Mystery

MYSTERY
浮城謎事 (China/France, 2012)
North American Premiere
95 minutes, DCP, in Mandarin with English subtitles
Directed by: Lou Ye
Starring: Hao Lei, Qin Hao, Qi Xi, Zu Feng

This film marks the official and grand return of mainland director Lou Ye, the enfant terrible of Chinese cinema, to the big screen. And quite the return it is, after a half-decade ban by China’s official film body (Spring Fever and Love and Bruises were banned in his home country): rain-soaked, velvety, shadowy, MYSTERY is a beautiful, violent psychological thriller that rightfully earned the best film prize at the Asian Film Awards earlier this spring, along with the best newcomer award for Chinese actress Qi Xi’s performance, and best script.

The film starts off loud and drear with a seemingly random death on a highway just outside of town. A bunch of speeding rich kids, making out and driving fast crash into an as yet unnamed woman as she stumbles into the middle of the highway. The police remain puzzled, and the question lingers: accident or murder? At any rate, it ignites the initial match that will heat up the cauldron of collateral anxiety and moral irresponsibility that MYSTERY proves to be.

In the heart of the flames stand Lu Jie (played by Hao Lei, the lead in Lou Ye’s Summer Palace), who is found comfortably ensconced in the neo-capitalist lifestyle of white-collar domestic bliss with her hard-working, good-looking husband, Yongzhao (Eric Qin Hao, Spring Fever), and their young daughter. Things change when one afternoon, as she’s chatting with girlfriend Sang Qi (award-winner Qi Xi) at a posh café, Jie catches sight of her husband going into a nearby hotel with another woman. After some inquiry and a swift cut to black, we’re in for a good session of passion-aggression, and obsession-compulsion.

From there, MYSTERY, connecting strands of disjointed narratives and jolts of images that slither and snap, patiently crawls to the truth, exploring in the process secrecy, infidelity, and entire realms of feeling seldom fathomed. From his stark Paris-set tale of amour fou, Love and Bruises (2011), Lou Ye brings to his probing the same impossibly intense undertow: etiolated, vicious, vinegar-thin. Together with D.P., Zeng Jia (Buddha Mountain, 2010, and Lou’s own Summer Palace, 2006), the filmmaker channels this intensity with his signature anxious handheld, close-up camera work that always finds the right place to capture what’s important: the switchback moods, the furtive glance, or the frenzied glower.

Using the central metropolis of Wuhan, Lou Ye paints the fourth largest city in China as a massive fog-bound netherworld of mélancolie and rain inhabited by a massive middle class and their many unsuspected torments, the perfect backdrop and social subtext to a story that answers the call of elemental desires: rather than a study, a darkly lyrical ode to amour fou.

Wednesday July 3, 5:45PM Walter Reade Theater Buy Tickets

Thursday July 11, 1:00PM Walter Reade Theater Buy Tickets