|Tuesday, May 3, 2016, 04:54:50 PM|
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Zhou Yu's Train
All a-bored: Zhou Yu's Train is a romance for the eyes if not the heart
By Anthony Del Valle
The Chinese Zhou Yu's Train, directed and co-written by actor Sun Zhou and featuring celebrated 1991 Raise the Red Lantern star Gong Li, is a film that has considerably less on its mind than it thinks.
It takes a while to connect to the story, which is told as a series of nonlinear flashbacks and flashforwards. Zhou is a young peasant woman in love with a shy poet wannabe (Tony Leung Ka Fai) who lives a considerable distance from her hometown. She takes a several-hours-long train ride twice a week to visit. Her idealistic notions of love are made complicated when she becomes infatuated by a veterinarian (Honglei Sun) whom she keeps meeting on the way. "Everybody likes romance and poetry," Dr. Zhang Jiang tells her. "But in real life, it's a different story." When her poet deserts her, she continues to visit his now-empty home, while Zhang keeps entreating her to let go of her make-believe interior life and settle down to the reality of him.
The train is the visual center of the film, and at times the only core of the film. Neither of the romances is well-defined, and so we are given few clues about what is really at stake in this movie. The director favors the use of long, lingering shots of actors silently brooding, but doesn't demonstrate much liking for character development. By the time we realize that Gong is playing a second person--that the woman we thought was Zhou all along in a different haircut is actually supposed to be someone else--we're too exhausted from all the inflated visual prettiness to care.
Sun, as the vet, is a promising young actor who brings depth to a script that doesn't deserve his thoroughness. Li continues to make for an entrancing screen image.