Sunday, May 26, 2019

Must-See Film

"Long Day's Journey Into Night", an experimental Chinese film with nothing to do with the Eugene O'Neill play, is still in its limited run, and you shouldn't miss it (see local showtimes on Fandango's page for the film).

This is 75 minutes of confusing noir, as the lead character struggles to recover foggy memories and piece together incomplete information (a bit maddening, but exactly in the way such odysseys actually are) and then it's a 50 minute 3D single shot elegy; a letting go into non-linearity. Once one has accepted, after effort, that some story can never be resolved - the memories never fully restored, the facts never reassembled - one's nonverbal, intuitive brain frames it as melancholy poetry - beautiful shards drifting out of reach. It settles into a dream, making its limited sense within the non-analytical realm of dream logic.

There have been a great many films centering on foggy memory and incomplete facts, and cinematic efforts to portray the dream state. These have been two of the main preoccupations of the form. But Chinese director Bi Gan has finally done it. This is what your mind feels like - first, when it's fragmented (and it always is to some degree) and woozily tries to preserve foothold amid the tantalizing spottiness of it all. And then we put on our 3D glasses, and, for the first time, behold the dream state convincingly captured on film. Gan has resorted to none of the usual cinematic tropes used to telegraph to audiences that this is the dream part. I guess that's why no reviewer fully understood the movie.

This section is not just representative of dreams, or reminiscent of them. It truly registers as a dream - the first one you've ever dreamt that was created by someone else. I saw the film two weeks ago, and the fading memory has become entwined in my own dreamscape. I fully recall it as something I dreamed. I wouldn't be surprised if I returned there some night.

LDJIN is not trying to be linear or logical, nor to tell a story. Quite the contrary. If you view it with your left, analytical brain, it feels like pushing a noodle. Don't view it as a movie with a plot; just let it wash over you. As you sit with it over subsequent hours/days/weeks, I think you'll agree it captures the state of foggy memory and patchy comprehension, and offers a direct experience of the sensation of letting go; of allowing incomplete pieces to simply hover in the unconscious.

It’s a breakthrough and a masterpiece, but movie reviewers have confused it, for better or for worse, with a novel means of storytelling. It's not that. The film is not about its own story...which never condenses into a story, anyway. That's the point! Rather, it's the meta-story of how we gather and process our stories.

Real life is never pat. We never have all the information, and we spend our lives struggling to make sense of fragments. Sometimes the result feels satisfying, and sometimes we must resign ourselves to letting the remaining shards simply be, reframed as poetry and drifting, of their own accord, into unconsciousness.

Screening schedule

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