An insightful conversation on a film that’s difficult to grasp in terms of plot but which nonetheless offers us enough to have returned twice more to see it. In the podcast, we discuss the famous 59 minute tracking shot, how the film shifts gears narratively and stylistically; how the first half may deal with memory and the second with dreams; we talk of the film’s texture, how sound often works against image and how the images themselves are precise and controlled; we relate the film to noir (time, rain, vamps, fedoras, its evocation of BLADE RUNNER). We relate the film to the work of Jia Zhang Ke and Tsiai Ming Lang; and we talk of how it’s a film that may leave audiences initially puzzled but that seems to grow in their estimation as discussion unfolds. All this, and much, much more.
José’s seen it once and returns to its depths for a second time, alongside Mike, who knows nothing about it. Chinese writer-director Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, unrelated to Eugene O’Neill’s play, tells a story that flashes between memories of a love lost long ago and present day reality, culminating in an hour-long single take that moves through an entire mining village.
It’s a film that oozes feelings of loss and nostalgia, the protagonist’s return to his hometown seeing him wander through dereliction and abandonment, where his life was once vital and exciting. The noirish flashbacks are sumptuously composed and lit, romantic and evocative; one sinks into those gorgeous images.
The long take that comprises the film’s second half is less successful, an exercise in form that leaves longueurs and attracts too much attention to itself. But its relationship to the first half is intriguing, its symbolism readily apparent if difficult to interpret, and its technical accomplishment unquestioned. (We didn’t see this version of it, but it’s entirely in 3D, which we can only imagine heightens its fluid, magical tone.)
Despite José’s criticisms, it’s one of his films of the year, though for Mike its qualities don’t offer enough to counterbalance a second half with which he really struggled. But it’s certainly worth your time, and if it’s showing near you, you should catch it.