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Black Coal, Thin Ice [DVD]
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Chinese crime thriller following former detective Zhang Zili (Fan Liao) as he teams up with his ex-partner in an attempt to solve the case that put an end to their careers. When murders begin to take place similar to those the detectives were investigating several years previously they discover that Wu Zhizhen (Lun-Mei Gwei), a dry cleaners clerk, is the prime suspect as the men she has been romantically involved with have been killed. Despite knowing that Wu poses a threat, Zhang finds himself drawn to her and he, too, becomes involved with the potential killer. Will he be able to solve the case?
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Top Customer Reviews
Chief detective Zhang Zili (Liao Fan) was part of the case, but is forced to retire from the force. Now working as a security guard, the original case remained unsolved and its only through a similar set of murders that Zili takes an interest. The original victim’s wife Wu Zhizhen (Gwei Lun-Mei) becomes the centre of attention, for all the murders.
‘Black Coal, Thin Ice’ is a puzzler, noir in concept but with an even more elusive base. The further you go into this film the less the crimes are of importance, the plot twists and turns back in on itself, verging on the incomprehensible. Its an oddly erratic mix of beautifully constructed scenes undone by unexpected moments which make no sense to the overall story.
Yinan plays with your thoughts and emotions, and not just with the central relationship in the film. Its a neat trick to make you react in unexpected ways, smudging whats real and whats not, who’s good and who’s evil, what’s right and what’s wrong. What may be initially frustrating becomes something to be enjoyed. So much so that you want to watch it again, even though you’ll probably be even more confused on a second visit!
Traditions of quirky characters continue. But inserted into the screenplay is how people in China treat each other. And the driest humour I’ve come across in quite some time. It really is a treat.
The camera may not move like a movie but what it looks at is so real, so non plastic. The soundtrack across five speakers is excellent. Maybe its like Hitchcock said about the story being unimportant: what we want to experience is how the characters interact with each other. But the murder story is interesting. Compelling would need movie direction.
Body parts accumulate gradually from the start but there is no gratuitous gore. This is a slow-burning plot with an explosive and unexpected ending. The film won the Golden Bear award at the 64th Berlin Film Festival and lead actor Lia Fan won the Silver Bear award for Best Actor. This film reminded me to some extent of the early films of director Wong Kar Wai and I would recommend it to fans of oriental film noir but if you are expecting slick action scenes and car chases then give it a miss.
The English subtitles were easy to read, appropriately terse and easy to follow. Stereo and 5.1 surround audio options are available from the disc menu.
Zhang Zili has lost everything, his wife, the job he loved and has turned to the bottle as he goes through the motions as an underpaid security guard. Then he gets the chance to solve the case that is his nemesis. This is not a police procedural though; this has elements of the heart, base existentialism and even dark humour.
This is from director and writer Yi'nan Diao who brought us `Night Train' and `Uniform'. He comes from a very industrialised part of China and this is generally reflected in his films - and indeed it is here. Also the loneliness that comes from the isolating capacity of industrialised living. This though is a confident and assured piece of film making. Even when I thought a scene or two had stayed going a tad too long, he just reveals why and all of a sudden you are right back on track. In Mandarin and running to around 100 minutes this will appeal to those who appreciate modern Chinese cinema and who like a bit of dark brooding to their crime thrillers.
The Chinese title translates as Daylight Fireworks and I think that's a more fitting title considering the storyline but I like Black Coal, Thin Ice better as it works to convey a sense of how grim and bleak the setting is. I just lapped this up. Fan Liao is a new actor to me and I've been checking out his other films to find out what else he's been in. Disappointingly there are a lot of romantic comedies in there but maybe after winning the Silver Bear award for his portrayal in this on he'll take on more gritty roles in the future. I'll be watching out for them.
This won the 64th Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear award and for good reason. The cinematography, acting, storyline and setting all come together to make for a great film and I'd happily recommend this to anyone with an interest in Asian cinema as one of the better ones.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A washed up policeman is haunted by a murder he failed to solve and then years later more murders occur. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Jenny
I rarely give the single star review, but, believe me, in this case, it stands proudly as dire. The police scenes are a cross between cringeworth and ridiculous (they don't... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Paul G
This Chinese noir thriller tries really hard to be entertaining but ultimately leaves the viewer dissatisfied. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Happyfamily
Atmospheric and moody film noir with enigmatic leads and evocative cinematography. Like "A Touch of Sin" by Zhangke Jia it presents a desolate and bleakly compelling vision... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Udonomi
The first 15 minutes of this film are very promising and features one of the most perfectly and realisticly filmed shoot outs I've ever watched. Read morePublished 19 months ago by OMG! It's got a plug!
The first film I've seen by Diao Yinan is as cold and harsh as it's name suggests. Taking place in the frigid, frozen north of China it seems like the bleak surroundings are... Read morePublished 19 months ago by carlosnightman