Combustible Celluloid
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With: Hu Ge, Gwei Lun Mei Liao Fan, Wan Qian, Qi Dao, Huang Jue, Zeng Meihuizi, Zhang Yicong, Chen Yongzhong
Written by: Diao Yinan
Directed by: Diao Yinan
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Mandarin, with English subtitles
Running Time: 111
Date: 03/20/2020

The Wild Goose Lake (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Every Which Way But 'Goose'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's raining, and two people stand under an underpass. Liu Aiai (Gwei Lun Mei) shyly approaches a man and asks for a light. She asks if he is Zhou Zenong (Hu Ge). He is. She's there to tell him that his wife isn't coming. That's how Diao Yinan's The Wild Goose Lake begins, but it gets much wilder from there. Zhou tells a story in flashback. He goes home to his hotel, exhausted, and enters a meeting of a band of motorcycle thieves. There's an argument, someone pulls out a gun, and shoots someone else. To make this transgression right, there's a late-night contest to see which of the two feuding groups can steal more bikes. Unfortunately, during this, someone gets decapitated (one of the most astonishing decapitations you will ever see), and in the ensuing chaos, Zhou accidentally shoots and kills a policeman. Now he has a price on his head. Liu's own flashback reveals that she works for a gangster as a "bathing beauty" (i.e. a prostitute) by the seaside. Truthfully, the movie is long and the plot is convoluted, and I lost the thread of it more than once, but director Diao has taken a cue from Wong Kar-wai to create a highly stylish neo-noir, capable of small, intimate moments like that first scene, as well as more exhilarating moments. It lacks Wong's glossy poetry, but Diao has his own touch: cool, rainy, and dotted with neon. Film Movement released it on Blu-ray, complete with a behind-the-scenes featurette, interviews, and a short film, Renkai Tam's The Goddess.

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