Thursday, January 1, 2015

白日焰火 (Black Coal, Thin Ice) (2014)

Director: Yi'nan Diao
Writer:    Yi'nan Diao
Cast:       Fan Liao, Lun Mei Gwei, Xuebing Wang
Language: Mandarin

An ex cop and his ex partner decide to follow up on an investigation of a series of murders, that ended his career in shame, when identical murders begin again.

Going by the English title of the film 'Black Coal, Thin Ice', I thought it was about climate change and Global Warming. Turns out it is a Chinese neo-realist neo-noir film. The Chinese title of the film 'Bain Ri Yan Huo' translates as 'Daylight Fireworks', which in the film is the name of a club involved in the climax scenes of the film. What makes the film very different is the nature of the investigation which not at all rely on the brilliance of the investigating officers but them stumbling luckily on to things. Also the focus is not that much on investigation but the relationships that get developed along the way. All the murders are connected to a lady working in a laundromat/dry cleaning store and the officer falls for her to aid the investigation. When we reach a point where we question the allegiances, it is resolved in a matter of fact way leaving us to wonder whether there was anything to it in the first place. Film avoids all the cliches that one would expect in such a story-line. China that is portrayed is very bleak with some dark humor thrown in. I don't think the city in the film is named specifically but it should be somewhere in Northern China because of the snow. It reminded me of Chinatown in some places and the overall atmosphere is similar.

I haven't seen any other films from the director but will definitely check his other works. The film won Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival. The last scene of the film has the fireworks at 'Daylight Fireworks Club' going off in daytime, perhaps signifying that we should/shouldn't take things literally in the film. I looked for political subtext in the film and don't think there is anything big to it unlike last year's anthology film 'A Touch of Sin'.

Rating: 4.5/5