Ashes of Time (1994), Wong Kar-Wai
"Wong’s theme of memory and lost love, or, more precisely in this instance, love that has been betrayed, is a determining factor in the characters’ behavior. Huang Yaoshi drinks out of a jug of wine that will erase his memory, because he wants to forget his betrayal of a friend (the blind swordsman, played by Toney Leung Chiu-wai) with whose wife he had had an affair. Ouyang Feng, for whom the wine was actually intended, finally drinks from it but still remembers his old love, his brother’s wife (The Maggie Cheung character). ‘The more you seek to forget, the more you remember,’ Ouyang says.
Wong portrays Ouyang Feng as a cynical swordsman who has withdrawn into the desert after leaving Maggie Cheung in Camel Mountain, his birthplace. He becomes a tavern keeper, acting as a sword-for-hire or as middleman for other swords-for-hire. Ouyang and the desert tavern form the axis of the film. Huang Yaoshi rides in to give him the jug of memory-wiping wine; Brigitte Lin’s yin-yang character hires him to kill Huang Yaoshi; a young woman (Charlie Young) seeks his help to find an avenger who will exact vengeance on those who have killed her brother; Tony Leung’s blind swordsman seeks a commission in order to earn cash for his trip back to ‘Peach Blossom’ land to see the blossoms bloom before he goes completely blind (‘Peach Blossom’ is the name of his wife: it is she he really wants to see); and Hong Qi drops in to make a name for himself as a killer, loses a finger during a battle and leaves with his wife who has followed him to the tavern. All the characters are fundamentally old in spirit if not in body. The desert tavern is like a halfway house for characters who are losing memory, losing eyesight, losing fingers, losing brothers and lovers, and losing lives. The tavern, standing at the crossroads of history, is the site of inevitable loss.”
- Stephen Teo, Wong Kar-Wai