Sunday, 18 April 2010


An unnamed narrator, a videographer whose first-hand gaze we adopt throughout much of the film, recalls his love for Meimei, a temperamental model who performs as a mermaid in a bar. He then relays another story about a petty criminal named Mardar who has fallen for Moudan, the daughter of a businessman who has paid him to keep her away while he entertains his mistress. But despite the narrator’s assertions that the couple’s love is pure, Mardar is revealed to be involved in a ransom scam for which Moudan is to be the hostage. Upset by her puny value in the deal, Moudan jumps into the Suzhou River, vowing to return as a mermaid. A few years later, the videographer is hired by Mardar to tell his story, and the two men’s lives and loves appear to intertwine.

Though at its heart a simple romantic thriller, Suzhou River is on many counts an important film. Uncomfortably categorised as a bastion of the Sixth Generation of Chinese cinema, it better merits being spoken in international terms, a successor to the works of Wong Kar-Wai and Alfred Hitchcock. Acclaimed actress Zhou Xun does a supreme job playing both Meimei and Moudan, fulfilling each character’s subtleties as well as their similarities. The film’s first-person perspective never once feels like a gimmick – by conflating the fourth wall with the viewpoint of a significant character, director Lou Ye keeps the audience very close to the film’s surface, always at risk of plunging to its depths.

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