1.Describe the plot of the film briefly; b) what, in your opinion, is this film mainly about? c) in what genre (or category) of filmmaking would you place Suzhou River? d) what other (Western) films are similar to this one?
The film tells about the love story of a young woman Moudan and the courier Mardar. They were happy together until Mardar betrayed his beloved and agreed to help to kidnap her in order to get money from Moudan’s father-contrabandist. After Moudan got to know about it she jamp down from the bridge into a Suzhou River, and Mardar was got to prison for several years. After he got free he met another girl- Meimei, who resembles Moudan a lot and was even played by the same actress. Meimei is a beloved of the videgrapher; her behavior is quite enigmatic, which makes it difficult for a viewer understand from the beginning if Meimei really is Moudan or a different girl. Finally, Mardar managed to find Moudan and it becomes obvious that the two girls are different persons. Meimei left the note to her beloved unnamed narrator telling him that she wanted him to look for her like Mardar looked for Moudan. Mardar and Moudan are found dead, and the reason of their death is left up to a viewer to be decided if it was a suicide or some accident.
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To my mind, the movie is about such feelings as love, loss and betray, but also about the life of Chinese people.
Its genre is drama as it was already mentioned in many sources (Searles 2001, Veeck 2011).
As it is stated by Rooney (2000) “Suzhou River” reminds the “Rear Window” as the story development is observed through the narrator’s camera which creates the impression of peeping. Some other critics like Searls (2001) find the similarities with Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” with the story of obsessive love (57). As Francke (2011) has shown Montgomery's thriller “Lady in the Lake” has also the dreamlike sense of unreality of the kind.
2.How is the city of Shanghai portrayed in this film, bearing in mind that it is considered to be the ‘showpiece’ city of China’s ‘Four Modernizations’ economic reform program?
Many critics among which Veeck (2011) agree that in the movie Shanghai is depicted as a city of crime and corruption (163). The smuggler (Moudan’s father) is buying and selling vodka illegally; living in this big city he is interested only in alcohol and women. It is not an unusual situation to kidnap someone or commit a suicides or be killed. There live many similar people, who live their dull life working on the ships on the Suzhou River or as couriers. As Veeck (2011) mentioned, the “semi criminal urban environment” was depicted the above mentioned way in the “prereform era” films (163).
3.Suzhou River won recognition as the ‘outstanding Chinese language film’ at the 2000 Hong Kong International Film Festival. Why did it win this award (provide at least three possible reasons)?
Suzhou River was recognized as the “outstanding Chinese language film” due to several reasons. One of them can be the fact that much attention is paid to the depiction of the Shanghai reality with its dark streets and polluted river. China in this film looks different from that one shown in the documentary films. The movie shows properly the workers and their dull everyday life, the crimes, the dirt; the livers themselves are afraid to admit how awful the world around them is. Furthermore, the movie is very touchy and symbolic; the importance of love is depicted here, which is also supported by the idea that love is endless. And love is that miracle which can save people from the routine, negative atmosphere. Consequently, the main hero finds forces to puzzle out his inner chaos and struggles the stereotypes. Another reason can be the awareness of the audience of some motives of the movie caused by the influence of some abovementioned Western movies
4.In terms of the message the filmmaker is trying to get across, what role do the following play in Suzhou River? a) the river? (Suzhou Creek); b) the mermaid? c) the videographer? d) the perpetual rain?
The river is the place from which the film begins; the narrator tells at once that is has some enigmatic power which makes ordinary Shanghai livers come to look at it. Suzhou Creek is in the center of all events of the story. It is important that the river is polluted with different wastes the same as people’s life is polluted with crimes and lies.
The mermaid is a symbol of miracle when after Moudan’s drowning the ordinary people working on the ship wanted to see it so much. The mermaid was also a present from a beloved, who betrayed Moudan afterwards, which makes it a symbol of his betray. That’s why, to my mind, she promised to him to come back “as a mermaid”. In case of the mermaid costume, it was used for a dancer Meimei to bring her character closer to Moudan’s.
The videographer is an unnamed male. He seems to be one of the main heroes as the viewer sees almost all the story from his point of view, but his appearance is unknown and, finally, unimportant. If Moudan and Meimei look like the same person, probably, Mardar and the narrator look the same as well. The story of Moudan and Mardar and his search of her is going to repeat again on the example of Meimei and narrator. The same love has come alive, and it is of no importance what the appearance of the beloved is.
The perpetual rain, to my mind, is the symbol of narrator’s and Mardar’s frustration and sadness. Mardar is not sure about his decisions at first and the rain brings his beloved to him, but when after the prison he can not find his beloved Moudan the heavy rain brings to him deep reflections and memories. Except for the motive of frustration, the rain symbolizes the hard times Mardar and Moudan face.
5.A film critic notes that the success of Suzhou River “once again illustrates that those films more…familiar to Western audiences -- rather than those that truly break new ground -- will be the ones to gain support worldwide.” Do you agree with this statement (explain why or why not)?
It is widely known that the familiar information is easier for understanding rather than break new ground. Therefore, I agree with the statement because the success of Suzhou River is determined by the way the viewers perceive it. For the most part of the audience it really is more easy to understand and reconsider the essence and the message of the movie when it is brought to mind the second or third time and it is already familiar to them. In such case a viewer will manage to concentrate on some other details, which can be of high importance and make the movie unique. Some other individuals prefer to receive the information which is fully new and, moreover, manage to analyze these great quantities of information properly, but they are the minority.
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