We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
"Zhou Yu's Train" tells a pointlessly convoluted version of a love story that would really be very simple, if anyone in the movie possessed common sense. We know love is blind, but need it be obtuse? The three lovers in Sun Zhou's new film, controversial in China for sex scenes that are more fond than fervent, make life miserable for themselves and, to a lesser degree, for us.
Our misery is leavened by the visual qualities of the film, which, like most recent work from China, is spectacularly good to look at. There's also the central presence of the Chinese superstar Gong Li, who plays a dual role so confusingly written that it might as well be one person, but she plays it well.
Her character is a painter of porcelain pottery named Zhou Yu, who is secretive, with an active romantic imagination. A teacher and poet named Chen Qing (Tony Leung Ka Fai) falls in love with her, and gives her a poem comparing her to a mystical lake named Xan Hu. That this poem to her also appears in the district newspaper makes a deep impression, and soon she is taking a long train ride twice a week from her city to his.
The movie backs into this straightforward narrative by beginning in the middle of one of the journeys, as a veterinarian named Zhang Qiang (Honglei Sun) flirts with her and asks to buy the painted porcelain vase she is taking as a present to Chen Qing. Zhang is so insistent that she finally ends the conversation with a bold dramatic gesture. She dislikes Zhang as much as she loves Chen Qing -- she thinks.