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Black Coal Thin Ice (DVD) (US Version) DVD Region 1

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Black Coal Thin Ice (DVD) (US Version)
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All Editions Rating: Customer Review Rated Bad 8 - 8 out of 10 (2)

YesAsia Editorial Description

Deftly combining film noir and social realism, Diao Yinan's (Night Train) third directorial effort, the gritty and haunting urban detective story Black Coal, Thin Ice, won the coveted Golden Bear for Best Film at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival. The film begins in 1999 with the discovery of the dismembered remains of a man in a small town in northern China. The ensuing investigation led by detective Zhang Zili (Liao Fan, who won the Silver Bear for Best Actor for this role) is left unfinished when a botched arrest turns into a shootout that kills two police officers. Zhang is suspended from the police department and gets a job as a security guard.

Five years later, a series of murders similar to the one from 1999 occur, and Zhang, with the help of former co-worker Wang (Yu Ailei, Tian Liang Qing Zheng Yan), decides to investigate. It appears that everything leads to Wu Zhizhen (Guey Lun Mei, GF*BF), the widow of the man killed in 1999. Zhang finds himself increasingly drawn to the quiet Wu, and thus begins a courtship that may prove to be more dangerous than Zhang could have ever anticipated.

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Technical Information

Product Title: Black Coal Thin Ice (DVD) (US Version) 白日焰火 (DVD) (美國版) 白日焰火 (DVD) (美国版) 白日焰火 Black Coal Thin Ice (DVD) (US Version)
Artist Name(s): Liao Fan | Guey Lun Mei | Wang Xue Bing | Wang Jing Chun | Yu Ai Lei 廖凡 | 桂綸鎂 | 王 學兵 | 王景春 | 余皚磊 廖凡 | 桂纶镁 | 王 学兵 | 王景春 | 余皑磊 廖凡(リアオ・ファン) | 桂綸鎂 (グイ・ルンメイ) | 王学兵(ワン・シュエビン) | ワン・ジンチュン | Yu Ai Lei Liao Fan | Guey Lun Mei | Wang Xue Bing | Wang Jing Chun | Yu Ai Lei
Director: Diao Yi Nan 刁 亦男 刁 亦男 ディアオ・イーナン Diao Yi Nan
Release Date: 2015-09-29
UPC Code: 812491016435
Language: Mandarin
Subtitles: English
Country of Origin: United States, China
Disc Format(s): DVD
Region Code: 1 - USA, Canada, U.S. Territories What is it?
Package Weight: 81 (g)
Shipment Unit: 1 What is it?
YesAsia Catalog No.: 1044546446

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Professional Review of "Black Coal Thin Ice (DVD) (US Version)"

October 29, 2015

This professional review refers to Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014) (DVD) (Taiwan Version)
Dry and inscrutable to the point of being inert, Black Coal, Thin Ice is nonetheless an impressively-controlled and involving mystery drama. Succinctly described as an ice-cold China film noir, the film stars Liao Fan as Zhang Zili, a former cop who left the force in 1999 after being wounded in a gunfight that left two suspects and two officers dead. At the time Zili was investigating a curious case: The body parts of a man identified as Liang Zhijun were found in various coal stacks around northeastern China, but the trail eventually went cold. Five years later during the dead of winter, the shell-shocked Zili crosses paths with his former colleague Wang (Yu Ailei), now staking out Liang Xhijun's widow, Wu Zhizhen (Guey Lun-Mei). Two more dead men have turned up in circumstances similar to Liang Zhijun's, and Wu Zhizhen was romantically involved with both. Needing little convincing, Zili begins to independently investigate Zhizhen, and a cold, strained romance between the two starts to emerge.

Black Coal, Thin Ice may be tough going for less patient audiences, since it's slow, abstruse and lacks exposition. Director Diao Yinan is circumspect in his storytelling; characters' actions are seldom foreshadowed or explained, requiring the audience to often play catch-up. Also, information is seeded fairly early before payoffs are delivered later – if at all – which makes for some audience frustration. For example, at one point a single glance from Zhizhen reveals that she knows the angle of Zili's investigation, but she seemingly does nothing to address her situation – a mystifying move, to say the least. Yet despite the slow-burning plot, the story resolves neatly, with some conveniences but also room for interpretation and thought. There are verbalized explanations but they arrive at appropriate times and don't seem shoehorned in, and the most pivotal events are handled through action not words. At times, Black Coal, Thin Ice almost feels like an experiment in how to make a mystery thriller with as little dialogue as possible.

While its central mystery is involving, Black Coal, Thin Ice is most fascinating when it explores character and emotion. In Zhang Zili's case, he's established as a passionate cop who becomes traumatized after an arrest gone wrong. As his investigation into Zhizhen becomes deeper and more dangerous, the question arises: What exactly is he seeking? Is it justice, redemption or something more? The film doesn’t explicitly state the answer, leaving it to the viewer to gleam Zili's motives and growth from Liao Fan's uncommunicative but surprisingly compelling performance. While he's seeking or potentially impeding justice, Zili makes some difficult choices, and his peculiar ways of expressing conflict or emotion manage to strike a chord. Guey Lun-Mei is far more obvious as the icy femme fatale, pushing her frosty, pained widow act for all its worth – which is quite a lot, considering that she's so good at it. The relationship between the two is enjoyably enigmatic, and grows with a silence and awkwardness that feels authentic.

