Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2023 2:04 pm 
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Idol journey

Despite Lu Yi's being an unreliable director, people in China keep finding things of interest in her movies. This time, The Fallen Bridge, though not one of her few best, nonetheless has turned out to be her biggest box office success yet. Why is this? The reason is simple: it features Wang Junkai (Kally Wang), the 23-year-old leader of The Fighting Boys, or TF Boys, the biggest boy band in China, in his first lead role in a film. A matinee idol, and incidentally, what must add to his luster for fans, reportedly the richest man under thirty in the country. His fans would pay to see anything with him in it. He plays a young fugitive called Meng Chao, not his real name, it turns out, which is Zhang Qingdong - but his story is one of many only roughly sketched in, though he gets the last word, and he is who young filmgoers will remember.

The main character is a daughter, Wen Xiaoyu (Ma Sichun). After the titular bridge falls, a human foot peeks alarmingly out from the crevice in a wall. It's attached to the corpse of her father Wen Liang (Mo Xizishi) disappeared eight years earlier. He was the designer of the structure, and on his body is found a letter he was going to send to a construction company owner warning of some weaknesses in the structure. The company owner is later found dead. The stage is set for a drama about corruption, a coverup, and murder. But though there's a lot of running around, a lot of flat-colored, detailed, wide-angle and nearly fisheye imagery, and a great deal of rainy weather, that drama never really assumes satisfying shape.

When Xiaoyu is recalled from college she crafts a clay head of her father for the memorial, and she dedicates herself to finding out what happened. The villain of the piece soon enough emerges as her godfather, Zhu Fangzheng (veteran actor Fan Wei, the notable thespian of the piece), who's been responsible for her care since her father's death. We see a lot of him and his nice, modern kitchen: a closeup of the banality of evil.

Meng Chao appears now, sneaking crabwise, floppy-haired, into the story. He lives in an ornate pad somewhere in the crumbling structures of new and old buildings that seem to characterize modern China. (According to [url=""]Derek Elley[/url], this is Huangque, a fictional city in Sichuan province, 28 Sep 201.) Meng Chao tells Xiaoyu he worked on the bridge and saw what happened with her father.

Meng Chao refuses to help her. He teases her at first; that's what boy idols do. He says he can't help her because he's a fugitive. He killed a man who raped his sister (the English says "rapped," the only slip in the otherwise excellent subtitles). Eventually he, Xiaoyu, and somebody's daughter, Lanmei, make a little makeshift "family" living in a makesift squat among semi-ruined buildings including a trio of towers that look like Three Mile Island, scheduled to be blown uop. This is something like what happens in the 2010 [url=""]Buddha Mountain[/url] when characters travel around together and find camaraderie.

There are lots of specific details to the action, but the the movie never sufficiently develops its central theme. It's not a thorough exposé of corrupt building practices. There are cops running around, as well as Xiaoyu trying to investigate the murder of her father, but this doesn't work as a murder mystery. We know everything early on, so it's not enough of a mystery. And it's not a police procedural -- too little focus on the police. Various other women in Wen Liang's lost life appear, but to what end, we don't know.

What there is that counts, is a dramatic showdown between Mang Chao, the vilainous Zhu Fangzheng, and Xiaoyu. Everything hinges on a pen drive giving away the misdeed, which has implausibly been recovered from eight years ago. Mang Chao nobly sacrifices himself, lingering on in the form of a sexy final voiceover his fans will adore. When he says "When I first met her, I thought she was like my sister...It's quite embarrassing to say this, but I like her.. But I don't think I deserve her..." girls in the. audience will swoon. Innocent, yet intimate: perfect! Those final shots, of an idyllic time between them, are sublimely poetic, and for fans, make the preceding two hours worth waiting for.

So the movie makes no sense, but makes tons of sense. It is full of plot line, full of atmospheric rainfall and the intimacy of a makeshift outlaw - yet righteous - family, and full of drama. One can see how in some sense for Li Yu and her audience, this works. It just doesn't work if you're paying attention to story construction and looking for a fixed genre or theme to be developed.

Fallen Bridge 断•桥, 120 mins., released in China Aug. 13, 2022. Screened for this review with the kind permission of Cheng Cheng Films for the film's Aug. 31, 2023 release on VOD in the USA and Canada (Amazon Prime Video, Vimeo on Demand, Hoopla, Viki, FilmDoo).


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