period in which the story is set. So how can we make sense of the film? I think the only to do that is to see the film not as a traditional story but as a series of interpretations based on the memories of the main characters. Memories change, especially as they get older, and that is what the essence of Ashes of Time: Redux is about, that memories are like the ashes of time, they burn up and wither away until we forget them, and what was once so important to us changes and becomes forgotten. Perhaps this why Wong Kar-Wai set the film in the desert, like memories over time, the desert can be vast and empty. (In fact one character in the film asks what's beyond the desert. The response from their companion is an interesting one, perhaps more desert.)

    The central character is Ou-yang Feng, (played by the late Leslie Cheung) an isolated figure who lives in the desert and hires assassins to carry out his contracts, think of him as ancient hit-man. The film carries a lot of Ou-yang Feng's voice-over narrative, after viewing the film myself I must urge you to consider that movies with one character providing a voice-over narrative usually persuades the audience towards their point of view. I still haven't made my mind up as to whether the events of the film are simply an interpretation of events and maybe Ou-Yang Feng may be an unreliable narrator, you may need to keep this in mind. The other main character in the film is Huang Yao-shi (Tony Leung Ka Fai), an associate of Ou-Yang Feng who verbally committed to marry the Princess of the Murong (Brigitte Lin) during his past travels. When he in fact falls in love with Peach Blossom (Carina Lau), the wife of the Blind Swordsman (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), a whole sequence of events dealing with betrayal, rejection and revenge begins to take place, intertwined among many different characters who share similar experiences with rejection and love. Even Ou-yang Feng has unrequited love in his life, when we learn during the film that he has sought a life of isolation after the woman that he loved married his brother.

    The title of the film, Ashes of Time: Redux refers to the editing process that Wong Kar-Wai undertook in restoring the movie in 2008. Apparently the original film elements were in disrepair and this necessitated tracking down prints from around the world in order to restore the film visually and aurally. The 2008 version of Ashes of Time was premiered in Cannes, and it features new sound effects added to soundtrack, emphasising the passing of time through the change of seasons. Ashes of Time: Redux is a wuxia film, meaning that it is a martial arts film set in ancient China. Unlike Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Yimou Zhang's Hero, don't expect the action sequences in the film to be central to the story, instead they serve to support the narrative. They are shot and edited in a deliberate blur for this reason.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Although Ashes of Time: Redux was shot on a big budget, the look of the film sometimes resembles a lower-budgeted independent film. This is no doubt due to the location shooting, done using mostly natural light.

    The aspect ratio of the film is 1:85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions. Unlike other versions of the film around the world on DVD, the aspect ratio of the Region 4 release does not alternate between 1:78:1 and 1:85:1.

    Although the film has been restored, film grain is evident. This was a creative decision by Wong Kar-Wai, emphasising the haziness of memories and recollections from the past, in line with the main theme of the film.

    Similarly, colours are at times pale and washed out, at other times a yellow tint has been applied to the image to highlight the isolation of the desert. Green tints are used also. Again, this would have been done for thematic reasons. The scenes with tinting do stand out, however.

    The main feature takes up 4.38 gb of space on a dual-layered DVD with an average bitrate of 6.69 m/b sec. There are no real film artefacts or compression issues evident in this restored transfer.

    Madman Entertainment's Directors Suite label again provides an option of yellow or white subtitling. I watched the film with both options. Personally, I appreciate the effort that Madman goes to in doing this for their customers.

    The RSDL change occurs at 37:25 during a scene transition.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Unlike the video transfer, which was not restored digitally, the soundtrack had sound effects added as the original soundtrack was damaged.

    There are two main soundtracks; Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps) and a Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track encoded at 224 kbps.

    Dialogue is mostly clear, at times dialogue sounds distant and hollow, especially from characters who are in the background of a scene. This is a result, no doubt, of the state of the original elements of the soundtrack.

    The music for Ashes of Time: Redux was re-recorded by Roel A. Garcia. It is vastly different to Frankie Chan's original synthesized soundtrack, being more orchestral.

    Surround channel usage occurs where scenes containing elements of nature such as wind, storms and rain happens. There is also a neat aural pan of birds flying across the front channels.

