Zhou Yu’s Train (review)

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It’s pretty French for a Chinese movie, this bittersweet apparition of a flick, all train platforms and tortured romance and the filmy evanescence of love. Zhou Yu (the luminous Gong Li), a painter of ceramics, rides the train long hours twice a week to visit her boyfriend, Chen Qing (Tony Leung Ka Fai), a poet, in another city. But the distance between them isn’t only physical, and when it becomes apparent that he, timid and sheltered, is overwhelmed by her sprightly passion, she grudgingly opens herself to the persistent attentions of Zhang Qiang (Honglei Sun), a veterinarian, a man she’s much more evenly matched with, though she isn’t willing to admit to it. The delicate Asian minimalism of Sun Zhou’s direction and the subtleties of time-shifting script only highlight Zhou’s testy yearning for someone, anyone, to see what she needs, even if she can’t see it herself. Her very contemporary confusion in the face of all the romantic prerogatives women, as well as men, claim today and the timeless creamy soulfulness of the (hopeless?) quest for a soul mate make this lovely film feel both modern and classic all at once.

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