Film - The Wild Goose Lake

The Chinese Visual Festival is screening some of the very best of Chinese language cinema across the UK to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year. Coming to Regent Street Cinema in London and CCA in Glasgow this month, Tony Cross watched The Wild Goose Lake...

The Wild Goose Lake is a Chinese film noir, written and directed by Dian Yinan. I say film noir. It looks more like a dystopian science-fiction film, especially as the rain pours down as Zhou Zenong (Hu Ge) and Liu Aiai (Gwei Lun-Mei) stand outside the station exchanging minimalist dialogue. Except when we are down by the Lake when, during the day, the sun always seems to shine.

There’s one shot where Liu Aiai is standing in front of the lake, in the middle of a shot that looks like a painting. Which speaks to the excellence of both Dian Yinan’s direction and Dong Jingsong’s cinematography. Indeed, the film looks magnificent, even in the seedy back alleys and rooms.

Zhou Zenong is a thief who circumstances turn into the murderer of a police officer and on the run from both the police and his fellow gangsters. There’s a significant reward for his capture and Zenong tries to set things up so his estranged wife (Qian Wan) and child get their hands on that reward. The question is whether circumstances will allow that to happen. There is, as we know, no honour among thieves.

I was reminded, in terms of the sparse dialogue and the sudden violence, of the films of Japan’s Takashi Kitano, like Hana-Bi or Sonatine. The Wild Goose Lake does not quite have the psychological depth of those films, but it has a lot of the style and a sweaty, rainy realism that mingles with a slightly artificial atmosphere.

The performances are excellent. There’s a fragility to the main three characters that seems to be missing from the less central players. No one is this film seems loyal and questions constantly arise as to who is using who, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed the film.

I have, over the years, become a fan of films where time passes, and the dialogue is minimal. Where nothing seems to happen, but everything is going on. This is not quite one of those films as things happen, but this isn’t a film that rushes through events. There are sudden explosions of action interspersed with quieter, slower moments. So, if you want an action-packed running, shooting and shagging flick this is not the place for you.

However, I enjoyed it. There is a danger that its stylish visuals might make you feel that it is style over substance but I think there is enough substance here too, perhaps in what is not said as opposed to what is said, to make this a film worth your one hour and fifty minutes.

The Wild Goose Lake is showing,  in partnership with MUBI, as part of the Chinese Visual Festival at the following venues:

21st January - Regent Street Cinema, London
26th January - Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow.

Find out more and book tickets for both screenings HERE

Follow Tony on Twitter @Lokster71

Image - Chinese Visual Festival

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