WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Luo Hongwu returns to his hometown of Kaili and begins remembering a fateful encounter with a woman: a distant memory that grows brighter through associations and chance meetings. There is a murder, a betrayal, a green dress, and then, suddenly, a surreal 3D-journey through an abandoned mine, a prison, and an arcade. Frankly, the film is hard to describe, because it’s less about plot than about mapping memory and experience and must be encountered first-hand.
WHO MADE IT: Bi Gan is a young Chinese filmmaker, whose debut film “Kaili Blues” scored him many awards, including one at Locarno. “Long Day’s Journey into Night” is only his second film, but Bi Gan has already cemented his position as the most prominent and innovative in the new batch of amazing Chinese film directors. Among the actors in the film you can find some exciting talent from China and Taiwan: for instance, Tang Wei (of “Lust, Caution” fame) and Lee Hong-Chi (of “Thanatos, Drunk”). Bi Gan’s uncle, Yongzhong Chen, who played the protagonist in “Kaili Blues” also stars, along with the powerhouse actor/director Sylvia Chang. The lead, Jue Huang, is less well known, but so impressed me with his on-screen presence, I’m planning to rewatch his previous films.
WHY DO WE CARE: I was a big fan of Bi Gan’s previous feature, in which a man was also searching, for his nephew and elusive wholeness, while letting the viewer follow through the meandering roads of Kaili. In “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” Bi Gan had perfected the following aspect further and enhanced it with the use of 3D. A virtual reality kind of trip through the noir-tinged landscape, it’s an invigorating reinvention of film. Sometimes I think of the birth of cinema and the people who fled the screening rooms to get away from the Lumieres’ train, or about the spooks delivered by the early horror films. I wish for this kind of immersiveness to return to the screen. Voila, “Long Day’s Journey into Night” accomplishes what 3D was supposed to do long ago, and finally makes the viewer genuinely present. I have an unpopular opinion that high art always benefits when it tries to be more like video games. I’m thrilled to see that Bi Gan is of the similar persuasion, whether he puts it in these words exactly, or not. Reminiscent of the best visionary filmmakers’ works but also of enhanced non-linear adventure storytelling, “Long Day’s Journey into Night” is firmly rooted in the past, but simultaneously fresh and innovative.
WHY YOU NEED TO WATCH: Because Bi Gan is the future of world cinema. In the world of ever-diminishing borders between genres, media, and techniques, only works that are truly prepared to take on the vast opening landscape will persevere. “Long Day’s Journey into Night” is a film that has David Lynch meet Andrei Tarkovsky and embrace contemporary technology. It also carries the grit and the imagination that’s necessary to become a landmark film that can change the future of cinema forever. Now it’s to early to tell if this prediction will come true, but you can decide for yourself. Oh, and did I forget to mention that “Long Day’s Journey into Night” in its original title is an homage to Roberto Bolaño? It doesn’t get more intriguing than that.
Long Day’s Journey into Night (Di Qiu Zui Hou De Ye Wan), 2018
Director: Bi Gan
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