The prodigal son's prodigal film returns in its original form, if only for a weekend: John Woo's uncut, nearly five-hour Red Cliff, the biggest, most expensive movie ever made in China, is the closing event of LACMA's Hard Boiled Hong Kong film festival.
Adapted from the 14th-century novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Woo's spectacular homecoming arrived here last November relatively unheralded and chopped to half its running time.
Seen as intended, Red Cliff is, as many suspected, the director's magnum opus. The sweeping narrative now is replete with elaborate animal metaphors and additional meteorological incidents, not to mention excised subplots, stratagems and saccharine sentimental interludes. There's also a wonderfully convoluted ambush-cum-battle sequence lasting half an hour and featuring baroque tactics to rival the flaming finale (this, too, is longer by half).
Bottom line: Red Cliff is now 288 minutes, not one of them dull.
RED CLIFF | Directed by John Woo | LACMA's Bing Theater | Nov. 26-27 | lacma.org