Bi Gan’s 2018 feature offers a fresh take on neo-noir filmmaking, in addition to being a technological marvel.
“LDJIN” (2018) follows Luo Hongwu, played by Jue Huang, as he searches for a mysterious woman in a green dress, only to find himself tangled up with a crime ring. Past, present and premonition weave a spider’s web for Hongwu as he stumbles through a dizzying quest of dreams.
The first half of the film reads narratively like a shattered mirror, an intentional chaos of plot riddled with intersecting timelines and borderline-expressionist memory vignettes, which often admittedly come across as more scattered than visionary.
It also lacked much of a soul, with the focus (in a Christopher Nolan-esque way) on meticulousness as opposed to artful craftsmanship. This hard-shelled façade extended largely to the content itself as well, save a brief flash of the ruthless, karaoke-spitting mob boss character.
For the dryness of the first, the second half of the film truly shines, technique not withheld. Truly, the second half is almost its own film. While the originality of a 3D dramatic film is notable, the film’s true fifty-nine-minute single-shot scene is utter genius. Such dedication to production transcends acting and filmography into a mind-blowing directorial choreography.
The film’s second act also happens to be one of the best-written dream sequences that I have ever seen. It is simultaneously eerie and beautiful, and follows seamless, real-feeling dream logic, which is no easy feat.
The visuals are very powerful, and the metaphors are compelling, if overly enigmatic.
I was impressed at how much meaning I found after the credits, despite feeling little while watching initially. The context of the second act entirely reframed my experience of the first, and made me appreciate that scattered half as a necessary inconvenience.
There are a few glaring problems, however. Besides occasional soullessness and lack of direction, the characters are also very Nolan-esque – that is to say they are plain, and only exist as a vehicle for the plot, removing plenty of potential emotion.
Additionally, the latter portion of the film did not tie back well to the main plot or to some of the events referenced in the former — structured time is completely destroyed in the film, leading to the inevitable fraying of loose ends — which was a missed opportunity to create a satisfying and thoughtful conclusion.
“Long Day’s Journey Into Night” (2018)’s incomparable approach to filmmaking is a marvel that I recommend experiencing. You may hate it, you may find it brilliant, but chances are your brain will be shaken.
Title: “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” (2018)
Star Rating: 4/5
[Available at time of writing to stream on: Kanopy (FREE), Hulu, Criterion Channel, AMC Plus, Sundance Now]