The best way to approach Ashes of Time Redux — Wong Kar Wai’s ravishing swirl of an ancient Chinese martial-arts saga, restored and expanded from his original 1994 production — is to prepare to get lost. I mean literally, thrown without compass into a thicket of imagery and time-shifting both undeniably gorgeous and ultimately inconsequential, about characters as interchangeable as they are operatically grand, with their big loves and crazy style. The late Chinese matinee idol Leslie Cheung plays a brokenhearted swordsman, rejected by the woman he loves, who subcontracts his bounty killings; Tony Leung Chiu Wai from In the Mood for Love plays one of the blades for hire.
When it was first released, with a handsome cast that included Brigitte Lin, Carina Lau, and Maggie Cheung, Ashes marked Wong (in his only martial-arts pic) as a master of moodily avant-garde, pop-inflected visual gloss. (He went on to make Happy Together and In the Mood for Love.) This version has been opulently restored, rescored, and reedited, with digital colorization that intensifies the lurching beauty of Christopher Doyle’s inimitable cinematography. For the love of all things sensual and mysterious, see this one on a big screen. B+