Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Xun Zhou, Hongshen Jia, Zhongkai Hua, Anlian Yao, An Nai
Director: Ye Lou
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Gay & Lesbian
One of the Best Movies in a Long While, but overlooked!
Wu Ming | Los Angeles, CA United States | 10/17/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having followed Mainland Chinese cinema for sometime, I was very eager to view "Suzhou River." I finally did see it, renting it through one of the local Chinese video stores in the area. After the first viewing, I was completely blown away! I was totally mesmerized by the story, the setting, and the characters. If only America could produce such quality movies!The main plotline revolves around a videographer, a motorcycle courier, and two different young women (who could possibly be the same person). That's all I'll say without revealing any more information...Many have dubbed this a "Chinese Vertigo," but I feel this in incorrect. The two movies do share some similarities, but they are still different. "Suzhou River" is not exactly like Hitchcock's "Vertigo"; it contains so much more, and for me had much of a greater emotional impact. (Of course being able to understand Mandarin Chinese does help.)The acting is superb and the story, great. It is very believable as in this could possibly happen in real life. Especially magnificent is the radiant Zhou Xun's performance. An artistically well done film with interesting story telling and Wong Kar-Wai style cinematography that is a must see. It's a shame that people have missed out and overlooked this complex and moving gem of a movie.Certainly, one of the best movies in the long time, and so much better than almost everything Hollywood is producing these days. Please go out and buy it. You will not be let down."
A dreamy gem for hopeless romantics
Cubist | United States | 07/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film gets compared a lot to Wong Kar-Wai's Chungking Express. Admittedly, the parallels are there but Suzhou River has a more doomed, fatalistic tone than Wong's film.Suzhou River really gets under your skin if you become captivated by the fascinating relationship between two people that seems to be determined by fate.The director creates a captivating mood and atmosphere and that is what really draws you in -- as does the heartbreaking performances of the two leads.This is a really underrated film that deserves more attention and wider distribution. If you're a fan of Hong Kong films in the same style as Wong Kar-Wai then chances are you'll probably really like this movie as well."
Nirmal Ghosh | Thailand | 03/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie also reminds me of Wong Kar Wai's work but it is more gritty, more quirky, and darker. Like Wong Kar Wai's films it manages to touch a place somewhere in between reality and fantasy that probably most of us have visited at some time but find difficult to express. Some of the shots and sequences while appearing rough, spontaneous and improvised are genuinely striking and even often beautiful. The cameos of life on the river and oblique suggestiveness of the mermaid sightings are brilliantly done. The film sucks you into a story where reality and fantasy intertwine with a sense of ultimate futility, helped by the alternately gamine and broody Zhu Xun. I have seen it twice and will probably see it several more times. It is difficult to forget a film like this."
A visually compelling film
Charles Hugh Smith | Berkeley, CA United States | 05/19/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"First, some geography. Suzhou River runs from the city of Suzhou (which I have visited several times) down through Shanghai (which I have also visited several times), where it forms the north border of the city's old commercial hub, the Bund. The opening sequence of the film is a strikingly accurate montage of Shanghai river life: filty water, lined with decaying old buildings in places, and peopled by poor boat and barge operators who live in small quarters on their rivercraft. This is the China not of glossy chic stores but of the gritty realities of industrialization and large-scale poverty.
Stylistically, the film employs "new cinema" techniques such as hand-held cameras and saturated reds and greens reminiscient of Wong Kar-Wai's use of color and composition. The movie is categorized, for lack of a better label, as "noir," as the grittiness, sleazy night life and depiction of low-life criminals harkens back to the film noir popular in the 1950s.
The core of the movie, however, is a well-used plot gimmick most famously explored by the Hitchcock classic "Vertigo": a question of identity. This is not to say that such derivative plots are bad--it's just that the treatment has to be fresh or we end up feeling that we've seen the film before. On top of this basic plot--is this beautiful young woman the girl who the bike messenger betrayed years before?--is layered another cinematic technique: the POV (point of view), in which the film is narrated by a low-end video producer. Indeed, we never see him, as the camera angle is POV throughout, e.g. we see what he sees, as if his eyes were the camera.
The narrator tells his own tale of meeting and falling into a relationship with the gorgeous young woman (Xun Zhou) who performs as a mermaid in a neon-lit bar for a living, and then introduces the story of the motorbike messenger and his doomed relationship with a teenaged girl who has a crush on him. For reasons which are left murky (shall we just call it slapdash?), the messenger gets involved in a kidnap/ransom scheme in which he kidnaps the girl. Once freed, she jumps into the Suzhou River and promptly disappears.
At this point, he turns the narration over to Mardar, the messenger, and retreats until the final reel in which he has Mardar beaten up as a rival for the affection of the beautiful young woman. Confused yet? The problem with the film isn't the complicated narrative and POV--it's that we don't believe the characters are real. They are players in a noir fairy tale of sorts, perhaps, but not real people with emotions we can grasp. Indeed, the lead actors and actress are expressionless.
Why did Mardar betray the girl who loved him? Did he have no other choice? It seems he had plenty of other options: escape with her, betray the crooks, etc. So having betrayed her, he seeks redemption through finding her again. But then when he apparently does find her, the couple is found dead in the Suzhou River: accident or suicide, we have no clue, but again it seems like a contrivance rather than something integral to the characters.
Equally improbably, we're told the beautiful woman leaves the narrator for days on end without explanation, and though this "drives him crazy," he never asks her about it, follows her, etc. The characters are strangely detached from real-life motivations, desires, and emotions. As a result, we are left with a certain dissatisfaction with characters whose internal traits and experiences do not seem consistent or "real." Contrast this with the characters in "Blue," who are at a minimum consistent with what we've been shown, and consistent with emotions and reactions we can understand.
Though "Suzhou River" is a visually compelling movie, with first-rate cinematography and technique, a noir assembly does not a character or film make.