After his wryly humorous debut, “Uniform” (2003), mainland Chinese filmmaker Diao Yi’nan takes a large leap into minimalist mannerism with “Night Train.” Strikingly composed but listless tale of a court bailiff’s lonely life in wintry, industrial China will be embraced by crix and fests for whom the anomie-heavy, Euro-style films of Jia Zhangke and his ilk rep the future of Mainland cinema. Most auds will pass.
Thirtysomething widow Wu Hongyan (Liu Dan), originally from the northeast, deals with women awaiting execution in western Shaanxi province. (Pic was shot around Baoji.) On weekends, she takes the train to a matchmaking dancehall, but gets no satisfaction from her loveless dates (Xu Wei, Wu Yuxi). Finally, she meets a guy, reservoir caretaker Li Jun (Qi Dao), who hides a secret that scares her. Liu is good as a woman looking for tenderness in a tough environment, but her perf, which contains brief nudity in a couple of sex scenes, is hobbled by the empty script. Produced by Diao’s Beijing-based company, but with French state coin and U.S. involvement, this indie pic flew under the Cannes radar without official permission from China’s Film Bureau.