Movie review: Chongqing Blues

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If you watch movies to get entertained, Wang Xiaoshuai's "Chongqing Blues" won't be your cup of tea. Imagine you sit in a cinema for two hours and constantly get dizzy following a wandering man through a shaky camera.

A scene from Wang Xiaoshuai's film 'Chongqing Blues'

A scene from Wang Xiaoshuai's film "Chongqing Blues" [CRI]


If that doesn't sound like a movie you will easily enjoy it is because Wang Xiaoshuai has no intention of deliberately making his films appeal to the market. The Chinese director is known as a nonstarter at domestic box offices as much as he is a winner at international awards. But he defies any short cut to commercial success, and continues to offer oppressive, thought-provoking stories in an honest manner.

"Chongqing Blues" is no exception. Inspired by a news story, Wang Xiaoshuai focuses his latest film on ship captain Lin Quanhai (Wang Xueqi), who left his son when he was 10. When Quanhai learns his son Bo (Zi Yi), now 24, was shot dead by police after stabbing people and taking a hostage in a mall in Chongqing, he returns to the city, trying to figure out why his son became a criminal.

Quanhai's search for those involved in the incident is captured by a hand-held camera, which follows him from behind. By doing this, director Wang Xiaoshuai successfully puts audiences into the search as well. You will follow Quanhai to the mall, the Mahjong bar, the barbershop, the police station, the hospital. And after going to all these places and watching Quanhai keep repeating his confusion, you will feel his search is meaningless. His son is already dead. He tries so hard to get the victims and police to talk to him, but what for? He can't even remember what his son looks like!

Actor Wang Xueqi presents a convincing portrayal of a father who at the beginning seems more confused than sad in face of his son's death, and as he gradually realizes how much his long absence affected his son, is finally overwhelmed by guilt.

"Chongqing Blues" has an accurate word in its title. Blues is the best word I can use to describe what this film leaves me feeling. Adding to the melancholy are the wide shots of the overcast Chongqing city.

It's inappropriate to simply mark "Chongqing Blues" as good or bad. But the film invites us to examine family relationships in our own lives. And that's what movies also do, besides entertaining us.

"Chongqing Blues" Director: Wang Xiaoshuai Cast: Wang Xueqi, Qin Hao, Zi Yi, Fan Bingbing, Wang Kuirong, Li Fei'er Language: Chinese Nominated for Golden Palm Domestic release is set for August, 2010.

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