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Film Review - Chongqing Blues/日照重庆 (2010)  

Title Shot of Chongqing Blues

Chongqing Blues is a 2010 film set almost entirely in Chongqing. I am a little bit surprised this film is not more well-known, as it was selected for main competition at the 2010 Cannes film festival, and co-stars one of China’s most well-known actors, Fan Bingbing. Directed by Wang Xiaoshuai and starring Wang Xueqi, with additional co-stars Zi Yi, Lin Feier, and Qin Hao (also of Chongqing Hot Pot fame!), Chongqing Bluesis a moody (as the English title would suggest), heart wrenching, somber tale about a father searching for meaning in the wake of tragedy. 

The director and cast, minus the leading man, at Cannes in 2010

At the start of the film, Lin Quanhai (WangXueqi) has just returned to Chongqing after many years overseas after learning that his son was involved in a violent occurrence that ended with the son, Lin Bo (Zi Yi) losing his life. He moves from person to person who was close to Lin Bo, repeating his phrase, “I don’t mean anything else by this,” asking questions and searching for understanding about what led to this terrible event. Along the way he grapples with his guilt over what role his absence may have had in the outcome of his son’s character and final acts.

Wang Xueqi and Fan Bingbing

This film is notable in the Chongqing film category because the dialogue is almost all in Mandarin. It is also a very quiet film with minimal dialogue that is mostly spoken between two people at a time and at a slower pace. This makes it perhaps a suitable choice for a Mandarin-learner looking to practice their listening, or reading (with subtitles). I also was unable to find English subtitles for this film, although some readers may be savvier at this search than I, so you may be forced to practice your Mandarin if you choose to watch this film!

Chongqing Blues movie poster

Chongqing Blues features many of Chongqing’s well-known sights, including opening shots of the Yangtze Cable Car, scenes of lively hot pot and baijiu consumption with a little hot-tempered Chongqing action thrown in for good measure, melancholic light-rail rides, laser-focused mahjong playing, the 18 steps, and conversation about the stunning rate of growth and change that was enveloping the city from the point of view of aging characters. All of these set the viewer firmly within the city of Chongqing, and enshrouds the movie in an atmosphere befitting of its regretful, tragic tone. 

Wang Xueqi in Chongqing Blues and Andy Lau in Lost and Love

Something that stuck out for me when watching this movie were the similarities to another film I have previously covered on this site: Lost and Love. While Lost and Love certainly brings much more levity to the storyline, both films center on fathers who have in some way failed their sons, and are trying desperately to search for something. The fathers both almost obsessively print large photographs of their sons, for different but similar reasons. I find this interesting because it almost flips the script that is so prevalent in Chinese society about filial piety. Instead of focusing on the responsibilities and behaviors that sons should express toward their fathers we are here looking at two fathers examining, acting out,and questioning what it is fathers owe their sons, and how much of themselves they should be giving to their children.

Qin Hao, Zi Yi, and Lin Feier

As should be obvious by now, this is not a blockbuster, pass-the-popcorn, sexy, thriller, comedy in the least. But it does present a gritty, intimate portrait of a father in the throes of failure and an examination of the reasons why, and it is sure to leave you thinking about missed opportunities and avoidable regret.

Themes: loss, grief, responsibility, distance and time

Streaming link (Chinese subtitles only):

By sachelledeline (Female. United States (USA))
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Date: 15 Jun 17    Views: 86    Comments:           

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