(2005)
Suffocation


Reviewed by: dleedlee
Date: 03/31/2005
Summary: Tagline - "The First Chinese Psycho Movie"

First time director, Zhang Bingjian’s reach exceeds his grasp in this, literally, shaggy dog story. Ge You stars in this psychological drama about a husband who may or may not have murdered his wife. Fearing discovery of his affair with a model, we see the scenes of Shen Xiao, a photographer, dispose of his wife's body. The film is divided, or fragmented, into segments introduced with title cards for each of the characters, such as: Shen Xiao, Meizi (his wife), Li Yiran (his buddy), Mrs. Zhao (his therapist) and, even, Niu Niu (Zhao’s dog).

Most viewers, including myself, will find the pace of the film a bit too slow. Meant to be pensive and brooding, instead the film more often just plods along. The film is not without its merits. For instance, the music nicely complements the story and sustains the eery atmosphere and the cinematography is exquisite, as brief scenes and individual shots. (Mainland cinematography never seems to disappoint.) The lovely Qin Hailu (from Durian, Durian) plays his wife but is woefully short of screen time. Though she seems a bit young to be Shen Xiao’s wife, utilized more actively beyond being the ghost of a dead woman, I could be distracted enough to be a lot more charitable towards the film. Ge You breaks away from his stereotypical comic performances and is virtually unexpressive here. Li Bin plays his psychotherapist, Mrs Zhao, who helps Shen Xiao unravel his state of mind. Her dog, Niu Niu seems to have more scenes than Meizi. Maybe, there’s a reason, as the film’s ending hints...

Compelling viewing, I’ve watched it three nights in a row now, but ultimately still unsatisfying. Intriguing and worth a view, the sum is less than the parts, unfortunately. However, I will look forward to the the director’s next film with great anticipation.

DVD info: The mainland DVD includes a 12 minute subbed interview with the director and 20 minutes of 5 Behind the Scenes clips. Also, trailer. Very nice disc, no popup logos.

Reviewer Score: 6