2019 Milwaukee Film Festival – Review – LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT
“The difference between film and memory, is that films are always false.”
LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (DI QIU ZUI HOU DI YE WAN) exists in the nexus of memories, dreams, and cinema. All are related, but none are pure substitutes for the other. Director Bi Gan follows up his KAILI BLUES with a film that stands as one of the most ambitious of the year, filled with beauty and filmmaking bravura.
LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT has a simple story at its heart. A man, Jue Huang, haunted by the memory of a past lover, Wei Tang, turns detective to search for her. It’s a quest that takes place as much in the past, through flashbacks, as it takes place in the present.
It’s a noirish story which deliberately evokes that film tradition. Perhaps not surprisingly, the flashbacks are often more vivid than the present. It’s easy to understand the obsession of the man with his past when his past looks like this.
Probably not coincidentally, the woman in the past wears a striking green dress evoking VERTIGO. It’s an obsession that he’ll never shake. No matter where it may lead him. Or how long that quest may be to reconnect.
This is likely the best looking film of the year. And a film that’s not in a hurry to cut a shot short, the camera will float off and capture all of the colors and textures of the world around him. There’s a quest at the center of the film, but like STALKER the world around this quest is of equal interest.
The film is full of broken clocks. Sometimes they’re literally turned back. But they’re not moving forward. The past love was a transient moment that’s seared permanently into his memory.
That’s enough for a terrific movie. And then a little over 70 minutes in, the man sits down in a theater and puts on 3D glasses to wait out the day, the LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT drops its title card, and the remainder of the movie is one single shot take. In 3D no less.
It’s a knockout punch. And a sequence people will talk about for years.
That long take is probably a dream. But it’s definitely cinema. Yes, it’s false to reality, but it’s certainly true to the emotions of the main character. Right up to the final image.
LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT is a mesmerizing journey. A pure cinematic experience you’re not going to get the chance to see often. It’s one of the best movies of the year and not to be missed.
LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT plays once more at the Milwaukee Film Festival on Thursday, October 24th at 12:30 pm at the Oriental Theatre West. The 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival runs from October 17, 2019 to October 31, 2019. Information and tickets can be found at Milwaukee Film’s website mkefilm.org.