By Mónica Delgado

The conception and perception of time that the young filmmaker Bi Gan proposed in his first feature Kaili Blues, is prolonged in an oneiric state in his new work, presented in Un Certain Regard at Cannes. A disperse search of a woman becomes a treaty on memory and how is it conceived, as an illusion, nightmare or, as one of the characters says in a part of the film, as dreams that couldn’t come true. In long day’s journey into night, Bi Gan returns in a formidable way, to some motifs of his last feature: time and the unavoidable figure of the clock, interior that shelter ghost or stylized beings, and a character that returns to look for a being of the past from the discomfort of that something which can’t be caught.

Long day’s journey into night is, before all, a sensory experience, because everything is conducted by atmospheres, impressions, moods, that are concatenated in the search of a man who returns to his hometown after the death of his father. This mourning also detonates the desire of looking for a woman who abandoned him years ago, of whom he keeps only daydreams that materialize themselves with feminine characters that cross his way.

There’s no way that this trip would be narrated in a realist way in Bi Gan’s eyes. For the filmmaker, the imaginary of dreaming is the only way to recover the past or look for it, building an imaginary of the circularity of time, from its fragments or from the magical irruption of being or situations that achieve this circular effects, which he picks up through elaborated sequence shots, something that is usual in his cinema. If maybe we were willing to expect the sequence shot as a trademark of Bi Gan, this time he managed to do it from the depth of field that 3D allows. The long voyage through the night could only be conceived from a 45-minute sequence shot, which includes a trip in a Vespa, the crossing of a river in an improvised cableway and walks through passages that imitate the texture of nightmares. But also, it is here where Bi Gan adds the meta-textual quota of cinema inside cinema, a sense of timing inside time, since the 3D irrupts when the character puts on the glasses inside a film projection, which we’ll also see as spectators. “I was in the movies, and suddenly I’m here, in this place”, says the character, while we drift off in this descent to a ghost town, or to the mind which is dreaming and ruling the screen.

Kaili Blues marked a style and put Bi Gan’s name among the new promises of recent cinema. With this new film, we confirm the mastery with which he elaborates his oneiric universes, creating an aesthetic of the circularity of time. There’s no doubt that this is one of the jewels of this festival, and the first masterpiece of the season.

Un Certain Regard
Producers: Shan Zuolong, Charles Gillibert
Director: Bi Gan
Script: Bi Gan, Dong Jinsong
Production Designer: Yao Hung-I
Editng: Qin Yanan
Cast: Tang Wei, Sylvia Chang, Huang Jue
China, 2018, 110 minutes