In uni, I took a course on art film which was probably my most enthusiastic self in my entire school life. I basically got to watch a whole buncha classic films and shoot shit about em. Some were horrid whilst others were easy. Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday was one of the first films we caught which was so easy to enjoy whilst I could never sit through anything by Hou Hsiao Hsien before my drool hit the floor. Thankfully, Wong Kar Wai was a massive part of the course and I got to rewatch a lot of his movies.

Anyway, the first time I watched Ashes Of Time, I was probably in my teens and I remember wondering why the hell it didn’t have better action scenes and why the hell it was so dreary and slow and what the hell was the plot going on about. The second time I watched it was in the film course and I still felt it was extremely dreary and slow.

Fast forward to today? I decide to watch Ashes Of Time Redux, which is the 2008 rethink of the film. And? Yes, it’s still fucking dreary and slow but heaps better, I think. In many ways, I feel like it’s a film that shares a lot more with Wong’s films post Fallen Angels. The regular Ashes has a washed out, bleak tonality to it that really looked mostly just blurry and fuzzy or empty. The action scenes were just flailing closeups whilst the landscapes were just desolate. In Redux, the colour is just intense, bright greens and blues which were totally absent before are now everywhere and yellow is the significant tone that dominates the new treatment. It looks a lot closer to 2046 in that sense.

The music is also changed, I can’t remember what it was before but now there’s this orchestrally score, particularly at the end, which sounds terrible. It feels like a low budget version of the In The Mood For Love soundtrack because it sounds like the kinda shit you hear in the melodramatic bits in wuxia pian.

I think Wong also paid more attention to the end bits of the film, which focuses on the story of the narrator and main character, Leslie Cheung’s Ouyang Feng and how every other plotline leading up to this explains his existing position and predicament.

This redux seems a helluva lot better than the old movie, which was probably a compromised version which had a lot of bloody action scenes that really didn’t help the plot much. Watching the current version though, feels like it hints at what Wong would later achieve with Happy Together and In The Mood For Love.

All in all, you have to be really happy with Ashes because even though it’s not a great movie and is kinda shitty to watch in most respects for the casual moviegoer, it spawned two of the greatest HK movies of all time. Chungking Express got busted out during a two month break and The Eagle Shooting Heroes / Dong Cheng Xi Jiu got made to cover costs.

If you don’t know what the latter is, here it is in its entirety for Cantonese speakers and Mandarin readers. Pretty much the most hilarious wuxia pian in the history of wuxia pian.