ASHES OF TIME (REDUX) is a weird bird, even for Wong Kar Wai. Veering from silly and melodramatic to simple and affecting – almost moment to moment and shot to shot – the movie has over-stylized camera work, preposterous sword-fighting, stirring heroics, over-the-top emotion, specious logic, a scene with a girl getting all sensual with her horse and many more scenes of a different girl standing around with a very sad donkey. Eventually the impulse to guffaw is overcome by the desire to weep, and the movie builds toward an unlikely and surprisingly emotional ending. As the review in the Village Voice puts it:
Wong has a bit of a wink with all of the deadpan death threats and grand allusions — women rake their cheeks along tree bark, limestone, and a horse’s neck in fits of longing — before turning mannerism into the very stuff of transcendence, as with Maggie Cheung’s penultimate lament. It’s a knowing end-run around cliché that seeks to assert the damnable truth of cliché itself. In a move that would become his trademark, Wong rejects the happy ending for the almost ecstatically sad, making your heart soar even as he tells you, essentially, that it’s impossible, all of it — that it’ll never work.