Zhou Yu's Train
2004, PG-13, 93 min. Directed by Sun Zhou. Starring Gong Li, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Sun Honglei.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 1, 2004
Zhou Yu's Train is one of the most romantic and modern movies to come out of present-day China. It tells the story of Zhou Yu (Li), a young woman who works as an artisan in a factory painting enamel vases. Love and passion are treated as part of this woman’s birthright, and the film’s embraces are frank and sensual. The story is very romantic; a woman’s right to choose premarital lovers is a given. Zhou takes the train twice a week to visit her handsome lover Chen Ching (Leung), a librarian who wants to become a poet. He is inspired to write poems for her and she wants to publish a book of his poetry. But then he receives an assignment in Tibet, and then she becomes involved with another man she meets (on the train, of course), the veterinarian Zhang Jiang (Honglei), with whom she is at first friends but soon becomes lovers – although she never completely stops pining for Ching. Zhou Yu’s Train is shot in fragmented temporal sequences that tell us the story in a more fluid, though less sequential manner. The story’s central metaphor is the train. Toward the end of the movie, we discover a fourth character, a woman who has been observing Zhou and reading Ching’s poetry on the train. One will be forgiven flashing on images of Diane Lane riding the train on her way home from visiting with her book-loving lover in Unfaithful. Perhaps that’s putting too much of a Western spin on Zhou Yu’s Train, but it just may be a movie that has difficulty transcending national borders.