3-D technology is usually reserved for big action movies laden with lots of fast-moving objects, explosions, and pointy things. Di qiu zui hou de ye wan (Long Day’s Journey into Night, opening at Landmark’s California Theater on Friday, May 3) relies on a multi-dimensional dream sequence for almost half of its running time, but it’s no summer tent-pole blockbuster: think of it instead as the arthouse’s introduction to the world of stereoscopic filmmaking.
Written and directed by Gan Bi, Long Day’s Journey into Night also has nothing to do with Eugene O’Neill’s play of the same name. Instead, it’s a phantasmagoric mystery about an easily distracted man whose search for a friend’s killer gets sidetracked by a woman in green.
The man is Luo (Jue Huang), who’s returned to his home city of Kaili after the death of his father and the murder of his friend Wildcat, whose body has been found at the bottom of a mine shaft. A damaged photo hidden in the back of a broken clock leads to a meeting with emerald-clad Wan Qiwen (Wei Tang), who may know where to find the killer.
The film’s narrative is far from straightforward: Luo’s motivation isn’t as clear cut as it initially seems, there’s a mysterious book (also green), a middle-aged prisoner who provides some important clues, and some truly baffling dialogue (“we cannot survive unless we live together in the stars”) that may have lost something in translation.
And then, of course, there’s Long Day’s Journey into Night’s primary selling point — and the reason it grossed multimillions on its release in China. Not only is the film’s second half in 3-D (viewers are prompted to put on their stereoscopic glasses at the precise moment Luo does so on screen), it also consists of a single sixty-minute tracking shot.
Yes, the shot is a gimmick, but it also fits comfortably into the film’s dreamlike narrative — and on top of that, it’s a genuinely impressive technical achievement. If you thought Jean-Luc Godard had taken tracking shots to the limit, you ain’t seen nothing yet; I don’t know how Bi and his trio of cinematographers pulled it off, but it must have been a logistical nightmare, with extensive rehearsals and blocking no doubt required before shooting could begin.
Taking an extended trip into its protagonist’s subconscious, Long Day’s Journey into Night is a complex, languid piece of arthouse cinema blessed with one of the year’s best scores courtesy composer Chi-Yuan ‘Point’ Tsu. If the first hour leaves you confused, the second will at least give you your money’s worth.
‘Robert Scheer: Above the Fold’
Robert Scheer is a journalistic legend. After running for Congress in 1966, Scheer founded Ramparts Magazine, spent a couple of decades writing lengthy investigative pieces for the Los Angeles Times, and helped establish the news website Truthdig in 2005.
Robert Scheer: Above the Fold (screening at Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 5) is a well-deserved tribute to a muckraker whose professional motto is “who’s getting screwed, and who’s doing the screwing?” Even well into his 80s, Scheer remains lively, angry, and as eager to storm the ramparts as he was 50 years ago.