Artful relationship study tests the limits of Beijing censorship and commercial sensibilities, while making innovative use of HD cam lensing with mood set by desaturated colors and exquisite compositions throughout. The longueurs get a little <I>too </I>long, however, and, hence, "The Coldest Day" will find its hottest days at Asian-minded fests.

Artful relationship study tests the limits of Beijing censorship and commercial sensibilities, while making innovative use of HD cam lensing with mood set by desaturated colors and exquisite compositions throughout. The longueurs get a little too long, however, and, hence, “The Coldest Day” will find its hottest days at Asian-minded fests.

Helmer-scripter Xie Dong, making his feature bow after years of assisting Zhang Yimou, has a sure handle on this tale of a marriage falling apart. A slow-building friendship flares up between mild-mannered lawyer Xuezhi (Xu YaJun) and Xiao Bai Cai (the appealing Qin Hai Lu), the free-spirited wife of a client imprisoned on a drug charge.

Meanwhile, the lawyer’s spouse, XinMei (Hu Jing Fan), is engaging in an increasingly torrid affair with a young actor at the Beijing opera where she works as a seamstress. Xuezhi’s mother works there, too, so he gets to hear all about it, in the worst way.

The couple would probably divorce except for their small daughter. The lawyer, too, is extremely slow at grasping that Xiao Bai Cai doesn’t really care whether or not her hubby gets out of jail. But, the consummation of their affair is something of a let-down for them, further compromised by the sudden arrival of XinMei at the woman’s apartment, with her visage on the front-door security cam having a chilling effect.

The helmer makes very strong use of such visual devices, with lenser Chi XiaoNing enamored of reflective surfaces like windows and car windshields in ice- and snow-bound winter, all supported by a spare, unsentimental score.

Contrast between the increasingly gray outside world and the warm illusions of the opera stage is well stated. (The hauntingly stylized vidwork is superbly transferred to 35mm.) Throughout, there are recurring images of confinement, most notably of two koi in a goldfish bowl. By the time the two carp are frozen in place, after the bowl is left by an open window, Western auds may get fed up with the hand-wringing. The ambiguous ending will leave some asking why it couldn’t come just a bit sooner.

The Coldest Day

China

Production

A Yuan WenXin presentation of a Wan Ji Communications and Prods. (Beijing) production, in association with Century Hero Film Investment and Shen Zhen Film Studio. (International sales: Wan Ji Communications, Beijing.) Produced by Guo Yan, Han SanPing, Li XuDong. Executive producer, Tian ZhuangZhuang. Directed, written by Xie Dong.

Crew

Camera (color), Chi XiaoNing; editor, Yang HongYu; music, Dou Peng; production designer, Zhang DaJun; costume designer, Shao Chuan; sound (Dolby), Wen Bo; assistant director, Lian Lye; associate producer, Wang ShunSheng. Reviewed at Seattle Film Festival, June 10, 2004. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Xu YaJun, Hu Jing Fan, Qin Hai Lu.
Want Entertainment News First? Sign up for Variety Alerts and Newsletters!
Post A Comment 0