A Fine Effort, Thanks To Its Picturesque Urban Setting, In Addition To A Well-Prepared Narrative
From the very beginning of this stylish Chinese film, directed by Yibai Zhang, viewers are made aware of a mystery. However, while interplay between the principal characters develops, a notion may be formed that the significance of this mystery might well have been reduced by effective role creation. As action opens, a taxicab careers through a bordering fence and into the Yang-Tze River. The body of the driver, Wu Tao (Erik Tsang) can not be located, but his passenger is rescued, a young prostitute, Su-Dan (Karen Mok), who has been maimed by the crash. Although Su-Dan has an unpleasant disposition, the driver's widow, Li (Jiang Wenli,) offers the girl an opportunity, being a woman of an entirely different nature from that of Su-Dan, to share the home that she now keeps for her teenage son, as a type of moral obligation. The plot line exposes some unexpected facts about the characters in order for a viewer to solve the mentioned mystery, but most will not come readily to a decision, because of an increasingly trenchant development of several back stories that may or may not aid at finding a solution of the puzzle surrounding the crash. Due to rather opaque Chinese censorship issues, the work's premiere, scheduled twice to be shown in Hong Kong, where it was each time denied permission to screen, was instead initially offered at New York City's Tribeca Festival in 2008, receiving accolades. In truth, there is here more than enough substance within the narrative to garner the attention of most viewers. Dour bits of melodrama are customary elements for the films of Zhang, who goes in for stylistic methods that are of a piece with his camera technique steeped in symbolism. Cinematographer Wang Yu was furnished an ideal setting within the Central Chinese metropolis of Chungquing ("City of Fog") where its industrial riverscape provides an ideal backdrop for the director's masterful long shots, and fondness for ideographic imagery. Zhang's use of magic realism involving a framed photograph of the missing Wu Tao, placed upon the wall of his former residence, is certainly not the most engagingly subtle effort from the film's writer, Zhao Tianyu, but the remarkably lean dialogue and solidly constructed score have overlaid most flaws within this film that is superior to a majority of Chinese issued cinematic pieces.
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