Suzhou River (2000)

Suzhou River (2000)

An impressionistic noir-like romance set in contemporary Shanghai



Drama, Romance
Jia Hongsheng, Zhou Xun
83 min


So. Stunning.

What it's about

An unnamed videographer falls in love with dive bar performer Meimei (Zhou Xun), but she disappears for random periods of time. Deciding whether or not to pursue this relationship, he meets motorcycle courier Mardar (Jia Hongsheng), and learns about their intertwined stories.

The take

Once banned by Chinese censors, Suzhou River depicts love and obsession amidst the gritty, urban underbelly of Shanghai. As the film is portrayed through an anonymous videographer, seen only by his hands, it’s easy to fall in love as he does, with the mesmerizing Meimei (Zhou Xun), performing as a mermaid in a dive bar. However, he can’t seem to trust her, as she flits in and out of his life, with no clear notice. Likewise, the tragic romance told by motorcycle courier Mardar can’t be trusted, given that the river’s inhabitants warped it into folklore. Faces can’t even be trusted, especially with the double casting of actress Zhou Xun as Meimei and as innocent rich daughter Moudan. Because of these contrasts and its ambiguity, Suzhou River sweeps us into an alluring, mysterious tale, but reminds us not to get caught by the current.

What stands out

Suzhou River is downright stunning. While the titular river is dusty and polluted, the film hooks its viewers through undeniably gorgeous shots. Part of it is due to actress Zhou Xun’s beauty, but another part is due to director Lou Ye and cinematographer Wang Yu. The greenish blue haze of the aquarium where Meimei performs lingers in mind long after the film ends, so do the voyeuristic first-person shots of Mardar peeking into Meimei’s dressing room. Matched with the Vertigo-esque score, these shots feel perfect for a film about distrust and obsession.

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