Review by John Packman.
Diao Yinan's film Night Train belongs to that blackest strain of comedy, the kind which coaxes its laughs from situations so painful that laughter is almost a defensive response. The film concerns an ennui-stricken woman (Liu Dan) employed by a particularly grim division of the Chinese government and a man (Qi Dao) who is ostracized by nearly everyone for reasons both circumstantial and personal. The two misfits act out their frustrations through a number of arbitrary sexual dalliances before another cruel twist of fate brings them together. What results is a strained simulacrum of a relationship that is shot through with an odd mixture of antipathy and desparate need.
As the film piles on layers of exposition and character development, its tone slowly veers from darkly comic to darkly... dark, and begins to take a hard look at the myriad forms of isolation experienced by its protagonists, whether figurative or literal. The acting is capable across the board, but the real star of Night Train is its fluid and vibrant cinematography, which slowly and deliberately pulls away from the nightclubs and apartments of provincial China to reveal an incredibly stark post-industrial landscape that resembles nothing so much as a sci-fi dystopia as imagined by Edward Burtynsky. This backdrop handily serves to reinforce the general malaise on display and underscore the yawning distance between two lonely people trying to connect. Depressing, sure, but who cares when it looks this cool?
Diao Yi'nan | China | 2007 | 91min
Mon. Oct. 8 | 9:15pm | Empire Granville Theatre
Wed. Oct. 10 | 12:00pm | Empire Granville Theatre