The Movie Waffler New to MUBI - LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT | The Movie Waffler


long day's journey into night review
A man searches for and recalls his time with a mysterious woman.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Bi Gan

Starring: Huang Jue, Tang Wei, Sylvia Chang, Lee Hong-chi, Chloe Mayaan, Ming Dao

long day's journey into night dvd

Scottie Ferguson trying to fashion his new girlfriend into a replica of the woman he couldn't save in Hitchcock's Vertigo. The swinging shutterbug of Antonioni's Blowup racking his brains to recall whether his memory lines up with a photo he took. A surveillance expert driving himself crazy searching for clues in a recording he made in Coppola's The Conversation. A theme many great filmmakers have explored is that of a protagonist struggling to reconstruct a memory. It makes perfect sense, as what is filmmaking but an ultimately doomed attempt to transfer a set of images, sometimes personal memories, from the artist's subconscious to the screen?

In director Bi Gan's sophomore feature, Long Day's Journey Into Night (no relation to the play it takes its name from), the frustrated protagonist, Luo Hongwu (Huang Jue), expresses a wish that "memories would be made of stone." He spends the first half of the movie on a frustrated quest to extract a woman, Wan Qiwen (Tang Wei), from his memories and make her whole again. This is triggered by a photograph he finds hidden behind a clock in his family's restaurant, the only possession he takes when his father passes away.

long day's journey into night review

The picture sets off memories of the turn of the century, when Luo met Wan, who reminded him of the woman in the picture. She could well be the woman in the picture, much like Kim Novak's Judy Barton is also Madeleine Elster, but the film gives us no easy answer to this or several other subplots it raises. Attempt to piece LDJIN's elliptical narrative together (on a first viewing at least), and you'll find yourself sharing the frustrations of its tortured protagonist, as your own memories lead you down dead ends.

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The noirish, Wong Kar Wai influenced first half of Gan's film follows the format of a detective movie, but Luo is no detective, and as his investigation draws him closer to reuniting with Qiwen, we begin to suspect such a reunion may not be the best for both parties. How can Qiwen possibly live up to the romanticised figure of Luo's recollections?

long day's journey into night review

Halfway through (if you're viewing this in a cinema, and frankly no other movie of recent times demands to be seen this way quite as much as LDJIN), it becomes time to don the 3D glasses that have been sitting in your lap since you took your seat. Following earlier instructions, we raise our glasses to our eyes with Luo as he falls asleep in a cinema, within spitting distance of the goal of his quest. But rather than following through with the narrative we've been onboard with thus far, we're instead plunged into Luo's subconscious as the rest of the movie plays out a fever dream in which Luo's mind pieces together the various figures of his past in a way reality never could.

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Shot in a single extended take (a genuine single take, without the aid of digital trickery), Luo's dream is an intoxicating piece of filmmaking, a technical marvel that unlike many other one-shot sequences, quickly makes you forget about its physical intricacies and sucks you into its beautiful altered reality. There's a drawn out sequence in which we follow Luo as he descends down the side of a mountain on a pulley, the camera and audience floating behind him. In that moment I realised I was experiencing one of those moments of lucidity that great cinema occasionally offers us, as it dawned on me that I had no idea where the film, the filmmaker and their protagonist were taking me, but I was ready to follow them anywhere. As I descended down the mountain behind Luo, I was doing something he had struggled to do himself - I was living in and for the moment.

long day's journey into night review

With indoor rainfall, journeys taken on trolleys, sweeping pans across marshlands and beats that require intense physical concentration on the part of a performer, the influence of Tarkovsky on Gan is front and centre here. Like Solaris, it's a story of a man piecing together a woman from his memories. Unlike Kris Kelvin, Luo learns the futility of such an attempt before he can cause any damage and retreats instead to his memories and dreams.

"The difference between memories and films is that films are always false," Luo remarks early on. By its conclusion, Long Day's Journey Into Night has made it clear that memories are often false too, but as rendered by Gan and his ace cast and crew, Luo's false memories reveal a simple truth, that impactful, thoughtful, experimental, vital cinema hasn't faded away just yet. Cherish your memories, hold onto your dreams, but keep moving; exciting times lie ahead.

Long Day's Journey Into Night is on MUBI UK now.