Friday, July 2, 2021

南方车站的聚会 - Wild Goose Lake (2019) Chinese Neo Noir Visual Masterpiece

"Once Upon a Time in              China" 

Written and directed by Yi'nan Diao (Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014)). 

Cinematography by Jingsong Dong, and Music by B6.

Starring Ge Hu as Zenong Zhou, Gwei Lun-Mei as Aiai Liu, Fan Liao as Captain Liu, Regina Wan as Shujun Yang Dao Qi as Hua Hua, Jue Huang as Yan Ge, and Yicong Zhang as Xiao Dongbei.

Yi'nan Diao is a real master of the noir visual style aesthetic. His films are proof that Noir belongs to the entire world, and there truly can be 8 billion stories on the Naked Planet.

The tale is about rival motorcycle theft gangs in China. And, if you go just by that blurb, and have no interest in motorcycles at all you may not be enough intrigued to give it a looksee. Overcome this, and the fact that it is in Chinese and you will be pleasantly rewarded.

Ge Hu as Zenong Zhou

Gwei Lun-Mei as Aiai Liu

Yang Dao Qi as Hua Hua

Fan Liao as Captain Liu

Regina Wan as Shujun 

Wuhan. China. Rainy night. Train station. Zhou a man on the run. He's waiting for his wife Shujun. Instead Liu Aiai a "Bathing Beauty" arrives. A euphemism for beach side hooker who ply's her trade occasionally just right out in the water. Zhou asks her where is Shujuh? Liu tells him she could not come. She tells him that Shujuh asked her to come in her place.

At this point our story goes into flashback mode as Zhou tells Lui what exactly went down. 

Zhou's Flashback

A cheap hot sheet hotel. A meeting of the underworld gangs. Zhou is one of the territory bosses of a small gang of motor bike and scooter jackers. The meeting has a sort of gangland MC and a workshop presentation on the latest security measures on the new models and how to look for and to overcome them. 

The gangland meeting

The parceling out of lucrative territories

At the end of the show a dispute arises between Red Hair one of Zhou's gang members and The Cat Brothers gang over the territory they are assigned. Cat's Eye and Cat's Ear want Xingye Ave. Xingye and Liberation Aves belong to Zhou on a negotiated seniority basis. The Cats start making more trouble and Red hair pulls out a gun and shoots Cat's Ear in the leg. The meeting erupts into violence.

The Cat Brothers

Red Hair shoots


Later, when the melee is over and things get back under control the gangland MC acts as a liaison between the Cats and the Zhous. He tells them that to save face, they will have a one night bike stealing competition and which ever gang steals the most bikes gets the highly coveted Xingye Ave. 

The Contest

A central drop off point is designated. The gangs fan out into the city, Some bikes carrying three members (the extra riders later bringing in the stolen bikes). As the night wears on tallies are recorded.

During this "Olympics" of bike thievery the Cat Brothers set up a trap for Red Hair. 

During this "Olympics" of bike thievery the Cat Brothers set up a trap for Red Hair. They place a fork lift at neck height across a narrow underpass that decapitates Red Hair when he drives through. 

The fork lift

The decapitated Red Hair

Zhou escapes that fate but is chased and shot at twice by Cat's Eye. He falls wounded down a slippery clay slope into a dark water filled ditch. It starts to rain heavily, obscuring the scene even more. When Cat's Eye drives around down to bottom to try and finish off Zhou, Zhou scrambles back up the slope to his bike and speeds off. 

Zhou in the ditch

As Zhou is on his getaway run, he spies a car up ahead parked along side the road. The bright headlights are shinning in his face blinding him. Zhou expects it's another ambush. As he speeds towards the lights he pulls out his gun. Zhou shoots. He hits one of the two men standing by the vehicle. However, Zhou mistakenly has just gunned down a policeman rather than a member of the Cat's gang. All hell now breaks loose.

The cops

Now that a policeman has been killed, a bounty price of 300,000 is put on Zhou's head and the entire law enforcement community of Wuhan is after him. Police Captain Liu organizes his men for the manhunt. The easiest nearby lawless place for Zhou to hide is in the relatively underdeveloped Wild Goose Lake area a quasi beach resort. The police throw a ring around the territory and start a dragnet. 

The police strategize

Back in the present

Captain Liu also puts Shujin, Zhou's wife, under surveillance. Meanwhile Zhou contacts Huahua, a pimp he knows, and asks him to get to his wife and have her meet him at the Wild Goose Lake station where she can to turn him in for the reward money. That way at least someone in his family will win. 

When Aiai Liu arrives instead of Shujin she relates to him what happened in a second flashback that again will bring us back to the rainy station in the present.

 Liu Aiai's Flashback

Liu tells Zhou that Huahua sent her one of his new "Bathing Beauties" out to find Shujin because she is the new girl and the police don't know her. 

The beach at Wild Goose Lake

water screwing

Aiai Liu in her Bathing Beauty costume

Aiai Liu goes to Shujin's last place of employment and finds out that she left there a while ago. But she gets some leads. From the leads she eventually traces Shujin to a large flea market where she is working restoring furniture for resale.

At the flea market

When Liu finally finds Shujin she explains Zhou wants her to do and she brings her to Huahua.

The meeting with Huahua

Huahua tells her Zhou's plan. Shujin breaks down and tells them that she already agreed to work with the police, and wouldn't be able to collect the reward.

Huahua then decides to send Liu Aiai in Shujin's place and to tell Zhou what happened. Liu meets Zhou on one of the platforms and we are back in the present. Of course with a 300,000 bounty on Zhou's head Huahua is now, along with the rival Cat Brothers very interested in collecting the reward for themselves.

It, of course all goes Noirsville.


The manhunt

surveillance camera 

Aiai Liu Bathing Beauty 

Anybody who gets off on the visual aspect of films shot in the Film Noir Style is gonna love Wild Goose Lake. You get inundated with Chinese neon. Bare light bulbs abound. They illuminate inky black back alleys, hallways, and outdoor food kiosks. Rain. Headlights stabbing the darkness. Taillights receding in fog. Wild POV motor bikes rides cruising through dimly illuminated mazes of wet city streets. Ghettos. Flea markets. Beaneries. Dark passageways. Courtyards. Unexpected surrealistic tableaus. Reflections. Shadows. Silhouettes. An overwhelming and continually flowing cacophony of Noir.

All the actors are spot on. For some one who doesn't speak whatever the dialect of Chinese the film uses it doesn't matter the subtitles are easy to read. I can never understand why anybody would gripe about them. With our ability to pause, read the sub, they play it's akin to reading a high tech graphic novel. If you read books, graphic novels, and comics, you can do this. 

The visuals just draw you image by image into the Noirsville we all know. Just watch, a great Neo Noir. - 9/10. Screen grabs are from a IMDb streamer.

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