The good stuff
The Shadow Play sees Ye Lou return to his former glory. The bold style will surely put some people off, but I'm glad he said farewell to the more classical arthouse fare he's been making for the past couple of years. A fun crime flick brought to life with strong colours, shadowy figures and pumped up camera work. This was quite a thrill.
One of the pivotal films that moved Chinese cinema away from the countryside and into the cities. Suzhou River has aged quite a bit, which is normal for any film standing at the roots of a big revolution, but the core appeal is still there. Fine cinematography, strong performances and a mysterious romance. A must see.
Ye Lou's first, clearly the work of someone still figuring out his own identity. Don't Be Young is a surprisingly fun, creative and atmospheric genre film, but it lacks the hand of a seasoned director and it can't quite compensate with its youthful enthusiasm. The talent was already there though.
Worthy but flawed
Ye Lou's take on film-noir. It's a bit of a surprise to see him do an almost straight-up genre film, though his can't quite leave his arthouse aesthetics behind. While that sounds interesting on paper, the result is not as slick as I would've hoped, with the action/crime elements in particular feeling out of place.
Jin is an actress who works as an undercover agent for the people of Shanghai. She discovers Japan's plan to attack Pearl Harbor, but her life gets a lot more complicated when the Japanese try to get Jin on their team. Romance, betrayal, shady figures in dark allies, all the usual noir elements are present here.
The cast is exceptional (with Gong Li and Joe Odagiri leading the pack) and the blue/gray monochrome filter looks attractive enough, but the cinematography feels a little lazy, the action doesn't translate, and the films runs a little too long. One of Lou's weaker efforts, a shame considering how great The Shadow Play was.