Tsui Hark crashed violently into the 21st Century. The angry, youthful director of Dangerous Encounters of the First Kind (1980) regurgitated and restructured. Birth and death, as always, conflating, cameras plummeting over ledges, battering through apartments. Heightened colours and movements, frenetic edits, building to an overwhelming immersion of craft. The accretion of formal excess breaks from his Hong Kong contemporaries, becoming at once sensual and bewildering.
It’s both typical and atypical for Hark, a saturated technique that makes Time and Tide (2000) nearly inscrutable. However, he maintains a submerged, consistent didactic. Hark’s always had a feel for the political and social climate of his nation, as well as its vast history, no matter how frivolous the film. As diverse as his filmography is, Hark is far from the fractured artist many suggest.
Time and Tide returns him to the world of youth, something that’s atrophied within the film’s world. The outward meddling of violent capitalism (a fixture of much Hong Kong cinema), is here distinctly predatory. A push-pull between sensate existence and corruption threatens oblivion for the young, but Hark refuses blanket nihilism. Rather, it becomes clear that, however apocalyptic the climate of the 21st Century, the regenerative ideal of youth maintains a critical and, potentially, hopeful essence. In its nightclub desperation and particular malaise, the film begins to feel more akin to the Millennial distress of the 2010s. Caustic action cinema in anticipation of social media loneliness. Tsui Hark has always been relevant.