Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Long Day's Journey Into Night

Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night is so filled with pregnant, over the top imagery that it comes perilously close to parodying its own romantic underpinings. Much of the movie is a voice over recalling the romance between Luo Hongwu (Huang Jue) and the mysterious and elusive Wan Qiwen (Tan Wei), recalling trysts in rain soaked rooms and broken clocks in which an aged photograph resides. The narrative, which incidentally has nothing to do with the O'Neill classic other than being long and culminating at night, is also framed a kind of film noir detective story style culminating in a virtuoso 59 minute one take 3-D sequence in which the hero consummates his search by falling into the arms of a doppleganger. Memory and the past are the leitmotifs. “Whenever I’m about to forget her, I dream of her again,” “It’s living in the past that’s scary, not mudslides” are examples of the lines that are bantered about. The remembrances of Kaili the Chinese village where action takes place recall Resnais, Duras and even Proust. But it’s not clear how seriously the film wants to take itself. Is Long Day's Journey an artfully and lushly conceived genre film or is it subverting popular culture in an attempt to deal with the nature of illusion and reality?  The answer is that it’s probably all of these things. What’s interesting is how inward turning the movie is in a country where dialectical materialism has been the most dominant esthetic. There isn’t an ounce of ideology or politically suggestive iconography in Long Day’s Journey. It's almost disconcerting to find the Cultural Revolution culminating in Last Year in Marienbad. 

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