Oddity from China Crumbles like Ashes

By Arnold, Gary | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 14, 1996 | Go to article overview

Oddity from China Crumbles like Ashes


Arnold, Gary, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


"Ashes of Time," the next to last attraction at the Biograph, suggests some kind of homage to Akira Kurosawa, Sergio Leone and maybe even Sam Ramey. What it never becomes is a coherent new synthesis of anything in particular.

A written synopsis may prove indispensable in avoiding confusion about characters who appear to duplicate themselves with abandon. Shot on badlands locations in mainland China by Wong Kar Wai, who ordinarily is based in Hong Kong, "Ashes" is anchored insecurely by Leslie Cheung as a former samurai warrior called Ouyang Feng. He has retired to innkeeping and brokers contracts between samurai willing to hire out as assassins and clients with murder in mind.

An early delirium may set in when Brigitte Lin Ching-hsia plays a transparent dual role. Disguised as a man, she solicits the killing of her alleged sister's fiance. Returning as the alleged sister, she also contracts for the murder of the bogus brother. This deception seems to be contrived to crack a joke about the names of the rival clients. "In the end I couldn't tell Yin from Yang," concludes the brooding Feng.

Embittered or melancholy loves keep shuttling through as Mr. …

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