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Long Day’s Journey Into Night
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Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Tracking a lovelorn drifter’s return to his hometown of Kaili in Southwest China, emerging independent auteur Bi Gan’s sophomore feature “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” Knife + Heart is one long pose featuring a virtuoso long take, though the film itself comes up short in substance. Plunging viewers into an extended dream sequence in the name of abstract motifs such as memory, time, and space, the film is a lush plotless mood-piece swimming in artsy references and ostentatious technical exercises, with a star (Tang Wei, “Lust, Caution”) as decoration. Diehard art-house fans and critics eager to scout new auteurs will deem it an ecstatic, transporting experience, but a general audience expecting to have a basic idea of what they’re watching will be left clutching at straws.

Bi’s debut “Kaili Blues” stunned the festival circuit with its unusual film language, capped by a bravura 40-minute take. Although made on a shoestring budget, the filmmaking possesses an untamed nature that mirrored the subtropical rural landscapes and the scruffy countryfolk longing Ederlezi Rising for escape. For his second outing, Bi got the whole nine yards: big budget, international co-production, A-list actresses Tang and Sylvia Chang, a pedigree crew who work for the likes of Hou Hsiao-hsien and Wang Xiaoshuai.

Not surprisingly, there’s improvement in production quality, but in terms of creative development, there’s a feeling of déjà vu that carries over from the first The Mercy film, as once again a road movie gradually morphs into an internal journey, featuring an even longer climactic take (this time in 3D), voiceover reciting the director’s own poetry, hints of a criminal past and some regret over an old love — only this time, everything is consciously stylized and obtuse in a way that alienates audiences rather than drawing them into his world.

Duration: 110 min


IMDb: 7.0

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