Daily Archives: March 9, 2001

The World is Watching

Suzhou River


Directed and written by Lou Ye

With Zhou Xun, Jia Hongsheng, Hua Zhongkai, Yao Anlian, and Nai An.

Suzhou River, a first feature playing this week at Facets Multimedia Center, is an affecting, romantic, and fascinating mood piece from China. It’s been getting a bit of flak from critics who call it a rip-off of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, but I don’t think that’s an accurate description. The plot of Vertigo is clearly a main source of writer-director Lou Ye’s inspiration, and his score contains periodic allusions to Bernard Herrmann’s brand of romantic longing. But there are clear differences in the characters, settings, and milieus.

Vertigo gave us James Stewart as a retired cop in sleek San Francisco falling for an upper-crust beauty (Kim Novak) he’s been hired to tail, who falls mysteriously to her death; he then finds her resurrected as a shop girl (Kim Novak again), whom he tries to transform into the woman he loved. Suzhou River, set alongside a large dirty river in Shanghai, is initially about a young, nameless videographer–the narrator of the story–who becomes involved with Meimei (Zhou Xun), a go-go dancer who swims underwater dressed as a mermaid for the amusement of customers in a sleazy tavern. Read more