    The subwoofer supports the sounds of nature that are used often in the film, with the bass sounding strong, especially in the storm scenes.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Interviews-Crew- Director Wong Kar-Wai (5:10)

    This interview explores the reason for the restoration undertaken in 2008.

Interviews-Crew- Director Wong Kar-Wai (18:13)

    In this interview Wong Kar-Wai discusses how the film came to be made, his decisions in re-editing the film and the deliberate grainy look of the video transfer.

Interviews-Crew- Cinematographer Christopher Doyle (16:46)

    Christopher Doyle discusses the importance of working with directors that he knows, the challenges of shooting on location and of filming a martial arts film.

Interviews-Cast- Actress Carina Lau (4:13)

    This interview is the only interview that is subtitled and not in English. She discusses how she came to work with Wong Kar-Wai and how she used her physical actions, not just her vocal delivery, to supplement her scenes.

Interviews-Cast- Actor Tony Leung (8:35)

    Tony Leung and Wong Kar-Wai have been friends for a long time, with Leung appearing in many of Wong Kar-Wai's films over the years. Leung shares his unusual inspiration for his character as the Blind Swordsman, a copy of Private Investigations by Dire Straits. He was also not shown the script.

Interviews-Cast-with Actress Charlie Young (9:44)

    Unlike Tony Leung, Charlie Young praises Wong Kar-Wai for helping her in her work as she was a student at the time and providing access to the script in her role preparation.

Featurette-Making Of- Born from Ashes: The Making of Ashes of Time (14:06)

    This is an Electronic Press Kit feature which adds action sequence designer Sammo Hung's thoughts on the film and extra narration from Wong Kar-Wai. This feature is not 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Theatrical Trailer (2:12)

    This is the 2008 Redux trailer for the film's premiere at Cannes.

Directors Suite Trailers

    Four Directors Suite trailers are included: Tokyo Story by Yasujiro Ozu, 2046 by Wong Kar-Wai, Happy Together by Wong Kar-Wai and Ikiru by Akira Kurosawa.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Ashes of Time was originally released with very poor video transfers. The Region 0 Chinese Zoke Culture and Hong Kong Mei Ah releases both have these poor transfers and both releases have no extras and are not 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions. The original Region 1 United States World Video and Supply Inc. release also is not 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions, as similarly is the case for the Region 2 Japanese Pony Canyon release.

    The Region 2 French release and Swedish releases are restored and are 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions but they contain no extras. The Redux restoration has been released by Sony in Region 1 in the United States, 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions and a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The two extras on this release include a 42-minute Q&A with director Wong Kar-Wai and the 14-minute EPK feature on the making of documentary of the film. In the United Kingdom Artificial Eye have released a Region 2 DVD that is identical to the Region 4 Madman Entertainment Directors Suite version.

    Therefore, the best available versions on DVD of Ashes of Time: Redux are the Region 2 Artificial Eye and Region 4 Directors Suite versions, complete with interviews with cast and crew. For a comparison of the huge disparity in image quality between the unrestored and restored Redux versions of Ashes of Time, follow this review link at DVDbeaver.

Summary

    Ashes of Time: Redux is not your standard wuxia-themed film, replete with an easy-to-follow plot and action sequences. Instead, what we have is director Wong Kar-Wai's metaphoric look at the nature of love and its regrets, an the unreliability of memories that goes with it. One may compare this film to Last Year at Marienbad or Memento in terms of theme and its non-linear style. If this is your first venture into Wong Kar-Wai's films, take your time and enjoy the visuals of the cinematography, and know that you will learn something different every time you view one of his films. The complexity of this film requires repeat viewing, despite a star-studded cast, Ashes of Time was a difficult shoot which lasted a year and was a commercial disaster at the box office. In time Ashes of Time has come to be re-appreciated, despite it's complexity.

    This release by Madman Entertainment's Directors Suite label is a real coup for Region 4 fans of Wong Kar-Wai's work or Asian cinema in general as it is the best version available on DVD together with the Region 2 Artificial Eye version.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Monday, October 26, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 019), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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