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NYFF 2008: “Ashes of Time Redux.”

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10082008_ashesoftime.jpgWhen Wong Kar-wai’s lone attempt at a martial arts film, “Ashes of Time,” first came out in 1994, it was considered by most to be awfully pretty and mystifyingly elliptical. “Redux” finds it restored, re-edited, seven minutes shorter, with feverishly heightened colors and dramatic new music from Yo-Yo Ma. Having never seen the original version, I can’t speak to whether it’s also been clarified, but here’s what I got:

The Blind Swordsman (who’s more in the process of losing his vision) loves his wife Peach Blossom, but left her because she has a thing for Huang Yaoshi, a warrior who’s a bit of a wandering playboy, having also stolen the heart of, and then jilted, Murong Yin, who’s nutty and has developed a separate personality in which she cross-dresses and claims to be her brother, Murong Yang. They all, along with Hong Qi, a rural would-be assassin, his wife, and a destitute peasant girl seeking revenge, drift in and then out of the life of Ouyang Feng, who was once a great swordsman himself, but who now lives alone in the desert acting as an agent for other fighters and dreaming of his own great love, who abandoned him to marry his brother. Each eventually dies or goes off to become a figure of legend.

Well, wuxia stories don’t need to make perfect sense, something Wong winked at in “2046,” when Tony Leung enlisted Faye Wong to help him write one: “Iron Abacus? Isn’t he dead?” “Is he? Then make it Iron Head.” “Where did Iron Head come from all of a sudden?” Stiil, as a martial arts film, “Ashes of Time Redux” kind of sucks, despite choreography from Sammo Hung — no one gets around to fighting until halfway through, at which point the action is shot gorgeously and incomprehensibly by cinematographer Christopher Doyle.

That’s fine. It’s better to look at “Ashes of Time Redux” as a typical Wong Kar-wai film that just happens to be set in a mythical, martial arts-dominated landscape, an episodic reverie in which the beautifully heartbroken once again muse to themselves in meandering voiceovers and scrutinize the situations in which they find themselves for meaning or consolation, and it’s all so lusciously lovely and cinematic you take it in with jaw agape. The cast is ridiculous: Tony Leung, Carina Lau, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Brigitte Lin, Jacky Cheung, Charlie Yeung, and Leslie Cheung and Maggie Cheung as the separated lovers whose broken relationship turns out to be what the film is actually all about. She convalesces by the sea, and he stares out at the unreal dunes, and they both have the kind of faces film was created to capture. The remembered fragment of the last time they saw each other is an encounter more heated and dangerous than any battle — love, for Wong, will always outdo swordplay.

“Ashes of Time Redux” will open on October 10th. For more coverage of the New York Film Festival, click here.

[Photo: “Ashes of Time Redux,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2008]

+ “Ashes of Time Redux” (NYFF)
+ “Ashes of Time Redux” (Sony Pictures Classics)

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

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Cancel it!

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Forgotten America

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Wedding Planners

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Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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