Sunday, May 21, 2006

Gong Li, Tony Leung, Honglei Sun

"Her love is torn between a poet and a doctor."

Running from place to place, something is bound to happen

Saturday night, I was flipping through the channels in search of some 'decent' movie to watch. I ended up watching a very mediocre French film on TV5. Totally boring with a very lousy plot but I watched it till the end. Patrick Bruel's baby face charms worked its magic. Now if you don't know who Patrick Bruel is, well then never mind, you won't get my drift.
Still wide awake and since I already started the night reading subtitles, I decided to watch Zhou Yu's Train. A film I bought several weeks ago.
A rather powerful and evocative human drama set in the scenic Chinese countryside. This poignant love story stars Gong Li as Zhou Yu, a porcelain painter who falls in love with Chen, a shy poet who lives in another village. Twice a week, she sets off on a train journey to be with him. Along the way, she meets Zhang, a veterinarian who also expresses an interest in her independent and feisty presence. That in essence is the simple plot of this Chinese movie. Gorgeous scenery of the Chinese countryside, wide open spaces, shots of calm lakes and foggy environment, cable cars, ferry boats and of course a train ride. Only 3 characters to focus on and goaded on by a narrator who tells us about Zhou Yu's story. Gong Li is a very refreshing actress to watch, her facial expressions very prominently depicting her various emotional range.
Yet in all its simplicity, this film provokes deep emotional feelings in the viewer. Feelings of desire and longing as Zhou Yu makes her train trip to be with her poet. Anyone who has had a long distance relationship would understand. Flirtatious emotions whenever Zhou engages in a silly teasing banter with the doctor. Feelings of confusion and deep anguish as she is torn between two loves. A feeling of being suspended between a dream and reality. The agony of choosing between a love that is steady as opposed to a fulfilling love that festers like a figment of her imagination. But most of all, a triumphant almost victorious feeling of finally knowing what you really want in life and whom you want to spend the rest of your life with. This, of course comes towards the final 10 minutes of the film. A rather confusing ending that I had to rewind the DVD a bit to comprehend what just unfolded.
I have to say though it is a slow moving film. Nothing much happens. You only have 3 main characters. It won't appeal to an audience who values a plot with action, drama and dialogue. Nor would it make much sense for someone who doesn't like to read subtitles. But it does provoke one to think long after the film has ended. A lot of questions filled my mind, not because there was something lacking in the movie, but because I could think of a thousand different scenarios to explain just who and what Zhou Yu's life was all about.
Now that in my opinion is why I like watching foreign movies, its cinematic feat to make me linger with ponderous thoughts long after the end credits have rolled by.

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