Notes

Back To The Wharf!

The Gutter’s own Carol has some thoughts on Li Xiaofeng’s neo-noir, Back To The Wharf! She has additional thoughts on censorship and Chinese crime films.

Back To The Wharf is one of a wave of Chinese crime dramas in recent years. These films make up for the bloated, big budget, nationalistic battlefield epics China had been exporting, at least for me. Some of these movies are straight neo-noirs like Diao Yinan’s Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014) and The Wild Goose Lake (2019) or Wen Shipei’s Are You Lonesome Tonight? (2021). Some use the conventions of neo-noir to lean into style and filmmaking craft like Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night (2018) and its stunning transformation into one-shot, magical realist noir in its second half. Some recent Chinese crime dramas have leaned heavily into the drama, using crime film conventions to underscore examinations of relationships, character and Chinese society and politics, like Jia Zhangke’s Ash Is Purest White (2018). And Back To The Wharf leans heavily into drama after an inciting incident underscores the ways that individuals and families are destroyed or benefitted by hypocrisy and socially sanctioned criminal enterprise. Probably not incidentally, Back To The Wharf shares cast members with many of these films.”

Read more here.

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