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Table of contents

Ashes of Time

On memory as punishment

This is the story of a swordsman who sells vengeance. This is an ugly version of a go-between. People remember things that poison them & rather than cleanse themselves, they impiously want to poison others. Our man is strikingly rational – he puts a price on vengeance, but this only […]

Hero 1

On heroism & sacrifice

A man who says he is nameless enters the court of the Qin Emperor in order to gain the rewards of his extraordinary exploits: He has defeated & killed the three most dangerous warriors in the seven kingdoms. People like them, we are given to understand, prevent the unification of […]

Happy together

On love as an abandonment of family & the familiar

Lai Yiu-fai is the lover of Ho Po-Wing. He narrates their story. He says they have been together for a while, but they always break up – whenever Po-wing wants to start being together again, they do. Yiu-fai seems slavish in his obedience, but […]

Chungking express

A story about policemen falling in love

Cop #223 was left by his girl. He wants to know when love expires when he realizes she does not love him anymore. He took it as a joke when she left him: He thought it made no sense. It was laughable because he did the things […]

In the mood for love

A story about love with shame

I will have to say in the following notes certain things that I would rather not say. They may hurt sensitive readers & I would rather follow my inclination & avoid that. However, it may suffice to say here that these are exaggerations required by the understatements of […]

Infernal Affairs 1

A note on the relationship between crime & heroism

The story opens at a Buddhist temple. Sam tells the newcomers how his criminal enterprise started: Protection rackets. Their enemy is the police. Men died fighting. The laws of the city do not move him; he makes a show of his piety, then he insists […]

The Grandmaster 1

On motion & essence

This is a strange story, & not at all straightforward, so it would help to try to understand it by its political context. Now, the 20th century in China was more or less a long series of internal wars & then the Communist tyranny. Our story moves from the ‘30s […]

Red Cliff 1

The princes & captains go to war

This is the story of a war fought in China some two thousand years ago. A dynasty is falling apart; the country is divided between princes competing for survival. Massive armies, scarring the land, are moving toward the Red Cliffs. Many historical dramas concern the unification of […]