« The Spanish Dancer | Main | Love and Death - Two films on VOD »

September 01, 2023

The Fallen Bridge

the fallen bridge.jpeg

Duan Qiao
Li Yu - 2022

I hope that in the near future, someone will write a comprehensive look at neo-noir films from mainland China. What is interesting to me is that this is a genre that represents some of the more interesting work in contemporary Chinese films, a overshadowed it would seem by the special effects blockbusters that usually make up the imported films seen in the west, as well as the patriotic epics extolling the heroism of Communist party members primarily during World War II. That what is seen by U.S. viewers is scattershot at best, a handful of films that play the festival and arthouse circuit.

The Fallen Bridge follows classic noir tropes. A bridge spontaneously collapses in a small city. During the excavation, a skeleton is discovered to have been buried in the cement. It is revealed that the skeleton is of a man missing for eight years. The man's daughter is certain that the deceased, her father, has been murdered, and seeks revenge. The young woman is assisted by a man who claims to have witnessed her father and two men just before the father's death, but can not go to the police because he is also a wanted man. Corruption in the upper levels of the city government are uncovered.

With the stricter rules in place for filmmakers, Chinese neo-noir is similar to classic film noir in that no bad deed goes unpunished. Ms. Li, who started as a documentarian, begins the film with what appear to be a series of shots taken from surveillance camera, with images of the collapse of the bridge from several angles and locations. This first series of shots very convincingly appears to be real documentary footage. The shift to narrative involves a sleight of hand as the rest of the film appears to have been shot on video tape, the visual quality similar to television shows that are presented as being live.

Li has also discussed the title as referring to the broken relationships within in the film. The young woman's most stable relationship is with her godfather, referred to as an uncle. She is otherwise estranged from her mother. Family relationships are broken or absent among the other characters. In the search for the murderer, additional murders take place as part of the coverup. Some reviews of The Fallen Bridge have complained that the film lacks suspense because the identity of the killer is fairly obvious. I think what Li is more interested in is her heroine's journey that takes her through the marginalized parts of Chinese society, most pointedly the modes of survival of ex-wives and mistresses.

The Fallen Bridge is currently available on several VOD platforms.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 1, 2023 07:09 AM