- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

In “Zhou Yu’s Train,” the eponymous lovesick girl played by Chinese screen goddess Gong Li flits twice weekly between her hometown of Sanming and a remote village in the provinces.The train ride, according to press notes, takes several hours, and this movie, playing exclusively at Landmark’s E Street Cinema, feels even longer than that.

Zhou Yu, a ceramic artist, is torn between two lovers. One is a romantic, utterly impractical poet, Chen Ching (Tony Leung), who lacks the gumption for the publishing business and is trouble in the commitment department. The other is a glib pig veterinarian (Honglei Sun) who badgers his way into Yu’s good graces during those long overland treks.

The director, Sun Zhou, fusses up the love story with a lot of narrative nonlinearity, wedging in flashbacks as well as landscape scenery that bears some relation to Chen Ching’s poetry (which is pretty lousy, by the way).

Also, Miss Gong (“Raise the Red Lantern”) plays a second character, Xiu, whose cropped hair makes her look closer in age to the actress’s 39 years.

Xiu, herself desperately in love with Chen Ching, seems to hover omnisciently over the action. There’s often no seam between her and Yu, suggesting the two may be one and that our perspective on the movie is actually a clever deceit.

Probably, Mr. Sun, who co-scripted the movie, is after some sort of big-sky symbolism: the blurring of fantasy and reality, the train ride as life journey and self-discovery vehicle.

That’s fine, but I have only so much patience for melodramatic, slow-motion jogging — you know, the kind where lovers are missing the train — and music scores that are so insistently schmaltzy that they crowd out the very aura of sensuality they’re supposed to evoke.

“Zhou Yu’s Train” is so tedious a ride that it’s hard to care about the passengers.


TITLE: “Zhou Yu’s Train”

RATING: PG-13 (Mild sexuality)

CREDITS: Directed by Sun Zhou. Produced by Huang Jianxin, Mr. Sun and Bill Kong. Written by Mr. Sun, Bei Cun and Zhang Mei. Cinematography by Wang Yu. Score by Shigeru Umebayashi.

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes, in Mandarin with subtitles.

WEB SITE: https://www.sonyclassics.com/zhou


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