Lou Ye’s complicated though atmospheric, hypnotic, depressed Su Zhou He crosses social materiality and swooning reverie, documentary and dream, harsh reality and compulsive romantic story-telling.
One young man, the narrator, is a videographer; he mostly “appears” as the eye of his camera—although there’s a glimpse of him in a car, sadistically laughing, and a long-shot of what may be him looking down from a bridge that’s key to the story. The other, Mardar, a motorcycle courier, is his client. Mardar is obsessed with Meimei, who looks exactly like Moudan, whom he once loved and lost, and who may be dead. Meimei, who plays a blonde mermaid in the Happy Tavern tank, happens to be the narrator’s girlfriend: “If I disappeared one day, and I didn’t return, would you look for me?” she asks the narrator, wondering whether his heart would be as steadfast as Mardar’s. “Yes,” he replies. Meimei: “You’re lying.” We wonder whether Meimei and Moudan are the same character (Zhou Xun plays both—best actress, Paris); Mardar and the narrator also could be one. In either case, the “two” may be fragments of a modern identity puzzle—a reflection of China’s split, unresolved “personality.”
Structured as a story-within-a-story, the film is set in Shanghai, and the titular river’s filthiness suggests Meimei’s sordid experience, while its former pristine incarnation, which we can only imagine, suggests the twin pony-tailed schoolgirl, Moudan. A hanging naked bulb seems to identify the two men; a press-on tattoo, the two women.
“Find me if you love me”: this, the farewell note from one of the women to one of the men.
Bursts of Bernard Herrmann’s principal melody connect Lou’s film to Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). (Godard and Lynch are other influences.) Lou won the International Critics’ Prize at Vienna.
B(U)Y THE BOOK
MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.