Shifts in tone are not obvious but there are moments of exceptionally dry black humor sprinkled throughout. Some scenes are lightened by Diao's placement of minor absurdities, like an extreme leap off-camera during an arrest, the cops munching on watermelon while discussing a murder, or a dumbstruck couple watching as a suspect is marched through their flat to silently identify a crime scene. At times, the film resembles an exceptionally dry, less quirky Coen Brothers work, with its irony-laced storytelling, seedy lower-class characters, small-town environs, and moments of casual darkness. However, the Coens are more forthcoming than Diao Yinan, who keeps his intentions so close to the vest that it’s easy to think that the film is saying nothing. Initial impressions can deceive. The film is ultimately like its characters, who try so hard not to call attention to themselves that when there's a crack in the armor, no matter how slight, whatever spills out resonates far more. In Black Coal, Thin Ice, deeds and not words are what matter.

by Kozo - LoveHKFilm.com

September 26, 2014

This professional review refers to Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014) (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)
Black Coal, Thin Ice has become one of the most talked about Chinese films of the last year following its impressive Golden Bear win at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival. Director Diao Yinan is certainly no stranger to the festival circuit, his previous outings Uniform and <>Night Train both having gone down well with the international critics, and his latest film sees him attempting to fuse his own grounded, social realism style with genre cinema. The result is a fascinating take on the neo noir form, following a down and out cop trying to track down a killer against a background of snow, ice and plenty of angst.

The detective in question is the bitter, recently divorced Zhang Zili (Liao Fan, Ocean Flame), the film opening in 1999 in a town in Heilongjiang province, north-east China with the gruesome discovery of the body parts of a man, scattered across the local county. Though he and his colleague Wang (Yu Ailei, Tian Liang Qing Zheng Yan) apprehend a suspect, everything goes wrong, and after the death of two fellow officers Zhang is suspended. Five years later a similar series of murders occur, and Zhang, now working as a lowly security guard and spending most of his time drunk, again teams with Wang to try and finally hunt down the culprit. Their investigation leads them to Wu Zhizhen (Guey Lun Mei, GF*BF), the widow of the 1999 victim, who now works in a small laundrette and who had a connection to all the murdered men. Convinced of her involvement, Zhang starts to follow her around, though finds himself entering into a tense relationship with the mysterious woman, putting himself in danger and complicating the case.

Originality is obviously not the strongest aspect of Back Coal, Thin Ice - all the time-honoured motifs, themes and cliches of the noir form being present and correct, from the traumatised male lead and alluring femme fatale through to the pervading air of suspicion and of things not being what they seem. Where Diao Yinan succeeds is in the way in which he marries such traditional cinematic tropes with his own concerns and techniques, transforming an industrial, constantly snowbound north-eastern Chinese town into a bleak landscape of uncertainty where it's quite clear that unpleasantness and violence are never far away. In visual terms this works fantastically well, Diao and his cinematographer Dong Jinsong (11 Flowers) making superb use of lurid neon colours and sinister shadows, giving the film a distinctive look that's at once both minimalist and luridly pulp. The film is extremely atmospheric throughout, the viewer almost being able to feel the biting cold and the crunching snow underfoot, and Diao skilfully accentuates this to underline further the dark mood.

Diao's driving aim here is to make the film as realistic and grounded as possible while entertaining in the usual genre style, and this is achieved, to an extent at least, through some well-written and interesting characters. While neither Zhang Zili and Wu Zhizhen really transcend their noir stereotypes, they're both reasonably believable, and the script wisely keeps their relationship as icy as the scenery, helping to make for a fair amount of tension. Both Liao Fan and Guey Lun Mei turn in strong performances, the former winning the Berlin Silver Bear for Best Actor for his efforts, and this helps keep the viewer interested in their predictable dance despite being kept deliberately at an emotional distance by Diao.

The fact that any noir fans will likely know from early on where the film is going does undermine its effectiveness and suspense somewhat, and the plot in general is rather standard and straightforward, even by the standards of the form, finding a familiar rhythm after a more oddball first half hour. Though complex enough, the film's red herrings are all obvious, and without any real final twist or surprises, on a narrative level it engages rather than impresses, even when rallying for its suitably downbeat conclusion. To be fair, Diao does seem aware of, and indeed unconcerned by this, and compensates to an extent through inserting a few wilfully impenetrable moments (most notably a tacked on final sequence, which though thematically fitting, at least in terms of the film's literal Chinese title "Daylight Fireworks" doesn't really add much), whose effectiveness will vary according to the viewer's taste and patience, and as a result the film does at times feel like an experiment in combining two very different types of cinema. As with so many recent Mainland Chinese films, there's a temptation to try and dig deeper and look for socio-political themes and criticism, though beyond the obvious meditation on human life becoming more disposable in modern China, and on relationships and communication between people breaking down, there's not a great deal going on, and Diao certainly doesn's seem as angry, scathing or as willing to delve as deeply as Jia Zhangke did in his far more provocative A Touch of Sin.

