Friday, May 01, 2009

Zhou Yu's Train

Zhou Yu’s Train (China, 2002, 92 minutes long), PG-13.

I’m a sucker for trains. It’s my favorite form of transportation. I enjoy reading about train travel and even enjoy watching train movies. So, a few months ago, I was watching a Korean film (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring), and caught the previews of a Chinese film titled “Zhou Yu’s Train.” The preview made it look like there were lots of train scenes in the movie, so it went into my Netflix queue. Now I really feel like a sucker. Although the movie does have lots of train scenes, it’s essentially a Chinese chic-flick, but one partially redeemed by employing lots of poetry.

Truthfully, I had a hard time figuring out this movie. The star (the beautiful Gong Li) keeps showing up as two characters. In one, she’s Zhou Yu, a carefree woman with shoulder length hair, a painter of porcelain, who is torn between her love of a poet in a distant city and a veterinarian. The train is her connection to Ching Chen, her poet in Chongyang. Gong Li is also Xiu, a silent woman with short hair who keeps appearing throughout the movie. After Ching Chen is assigned to a school in Tibet, Xiu shows us at the school and Zhou Yu is killed in a bus crash (the train only ran twice a week, she should have waited instead of taking the bus!). Are Zhou Yu and Xiu the same? Or is this all a dream, some kind of mirror image (as the poetry suggests). I don’t know. The movie was confusing as it kept jumping back and forth between the poet and the vet, with Zhou Yu riding the fast moving train back and forth between lovers.

I don’t think I’d watched the whole movie, had it not been for the train. The wail of the whistle and the clicking of the rails was the glue that held the movie together and kept me watching. The photography is wonderful. The sight of the train snaking through tunnels and racing along viaducts was enchanting. The movie is in Mandarin. Despite having eaten scores of cans of such oranges, I still can’t make heads or tails out of the language. But there are English subtitles and since the dialogue is sparse, it’s easy to follow along. Thankfully, the sound of the train is universal.

For more book and movie reviews by Sage, click here.


  1. So your love of trains and cute women suckered you into a chick flick?!? God is great! :-)

  2. Murf, I'm surprised, you making a theological statement! Yes, it is amazing what God uses to pull us out of our comfort zones... Or, is this the work of the enemy trying to tempt me?

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Sexy, I have no idea where to begin translating. First, I must eat more mandarin oranges?

  5. I did a google translation and it looks like "sexy's" comments are just words like erotic and sex, repeated over and over again. I probably should delete them, but it's kind of cool having chinese characters in a comment

  6. silly sage, Mandarin is acquired by eating the duck of the same name.

  7. sexy and 18 ( i will bet one of those chinese characters is " I got a new web cam"

    what a world we live in

    i like trains too - have you seen the snow plow trains on youtube?

    Netchick, bla bla

  8. You're so funny, Sage. "A Chinese chick flick". It sounds kind of like the same premise of that Gwyneth Paltrow movie, Sliding Doors. A great movie, btw. Definitely easier to follow than this one from the sound of it.

  9. Because you mentioned it was a Chick Flick and I do enjoy a good foreign film (not to mention train scenes), I may have to rent this one if I find it at Blockbuster.

    Maybe one day I'll see what Netflix is all about.

    Thanks for the review, Sage!

  10. Behold the almighty power of google bots! I once got a hit from somebody searching for "nuns strap on." For the love of all things good, I haven't the slightest idea how that happened.


  11. Because of Sexy's comment, this is now officially an adult site. Congrats, congrats!

  12. David, I'm glad someone got my Mandarin joke!

    Stephanie, I'm glad you got a chuckle out of that!

    Scarlet, you'll have to review it!

    Randall, looking at my email, it looks like this one hit about ten of my posts

    Anonymous, this is not an adult site and you know better.