Long Day's Journey into Night (Bi Gan, 2018)
What’s this all about?
Luo Hongwu (Huang Jue) is looking for the woman he once loved, but how is he going to find her if he keeps confusing memories with dreams?
Interpretation of Dreams
Have I dreamt this movie? Have I watched it or was it all my imagination? Maybe I fell asleep during the screening. I don’t know. My mind’s all confused now. I remember finding myself surrounded by darkness while trying to find my seat. I remember the silence in the movie theatre. I remember everyone being quiet as if the audience were extras in someone else's dream. And I remember putting my 3D glasses on and letting myself get carried away.
Is this what placid dreams are like? I can’t tell: I always have nightmares. Is this a dream come true then? Or is this a dream turned into a film?
Long Day’s Journey into Night can be a disorienting experience with its non-linear plot, characters playing dual roles, and its deliberately slow pace, but aren’t dreams supposed to be confusing as well? Bi Gan uses all this to reveal us the fragility of our minds and how unreliable they become when our feelings get in the way.
I still can't figure out what I saw, but all I know is that Long Day's Journey Into Night is the best lucid dream I’ve ever had.
Why do we give our thoughts so much credit? We revisit our memories so often and pay attention to details that might have happened or not we end up altering them.
If Luo Hongwu is not the most objective and reliable character is because our protagonist, just like everyone else, taints his memories with his own desires and fears. The viewer follows him around, but only sees what Luo Hongwu feels and remembers. Because Long Day’s Journey into Night is more concerned about the unconscious than being a plot-driven movie, it hardly matters if what the viewer sees is true or not.
Russian Chinese Ark
Bi Lan crowns Long Day’s Journey into Night with a single-take sequence in 3D that it’s more than 50 minutes long. There’s no denying the scene is a remarkable technical achievement, but does it add much or is it the director just showing-off? It might not mean anything, but it is a freaking awesome trip that includes sparklers, ping-pong matches in real time, and the most vertiginous ride on a cable car. Alfonso Cuarón would be so proud. Or jealous.
The last scene is clearly all a dream, but is it the whole feature a dream as well? In the end, Luo Hongwu doesn’t care much if nothing is real. He’s going to take the most of it anyway because sometimes dreams are better than reality.
The saddest and most excruciating way to eat an apple.
“The difference between film and memory, is that films are always false.”
People who fall asleep in movie theatres.
Good companion pieces
Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad (1960) is the epitome of movies that challenge the themes of time and memory. They’re both also incomprehensible. Remember Marienbad? Not really.
Last life in the universe (2003), by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, is another cool love story to chill with. Watch it because of its dreamy cinematography by Christopher Doyle and the trippiest house cleaning ever.
Wong Kar-Wai’s influences on Bi Gan are undeniable and Chungking Express (1994) works as a great counterpart. They’re both dreamlike, but Chunking Express is lively and optimistic while Long Day’s… is lethargic and melancholic.
Everyone’s phlegmatic enough to keep the mood afloat, but it’s Lee Hong-Chi who nails his scene with the apple.
It’s no surprise three people (Yao Hung-i, Dong Jingsong, David Chizallet) are credited as cinematographers because that last scene alone is a hell of an achievement. Kudos to Point Hsu as well for its otherworldly score.
Why am I watching this?
Ecstatic reviews at Cannes. Critics said it should have been in the Official Competition. I agree.
A 50-minute-long, single-take sequence in 3D? Count me in.
Judging a film by its trailer.
Both Chinese and American trailers are way too frantic for a production that tries to achieve the complete opposite. With only less than two minutes of length, I suspect the Chinese version has more cuts than the movie itself.
Art of the Title
No relation with the play by Eugene O’Neill. The American playwright might have come with the name first, but the title suits this movie better.
The original Chinese title means Last Evenings on Earth, which shares its name with a Roberto Bolaño’s short story collection and reminds you of Last Life in the Universe. On the other hand, the original title for Last Life in the Universe means Love Story, a Little, a Lot.
Something to link about
A simple and short animation by Chris Ware and John Kuramoto about the way we appropriate someone’s else memories.
How on Earth did Long Day’s Journey into Night become a big hit in China? The answer is not “because everyone was excited to see the new film by Bi Gan”.
I was so tired the afternoon I saw this. It was the third screening of the day and the tenth day of watching movies at the London Film Festival. The tiredness, however, helped me to appreciate the experience even more. To my surprise, I did not struggle to stay awake as much as I did with the previous movie though.
For Your Consideration
Best Film - Best Director: Bi Gan - Best actor: Huang Jue - Best Supporting Actress: Tang Wei - Best Actress in a Limited Role: Sylvia Change - Best Actor in a Limited Role: Lee Hong-Chi - Best cinematography: Yao Hung-i, Dong Jingsong, David Chizallet - Best score: Point Hsu - Best Use of 3D - Most Awesome Single-Take Sequence
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Original title: Di qiu zui hou de ye wan
Directed by Bi Gan | 2018 | China, France
Main cast: Huang Jue, Tang Wei, Sylvia Chang, Lee Hong-Chi, Chen Yongzhong, Tuan Chun-hao