Still, Black Coal, Thin Ice only really invites such criticisms and comparisons due to its Berlin win, and it's certainly several notches above the vast majority of other Chinese genre films. Though as a neo noir it's undeniably flawed, there's much here to enjoy and to be impressed by, and Diao Yinan has done a fine job of producing a film which, whilst generic, succeeds in bringing together two different strands of cinema in complementary fashion.

by James Mudge - BeyondHollywood.com

This original content has been created by or licensed to YesAsia.com, and cannot be copied or republished in any medium without the express written permission of YesAsia.com.

Customer Review of "Black Coal Thin Ice (DVD) (US Version)"

Average Customer Rating for All Editions of this Product: Customer Review Rated Bad 8 - 8 out of 10 (2)

numinair
See all my reviews


November 10, 2014

This customer review refers to Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014) (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)
1 people found this review helpful

A contrasting murder movie of coal and ice Customer Review Rated Bad 8 - 8 out of 10
‘Black Coal Thin Ice’ considering its Chinese title ‘Daylight Fireworks’ gave me unexpected realism this Saturday night as I watched it in the UK, as fireworks whizzed and boomed left, right and centre outside our house. Plus our central heating boiler packed in again making for a cold atmosphere befitting the movie’s bleak snowy townscape.

BCTI interested me by the noir aspect as I’d not long ago read the 80s sci-fi noir cyberspace novel ‘Neuromancer’ (a popular sci-fi novel I never read in the 80s by William Gibson) and although I’m not a massive fan of the genre, I quite enjoy the noir style more so probably by the way it finds its way into other tastes I have (anime/sci-fi). ‘Black Coal Thin Ice’ though for me is also black satire and I gathered that by the unusual plot introduction and especially when divorced detective Zhang Zili (Liao Fan) is found slumped drunk on the tilt exit of a motor vehicle underpass and gets his motorbike casually stolen by a ‘concerned’ citizen, the latter leaving his purring scooter behind as a swop. The dark plot is intro 1999 and concerns coal workers gruesome finds of a human man’s body parts found in coal convey belts but also scattered widely around the town of Heilongjiang province. Zhang Zili and his side kick cop Wang (Yu Ailei) locate a perpetrator at an hairdressers where two policemen are then killed in a gunfire botch job, Zhang quickly suspended from his duties. The story moves on to 2004 where Zhang is slumped drunk external to the snow carpeted traffic tunnel getting his motor bike stolen from the passer by, his job working as a security guard. But like ghosts from the cold misty past, two more body part murders recur which brings Zhang and his colleague Wang to join forces again to finally locate the murderer. Their cigarette imbibed and weary weather beaten traces lead to a widower Zhizhen (Lun Mei Guey) a quiet woman who works in a small launderette, an unreadable woman, romantically linked to the three murdered men with scattered body parts. Zhang is so curious about Zhizhen he not only followers her around the bleak snow trodden town for truth and frequenting the launderette for facts, but also gets emotionally involved with her for love passion – a possible deadly femme fatale.
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numinair
See all my reviews


November 10, 2014

This customer review refers to Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014) (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)
1 people found this review helpful

Bleak surroundings, murder in thin ice Customer Review Rated Bad 8 - 8 out of 10
‘Black Coal Thin Ice’ has a mystery plot that is minimal and illusive but quickly revealing and befittingly predictable – but a detective plot that is not the overall richness of this movie. Where BCTI really works is the black humorous satire amidst cold industrial murder reflected in a dangerous love tension that is quite symbolic by the ‘cutting’ murder weapon, the rugged cop characters (Wang having that almost 1950s rock n roll vibe) and the mystery woman Zhizhen, her allure uncertain of her predicament as a femme fatale or kept woman. And the snowy bleak industrial landscape - shadowy noir accentuated cinematography of battered trains hurtling across steel bridges amidst cold alienating snow and first person perspectives of an underpass out into snow, the neon town signs, Zhang and Zhizhen's cold passion inside a ferrish wheel and of course heavy coated (and heavy smoking) tense detective work surrounding a dubious (but not what she seems) femme fatale. Fireworks, too, of course, but that’s the abrupt finality of it all. A big bang. Zhizhen also weirdly enough reminded me of T-ara’s Eunyoung a bit by the hair style.

To approach this movie, don’t expect the grim plot alone to be the main reason to watch it, but more so the hidden beauty of the well photographed true reality of the bleak city and noir shadowed cinematograph, the richly veiled and revealling complex characters that reflect the explosive and scattered - of it all. Maybe the fireworks (a character going a bit off the rails at the end) signifing the madness amidst the steel cities of light. Possession and love? Oh heck its a dark noir satire and its very good.
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