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Rating History

Ashes of Time Redux
3 years ago via Movies on Facebook
½

Roger Ebert does not even try to pretend he understood what "Ashes of Time" is about, so I won't either, all the more so as I watched the film in three sittings, must have slept a few minutes somewhere, and didn't bother to rewind.

"Ashes of Time" is one long monologue (not all of it in the same voice) about an assassin living in the desert and encountering all sorts of strange characters in a rather episodic way. Seasons go by, and the Chinese almanac has rather cryptic things to say about them.

I first rented the film a few years ago. I couldn't watch more than twenty minutes of it, being particularly displeased with its modernistic narration and its martial arts sequences, which are so blurry that Sammo Hung's choreography is all but completely lost. But what I saw was a rather low quality video, it wasn't "Redux" (whatever that means), and in the meantime, I saw three Wong Kar Wai movies which gave me a better appreciation of him. Moreover, an old tai chi teacher of mine thought it was a masterpiece, and I discovered through Facebook that we had several favorite films in common. So I decided to give it another try.

"Ashes of Time" is a very "esthetic" film, using artificial colours and endlessly delighting in projecting reflected light on the faces of its actors, or light filtered through whirling bird cages. The women often seem half mad, compulsively embracing every vertical surface such as walls and tree trunks, while the males are dark, haunted figures who only want to have loved and lost so as to have an excuse for their unending existentialist brooding, punctuated by bouts of self-destructive and/or callous behaviour. "Let's all drink and be gloomy for yesterday we loved."

I can't say I enjoyed the film very much. I like more of a story, and the teenage navel-gazing felt annoying. But I'm not yet prepared to say this is a complete waste of time. Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe the next time I feel romantic love clawing at my entrails (which I hope is never), It'll all make sense to me. In the meantime, I liked looking at the donkeys, mules and camels betters. These are really fascinating creatures.

Affinity
Affinity (2008)
4 years ago via Flixster

I was not too sure I Wanted to see this film. On the one hand, I expected it to be another blatantly pro-homosexual British film, based as it is on a novel by Sarah Waters, one of the most active homosexual public figures in Britain, and the author of "Tipping the Velvet", a raunchy lesbian novel that was also adapted to the screen by Andrew Davies. But on the other hand, I thought that nothing much could happen between two women in a Victorian prison, and that the film would turn out to be just a story of a strong, ambiguous friendship with nothing really wrong about it. Anyway, I love late XIXth century atmospheres, and I am rather fond of both Zoe Tapper (who was also a lesbian in the 2008 TV series "Survivors") and Anna Madeley, who was brilliant in "The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton" and had a rather funny role in the 2008 version of "Sense and Sensibility". And finally, I love the voice of Anna Massey, who did the narration on the BBC's audio history of Great Britain, "This Sceptred Isle".

Well, I was wrong about the homosexuality. The film portrays no less than four lesbian pairs, and some passionate kissing or foreplay between most of them, with a little B&D roleplay to spice things up. Moreover, males are presented in the usual lesbian way, as either rapists or pompous bores, except for a rather sympathetic librarian, who may well have been a homosexual in the novel, and worked for some occult society anyway, which made him alright according to modern inverted values.

But despite this, I found the movie rather engrossing. I had guessed most of the "clever ending", but I was surprised by the depth that was added by the last couple of minutes of the film, which turned it into something more than a "gotcha" type of movie, a la "The Illusionist" or "The Prestige". What makes it a little difficult to outguess is that it does not let you know whether the supernatural is supposed to be real or not within its universe (and I won't tell you either.)

Morally speaking, I can't really recommend "Affinity", but I'm glad I've seen it, and it has made me want to see more of both Tapper and Madeley, which apparently, I will soon do.