Summer of Changsha (Liu Yu Tian)
Zu Feng’s Summer of Changsha is a mystery thriller, revolving around a detective, A Bin (Feng), who’s on the trail of a scattered set of body parts. It’s also a serially miserable affair, a story involving grief, self-harm and the death of a terminally-ill child – and one that has fallen afoul of China’s notorious censors, meaning the production team was unable to attend Cannes.
What, precisely, they objected to is not always clear, as Feng’s film is formulaic to a fault, albeit explicit in its depiction of sex, violence and suicidal impulses. A Bin, mopey even by a detective’s standards, meets Li Xue (Huang Lu) across the course of his investigation, who suspects the body parts belong to her brother. The mystery itself isn’t that compelling, and is even resolved with a shrug; the real focus of the story is the relationship between the two central characters, who both carry significant traumas and find themselves drawn to each other.
Feng is primarily an actor, and he coaxes some decent performances out of his cast. But he unfortunately demonstrates an inability to pace his plot. It’s full of stuff happening, yet much of it seems random, designed to give his actors a showcase in portraying grief without any overarching consequence, or to emphasise an image that the filmmaker finds compelling. On top of that, he gives the whole thing more endings than The Lord of the Rings – a few audience members started clapping when the screen faded to black, only for a “four months later” subtitle to pop up. Feng is far from an incompetent director, but his writing lets the film down.
Summer of Changsha (Liu Yu Tian) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer and some clips from Summer of Changsha (Liu Yu Tian) here: