Monday, March 1, 2021

白日焰火 aka Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014) International Version Chinese Polar

itten and directed by Diao Yinan. 'Daylight Fireworks'  (Chinese title) produced by Vivian Qu. The film won the Golden Bear award at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival

Cinematography by Jingsong Dong and Music by Zi Wen. 

Starring Liao Fan as Zhang Zili, Gwei Lun-mei as Wu Zhizhen, Wang Xuebing as Liang Zhijun, Wang Jingchun as Rong Rong, Yu Ailei as Captain Wang and Ni Jingyang as Su Lijuan.

The Story

1999. Heilongjiang, China's Alaska, Inner Mongolia to the West Siberia to the North and East. It's got five thousand foot mountains called the Greater Khingan Range the kind that stick up out of the high plains of Montana like the Bear Paws, the Judiths, the The Little Rockies. Only these plains are of the Black Dragon River. Its a little bigger than California a little smaller than Texas.

Liao Fan as Zhang Zili

Gwei Lun-mei as Wu Zhizhen

Yu Ailei as Captain Wang with Zang

The capitol city is called Harbin. The catalyst to the tale is a dismembered hand and arm that ends up on a coal conveyor at one of the nearby power plants. Harbin Detectives Zang (Fan) and Wang (Ailei) with their squad are sent to investigate. Zang. Woman Problems. Just went through a messy divorce, he's feeling down about life.

Further poking around uncovers a fragment of a shirt and an I.D. card the victim is Liang Zhijun. More body parts are discovered, in locations three days drive away. They narrow down suspects and figure its got to be a coal truck driver who has a brother who helps him on his runs. This brother the squads investigation discovers is the owner of beauty parlor. He's a wise ass punk. Hair dyed blonde.

The punk and his buddy, who has a Mohawk, are subdued after a brief scuffle. They are kneeling on the floor hand cuffed. When one of Zang's squad men picks up one of their jacket's a pistol falls out. Mohawk grabs it and shoots. Two of Zang's men are killed. Zang empties his gun into the both of them but blondie gets off one more shot hitting Zang.

When Zang gets out of the hospital he and Wang  return the ashes of Liang to his widow Wu (Gwei Lun-mei). Wu is an employee at the Rong Rong Laundry. Wu, who has dug a hole at the base of a tree just outside the laundry buries the ashes.

2004. Zang, in expected Noir fashion went on a record bender, after the divorce, not solving the case, and loosing two partners. He quits the force and gets by working for a security company. One early morning while passed drunk he gets his motorcycle swapped out for a moped. He's late for work again. He's going Nowheresille.

One day he spots his old squad car staking out something on the street.  He walks up to it and is invited inside by his old partner Wang. A girl comes out of the building the car starts to follow. 

Wang asks Zang if he remembers the Liang Zhijun case? Then Wang tells him that the girl they are following is Wu  and was connected to that case and had dated the two just recently found dismemberments. He shows Zang photos of feet wearing ice-skates. 

Zang gets interested in the case again and becomes obsessed with Wu. He becomes a dc facto private investigator.

Zang becomes a customer at the Rong Rong laundry and dry cleaners. Zang starts to tail Wu at night..  Pumping the Rong Rong owner he finds out that Wu isn't that good an employee. The reason she wasn't a good employee because she ruined an expensive leather jacket and had no money to cover it's replacement. Five days afterward the owner suddenly stopped complaining 

He was going to fire her but  he keeps her on out of sympathy after her husband was killed and, we find out later, by the feels he can cop when she is ironing. One night while tailing Wu, Zang discovers that someone is tailing him from the tracks he spots in the snow.

Zang starts making the moves on Wu. Wang is following his old partner as a backup and he spots a truck that is following Zang and Wu back from a date ice skating. When Wang goes out to confront the truck driver in an alley things go brutally Noirvsille.


Diners Chinese Style - Old bus carcasses with no heat and blanket doors

Coal weight scale

Daylight Fireworks Club

This is a great Noir, familiar and yet different enough to make it all fresh again. It may take you a couple of go rounds to make through the film, It's worth it. The Color Noir cinematography by Jingsong Dong is excellent. Streaming on Amazon Prime 9/10.

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