This is not an adaptation of the Eugene O'Neill play but a noir-tinged "dream film" that takes place in bombed-out Chinese mining towns, mostly at night, with a detective-like loner named Luo Hongwo (played by Huang Jue) abstractly searching for a woman he only barely remembers.
There's plenty of mood here – lots of decaying buildings and dripping water and cigarette smoke, like a Chinese Blade Runner without the sci fi elements – but very little narrative. Frankly, the film is often unbelievably pretentious and dull. And yet part of me kind of loved it.
If you can stay awake during the first hour's worth of beautiful shots and navel-gazing, you will be rewarded – provided you're in a cinema equipped with 3-D projection – with a second half that is even more dreamlike, in which Luo Hongwo wanders into a rundown movie theater, slips on a pair of 3-D glasses as we in the audience do the same, and enters a nearly hour-long single take, shot entirely in 3-D, exploring some anonymous Chinese town in the dead of night.
Things keep moving slowly during this 3-D portion of the film, but that long take (obviously a series of separate takes, stitched together seamlessly in post production) is absolutely hypnotic, and leads to a surprisingly sensuous finale. Of great assistance in this department is the film's leading lady Tang Wei, playing a mystery woman – or two – in Luo Hongwo's life. Her performance may be icy, yet she smolders all the same. You can't take your eyes off her.
Long Day's Journey into Night is both thoroughly exciting cinema and thoroughly boring cinema. I'm glad I saw it, especially in 3-D, but I doubt I'll ever see it again.