Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014)

Hong Kong Edko DVD


Text below written 2015-12-04

Is China making the best crime films nowadays ? Yees, that could really be the case. After films like Blind Shaft, Beijing
Blues and probably some others too (which i've yet to see) came Jia Zhang-ke's sensational A Touch of Sin and then, now,
this gritty Neo-Noir crime thriller Black Coal, Thin Ice.
South Korea, former Kings of Crime, may have been passed by just a neck and Hong Kong clearly by a long way. OK, so
there's strikt Censorship rules but sometimes it doesn't matter that much that the films won't probe the social issues of China
in an open straight forward way, and thereby could be shown without cuts, as in this film we get an old time crime story so
expertly made and told. Black Coal, Thin Ice has been hailed by filmcritics world wide and won prizes in Berlin, The very
prestigious Golden Bear for Best Film and Liao Fan won the Silver Bear for Best Actor. Taiwanese actress Gwei Lun
Mei won the Hong Kong Golden Horse award for Best Actress, maybe her name could also be Kwai Lun-mei?
Jia Zhang-ke's A Touch of Sin is clearly more subversive in it's tone with it's depiction of a ruthless predatory economic
system and a shitty environment for people to live in but still could be shown in mainland China mostly uncut.
How was this possible as the films culprits behind it all, in the end, obviously must be the Party, the power in Beijing ? It's said
that the director has an admirer in the President of the Peoples Republic of China, Xi Jinping.
Pretty cool if that's true, Xi - a film fan.

Liao Fan

After Blind Shaft (Henan province) and A Touch of Sin (Shanxi province) with Black Coal, Thin Ice we get another
crime story from the desolate coal districts of China and this time from the north-eastern corner, the Heilonjiang province
at the right of Mongolia, above North Korea and with a northern border against Russia, from the city of Harbin.
Welcome to the Ice City of China. Far from the tourist routes, it's winter and freezing cold, brrrrrr, there's snow and ice
everywhere and the frost/ice crystals like smoke from the mouths of the actors ... and this even though they are sitting
inside a train or bus! Yes, no Pampering with the commuters here (as in Sweden where the buses are heated like saunas
in the wintertime, yuck, and you sweat like a pig going to work. Most people are fully dressed in the winter when entering
a bus or a subway train after all, they're NOT naked or in swimwear as some jackass local politician seems to think.
What a waste with energy - "Att elda för kråkorna" in swedish, i don't know the english equivalent to this saying).
The poor quality windows of the houses has got ice also on the inside due to the condensation.
I just love this pictures from a winterly China, something i haven't seen before in a chinese film.

Skates have a prominent part in this films crime mystery and it was delightful to see how the people of Harbin enjoyed to
ice-skate on a ploughed course, just as we all do (or as many of us in northern countries do anyway). Just everyday ordinary
things from a north-eastern snowy China, lovely. Here in Stockholm, Sweden where i live people are crazy about skating
and as soon as the winter cold hit us and the nearest lake has frozen to a safe thickness, we crowd it like crazy lemmings.
Aaaah, the global warming however, f--k you and hopefully it will be a cold skater and skiing winter this year.


Warning! Spoilers below

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The film starts with an intro from 1999 and we get to see how the crime squad cop Zhang Zili (Liao Fan) is dumped by
his wife (the great Liao Fan was thin in this opening scene but gained a lot of weight to portray his bummed up ex-cop
later in the film) and we also see how the police is investigating a case with bodyparts spread all over the coal district
and the victim is found out finally to be the coalworker Liang Zhijun.
The hunt for the perps is on, a lorry-driver and his brother, and when they're located a calm situation evolves into some-
thing Nasty and this action scene is done very well indeed, impressive (pic above of Liao Fan from this scene).
Then a time jump to 2004, it's winter and a motorcycle scene is quite unexpected and funny. Zhang is now an ex-cop
(due to the scene above) and an alcoholic and almost a bum. He's some sort of Resque Force worker extra, something.

Liao Fan och Gwei Lun Mei; Fan notably more puffy than in the pic above on this page

Zhang meets his old college, crime inspector Wang (Yu Ailei) and his team when they're watching a women working
in a Dry Cleaner. She's Wu Zhizhen (Gwen Lun Mei) and she's the ex-wife of the murder victim Liang Zhijun.
Somehow she's suspected of being connected to a murder where the victim has been out ice-skating.
This is a Crime Story after all so naturally Zhang is IN again and soon he approaches the woman and courts her.
They go to a cinema and watches an old (Shaw Brothers?) film in 3D without knowing that a man is following them.
Or that inspector Wang is following the man that's following them. Then they go skating, nice.

Coal, ice, skates and a leather jacket with a fur collar that's the main keyes to this slowly paced but stylishly gritty and
atmospheric murder mystery. But what abot the eye globes in the noodles at the fast food joint, what was that?
Great acting from especially Liao Fan and Gwei Lun Mei, effective cinematography and very unusual and fascinating
settings in a for me, until now, unseen part of a China frozen in a winter shroud. Some unexpected scenes here and
there too as the motorcycle scene too much delight for any blasé film lover of the cineast kind.
One of the best films of the year 2014. widescreen anamorphic 1.78:1, mandarin/putonghua 5.1 with english subs
What's putonghua? Beijing standard mandarin says wiki. Extra only a trailer and a gallery

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