While we live in a decree of mass over-saturation and franchise enslavement, how can American audiences even make room anymore for great pieces of cinema that get little marketing? If we can make time for “Game of Thrones”, endless amount of Marvel movies, and Disney+ then we should all make more room for lesser known films all in hopes we discover triumphant treasures. Take for instance the altering meditative driven drama on memory and time titled “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”, which was a hit in China and was marketed poorly here in the States. Written and directed by fresh newcomer Bi Gan, “Long Day’s Journey” is truly a fascinating mood noir film that is a luminous and unique rumination on memory, time, and lost love.
Yet with all the endless saturation, it will eventually make it more challenging for more filmmakers to make films so formally daring. At least on a mainstream level for mainstream audiences. Luckily we still have fresh voices out there like newcomer Bi Gan, who like Alfonso Cuaron, David Lynch, Terrence Malick, Gaspar Noe, among others will continue to make visually arresting films that truly push the realms and depths of what cinema can do.
Sadly “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” never opened up in the Metro-Detroit or Ann Arbor area, or at least of it was, it went unnoticed due to poor marketing by its US Distributor–Wild Bunch. Which is a shame because the entire second half of the 140-minute movie is in a 3D film-within-a-film sequence that takes place with a singular “unbroken” take that recollects Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rope”, Mikhail Kalotozov’s “I Am Cuba”, Andrei Tarkovsky’s “The Sacrifice” and most recently the work of Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro G. Innaritu, and Sebastian Chipper’s”Victoria”.
Bi Gan’s artistry is greatly staged here, and for nearly an hour the camera tracks with his main character walking through a Chinese villa, and while it’s inevitable there are some hidden cuts, nothing ever feels digital, synthetic, or even gimmicky here. It actually feels all vividly real and the result is technically astonishing. “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” is truly an extraordinary cinematic achievement and a remarkable piece of cinema that should be discussed, analyzed, and processed as years go by.
A film noir that is split into two separate film halves, the first that jumps back and forth between the present day and during the turn of the new millennium during the year 2000. The film follows Lou Hongwu (Huang Jue), a former casino manager that returns to his hometown for his father’s funeral, in which he holds deep sorrow and memories for his lost love, a beautiful, mysterious woman named Wan Quiwen (Tang Wei). Bi unfolds these memories with deep longing and fragmentation. There is something almost romanticized and woozy in how she is presented. By shooting through a lot of glass and framing the camera looking into mirrors, each exchange they hold together is so furtive and entrancing you almost question that it even existed to begin with?
By playing with film noir tropes, Lou is the noir anti-hero. He uses voice-over narration that feels like a Chinese variation of a Bogart movie. During his youth he was clean shaved, handsome, and while still poor he held himself together. 18 years later, he is beaten down, unkempt, and unshaven. He is a survivor, living in a harsh world filled with vibrant and colorful greens. With a collage of fragmented and elliptical memories, we recount the death of his friend Wildcat (Lee Hong-Chi) who died from local crime lords that Wan was involved with.
The way I’m describing “Long Day’s Journey” makes it sound far more accessible than what it really is. On a grand general scale that is what the film is about, however what led to Wan’s sudden disappearance among other details are left muddled and unclear. However the narrative isn’t really the point. The whole point of “Long Day’s Journey” is how we get lost in our own memories of time and space, and there is a great quote that sums up the themes of the film “The difference between films and memory is that films are always false”, as if anything the film resembles Miguel Gomes’ 2012 masterpiece “Tabu”, another film that is about memory that uses artistic meditation that blurred memory and hallucination into a sensory experience. The pangs of romance, regret, and lost love are fully elliptical and even transcendent here. The elaboration of Bi Ga’s narrative along with Lou’s interpretations and recollections become a translation in how the language of dreams are placed into cinema, and by its creators. Thematically the film echoes the work of the great Wong Kar-Wai, who has also helmed many treasures about the themes of memory and time, seek out “2046”, “In the Mood for Love”, and “Days of Being Wild”.
“Long Day’s Journey Into Night” was a huge success last year in China for about one week, until ticket tales started plummeting once social media generated buzz that it was too perplexing and confusing. In America, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” didn’t hold the same success of Bong-Jong Ho’s “Parasite”, yet it’s still a grateful feeling to have access to a film like this. Bi, not even 30 yet,in his sophomore film, has a made an impressive debut film that truly feels like a dream. With so many bravura set-pieces and memorable moments, “Long Day’s Journey” is one of the finest films to released in the United States this year. The cinematography had 3 different cinematographers that included David Chizallet, Yao Hung-i, and Jingsong Dong. The score by Lim Giong and Point Hsu give it a dreamy atmosphere that is truly hypnotic, its easily one of the most impressive film scores of the year. This elegant and jaw-dropping piece of cinema is a reminder in just how cinema can continue to push the boundaries of what it is capable of. It will be fascinating to see what young director Bi Gan crafts next.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night/Available on
Blu-Ray Release Date 12/17/19
**DEFACTO FILM REVIEWS SPOTLIGHT
Since we love movies, now, in this new weekly blog, we will share our passion and knowledge of older or lesser known movies that deserve even a wider audience. Defacto Film Reviews Spotlight of the Week will invite the reader to join us on a essential movie pick of the week journey, all in hopes that you put these selected titles in the very top of your watch queue.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]