An older man who spends long periods of time at sea visits Chongqing for the first time in 14 years after his son is killed by police in a hostage crisis. He seeks to know what happened and what his son was like, but his ex-wife shuns him and his late son’s best friend won’t tell him much. The movie is about the man’s quest to find out what happened and what his son was like. Wang Xiaoshuai’s Chongqing Blues greatly revives the hints of sadness if you watch movies to get entertained, this won’t be your cup of tea.
The scenery in the film doesn’t really help with the depressing vibe the film gives off. This is due mostly to the fact that Chongqing is a big, ugly river-port city in Sichuan province offering grey skies and walls of dirty concrete. The foggy and chaotic life of Chongqing is the perfect setting for this poem of disorientation. Presented at Cannes, Chongqing Blues came back home empty-handed, while the film that our editor Olivia reviewed a few weeks back, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, snapped up the Cannes Golden Palm award for best film. A good film, but the evidence proves that it is neither outstanding nor revelatory enough to play outside of a cluster of European art house cinemas.
While we wait for Wang’s character to catch up with us, we’re at least entertained with fortune-cookie wisdom from those he meets along the way. “Don’t all rivers flow to the sea?” enquires his ex-wife. This is the type of slow moving story we can expect when travelling through chapter and chapter in your DVD. Editing is clean and maintains a comfortably measured pace even if the film is overall too long at 115 minutes. That aside, the plot seems a bit like films I’ve seen before. Though we find out what happened to the son in the end and his father gets a certain sense of closure, what isn’t answered is why the man left his family in the first place and why he caused his family so much pain.
There just isn’t enough here to warrant a recommendation from me. Slow moving, boring at times, and plot holes galore it was a miracle I was able to understand the impact of his paternal repeated absence on the life of his child. In 2005, Wang Xiaoshuai was awarded the Prix du Jury for Shanghai Dreams, the story of a young girl who falls in love for the first time in a rural province, when her father wants to leave for Shanghai. This time around, it is an old style exploration of the new face of China through an itinerant father’s return to the titular city to make sense of his son’s death after abandoning his family for 15 years. If you are a fan of the directors work, you might want to check this out, for everyone else, you won’t lose any sleep skipping this one.