DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
THE DAY THE SUN TURNED COLD (TIAN GUO NI  ZI) (director/writer: Yim Ho; screenwriter: Hing Dong Wong; cinematographer: Hou Yong ; editor: Wong Yee-shun; music: Yoshihide Ohtomo; cast: Gaowa Siqin (Pu Fengying the mother), Chung-Hua Tou (Guan Jian), Jingwu Ma (Father, Shichang), Zi Wei (Lover, Liu Dagli), Shu Zhong (Young Son), Li Hu (Captain); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Yim Ho; Kino Video; 1995-China-in Chinese Mandarin with English subtitles)

"A slow-moving, somber and well-observed film noir based on a real-life murder investigation."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

A slow-moving, somber and well-observed film noir based on a real-life murder investigation in a remote oppressive wintry northern province in China and turned into an Oedipal conflict over a love/hate relationship between a mother and son. Veteran Hong Kong New Wave director of the late 1970s and 1980s, Yim Ho ("Pavillion of Women"/"Floating City"/"A West Lake Moment"), associated with filmmakers such as Ann Hui, Tsui Hark and Patrick Tam, weaves a suspenseful realistic procedural crime story with a complex psychological study that rises beyond the depth of the typical Chinese melodramas because it's so provocative. It's superbly shot and wonderfully acted by the adulteress murderess mother, played by the great Mongolian actress Gaowa Siqin.

Some ten years after the father of Guan Jian (Chung-Hua Tou) died under suspicious circumstances from a sudden unexpected attack from cerebritis, a nerve disorder, the now 24-year-old welder talks to a police captain (Li Hu) in Changchun and accuses his mother Pu Fengying (Gaowa Siqin) of poisoning his model citizen school teacher father (Jingwu Ma) over a quarrel they had because she took the affable rural village neighbor bean curd seller Liu Dagli (Zi Wei) as a lover. The police reluctantly exhume the corpse to find what poison did the trick, which then turns the viewer's attention away from the love couple's obvious guilt but to how the mother and son relate to each other considering his severe charges could lead to her execution. Through a series of flashbacks we learn how the accused mother kindly raises the embittered Guan's two younger siblings, the truth of what happened, and we also get a good look at the harsh life and living conditions in China's northern provinces that can make people act so cold to one another.

The film was winner of the Best Film and Best director at the 1994 Tokyo Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 8/22/2012       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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