Zhou Yu’s Train (2002)

20 02 2008

Here’s another entry from the heavily Wong Kar-Wai influenced category. Unfortunately, unlike Pang Ho-Cheung films, this feels like a water down version of Wong’s style. Never does it reach a point where it feels like the director’s, Zhou Sun, own film. That isn’t to say it’s unwatchable, on the contrary. The enriched visuals and a nice performance from the always captivating Gong Li make this a very easy film to enjoy. I’d be lying if I said it was breaking any new cinematic ground, though.

Zhou Yu is a ceramic artist who travels, via train, to visit her boyfriend poet twice a week. She feels she will never love anyone like she loves him. One day on a train, she meets  Zhang Qiang, a veterinarian who she gradually forms a bond with, thus leading her to another complicated would-be romance.

As I said before, this is sort of a “wannabe WKW film” which is fine. If you’re going to ahem “copy” one person’s style then he’s certainly a good choice. Oddly enough, this was made before 2046 so I have to give it some credit for possibly providing some influence on Wong. There’s a few visuals echoes of Hou Hsiao-Hsien too, what with all the shots of trains coming out of tunnels. The city landscape shots also bring to mind Still Life and Fu sheng but it might be more of a location thing than anything photography can do. In any case, the film looks great, and reminds me a lot of directors I like. So much so that the character psychology seems a bit shallow, despite the best acting efforts of Gong Li.

On the surface, the film couldn’t be much better but I suppose it does lacks any sort of emotional depth. Still, things could be a lot worse, as perfectly shown in the similarly minded Sex and Lucia, also an elliptical love story about a woman juggling relationships. The overwhelming amount of ellipses take awhile to get use. At the beginning, it almost feels like it’s going to end up being a 90 minute montage. Eventually, smooth things out and unlike Medem’s film, no “David Lynch-y mystery” aspect is tossed in. Even if it does seem a bit contrived, if only because of the Wong-inspired motifs, at least it tries it’s best to simply focus on the characters in an unhurried manner.