The river Suzhou that flows through Shanghai is a reservoir of filth, chaos and poverty, but also a meeting place for memories and secrets. Lou Ye, who spent his youth on the banks of the ...
See full summary »
Yu Hong leaves her home village and starts university in Beijing, where she develops a consuming and compulsive relationship with another student. The student riots from 1989 then ensue and take a toll on their lives.
Hired to spy on a philandering husband, Luo Haitao soon becomes entangled in a clandestine affair with the other man. Along with Luo's girlfriend, they succumb to the delirium of drunken nights, but how long can their tryst last?
Lu Jie is having coffee with her desperate friend Sang Qi, who believes her husband is cheating on her. At the same time at a hotel across the road from the coffee shop, Lu Jie sees her ... See full summary »
Ding Hui is a member of Purple Butterfly, a powerful resistance group in Japanese occupied Shanghai. An unexpected encounter reunites her with Itami, an ex-lover... and officer with a ... See full summary »
'Yellow Earth' focuses on the story of a communist soldier who is sent to the countryside to collect folk songs for the Communist Revolution. There he stays with a peasant family and learns... See full summary »
Little pocket thief Wu never got away from the streets like his friends did. He realises that he is alone, as his old buddy doesn't invite him for his wedding. When he falls in love with a ... See full summary »
Two Chinese coal miners have hit upon the perfect scam: murder one of their fellow mine workers, make the death look like an accident, and extort money from the boss to keep the incident ... See full summary »
A town in Fengjie county is gradually being demolished and flooded to make way for the Three Gorges Dam. A man and woman visit the town to locate their estranged spouses, and become witness to the societal changes.
Set in Fenyang, Shanxi Province, the film focuses on a group of amateur theatre troupe performers whose fate mirrors that of the general population in China as massive socio-economic ... See full summary »
In Paris, the Chinese university student Hua is dumped by her lover. Hua wanders on the streets and the French worker Mathieu accidentally hits her face with the pipes that he is carrying ... See full summary »
The river Suzhou that flows through Shanghai is a reservoir of filth, chaos and poverty, but also a meeting place for memories and secrets. Lou Ye, who spent his youth on the banks of the Suzhou, shows the river as a Chinese Styx, in which forgotten stories and mysteries come together. Mardar, a motorcycle courier in his mid-twenties, rides all over the city with all kinds of packages for his clients. He knows every inch and is successful thanks to the fact that he never asks questions. One day he is asked by a shady alcohol smuggler to deliver his sixteen-year-old daughter, Moudan, to her aunt. Mardar and Moudan grow fond of each other. But their tender happiness is disrupted when Moudan thinks that Mardar has kidnapped her for a ransom. She is so disappointed in him that she jumps off the bridge into the Suzhou River. Mardar is now suspected of murder. When a couple of years later he comes out of jail, he meets the dancer Meimei, an alter-ego of Moudan, and becomes fascinated by her. Written by
Bastiaan van Gestel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Imagine 'Vertigo' remade by Chris Marker in the style of Wong Kar-Wai. And yeah, it nearly is THAT good. Most people have noted the allusions to Hitchcock's film, from the obsessively searching protagonist and certain plot similarities to the echoes of that most achingly romantic of film scores and the overall mood of romantic fatalism. But it is a 'Vertigo' filtered through the Marker of 'La Jetee' and 'Sans Soleil', one that moves it away from its Hollywood or generic context and admires its metaphysical reach, sophisticated narratology and formal complexity.
Although 'Suzhou River''s plot seems banal enough, with its mixing of burgeoning love story and crime genre, the treatment of it transcends the mundane. This is achieved in a number of ways - in the sickly, Hitchcockian colour, making fantastic the grimly everyday; the restless, yet elegant camerawork, seemingly wired to the overflowing emotional lives of the characters; the choppy, elliptical editing, that alternately creates a more urgent sense of reality, of how life is lived by people whose sensibility is alive and alert, and less realistic, by drawing attention to the film's formalism, the idea that someone is pulling strings, ordering this 'reality'.
It is the shadowy narrator that is at the heart of the film's mystery, not the missing woman Mardar seeks. It is his narration that is most reminiscent of Marker - in its mix of observation and speculation he turns the everyday into science fiction as he compresses, dilates, plays with distinctions of time and space, even of genre: the opening sequence could quite plausibly belong to a documentary. As with Marker, via Benjamin, the narrator is trying to create a history, an alternative history to the official one, one that sifts through rubbish, rumours and ephemera, reads and connects random signs.
At first we assume the story is his, the narrative of his romance with Meimei; that the story of Mardar and Moudan is a digression, almost a move into urban legend. Eventually, we realise that this latter is the body of the film, and that the narrator has marginalised himself from his own narrative, let it slip away from him, just as Moudan does Mardar, Meimei herself does the narrator, Maddie/Judy does Scottie in 'Vertigo'. When it finally comes back to him in an audacious narrative loop, his privileging has been displaced, and he has become the villain, the hood who has the new hero beaten up.
It is here we recognise that 'Suzhou' is one of the great river films, like 'Boudu saved from drowning' or 'L'Atalante'; not only in its blurring of opposites - land and water, truth and story, documentary and fiction, male and female, human and mythic creature, history and memory, life and death, fate and free will - or in the idea that there are stories, histories, destinies that are subsumed, literally under water, unseen by the 'real' world, but unconsciously shaping it; but also in its narrative logic, its relentless circularity, its tributaries branching off from the main narrative river and finally flooding it. The fact that the narrator is a stand-in for both the director AND the viewer, through his disembodied point of view, and who nevertheless expresses himself through an unseen body (sex, violence etc.) only complicates his inexplicable motivations.
Like Wong Kar-Wai, this is a rare, total cinema experience, where acting, form, style, mood, colour, music, location, plot all cohere to overwhelm both heart and mind; a film that shows that the urge to tell stories is linked to death (in that they begin and end), sex (in that they lead progressively to climax and release) and a control (in that they order and remake experience) that combines both, just as Hitchcock revealed in 'Vertigo' over 40 years ago through the figure of Scottie Ferguson.
24 of 28 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?