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Cinema Signal:
New Chinese Cinema
a cultural and political analysis by Sheila Cornelius


. "Zhou Yu's Train"

Zhou Yu (Gong Li, "Farewell My Concubine"), a ceramic artist, travels by train twice a week to see her lover Chen Ching (Tony Leung Ka Fai) in rural Chongyang. Chen, a shy, handsome poet, inspired by her great beauty, wrote poems for her and, in the process, won her heart with his imagery and sensitivity. While he welcomes the development and her repeated visits, the fool either doesn't have an equal devotion or is just too self-involved to commit his life to her. While she wants to take that step, his reticence doesn't cool her ardor and she continues her biweekly journeys.

On one of her trips, a handsome young veterinarian who fully recognizes her extraordinary looks comes on to her with all he's got. At first Dr. Chang, aka Zhang Qiang, (Honglei Sun) is little more than an annoyance and an ardent suitor but as relationships define themselves, and as he proves his sincerity and dependability, Zhou Yu's initial evaluation of him becomes modified and she regards the worldly bon vivant as a trusted friend.

Zhou Yu sets out one day to find a lake Chen alluded to in one of his poems -- one in which he compared her to its placid loveliness. We recognize that her desire to see it is to fulfill something missing in her relationship with the poet, something uncommunicated, not trusted. When Zhang learns of her obscure destination, he tags along, somewhat sacrificially in view of the limited role she's assigned to him in her life and despite his understandable envy of the primary object of her desire.

The train becomes the symbol of an endless journey on which passions are burned like so much fuel for the boiler. Zhou's emotions seem to alter, but then bend back under the weight of their original unrequitable state of devotion. She goes back and forth with slavish dignity, unable to escape the obsession that holds her within its stubborn grasp.

This is not life but a stylish tone poem of endless journeying to an unattainable goal, a station for which there's no ticket.

If the exquisite Gong Li had had me in her eye, she would have had no rail ties to cross or tears to shed but, then, we wouldn't have had director Sun Zhou's study in unexplainable behavior in which to illuminate the screen.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


The DVD


Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
Very well written
This review will influence me to read more by and recommend this reviewer
Site rating: 10

                                                           ~~ Bob K. 
Very well written
I've seen the movie and: I disagree with the review.
Site rating: 8

The movie is a lovely ride to no where. The inclusion of Gong Li in a secondary role leaves the film vague and unfulfilling.

                                                           ~~ Mark 



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Gong Li is Zhou Yu
On an endless journey


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