This stylish neo noir from upcoming Chinese director Wei Shujun finds a long-suffering detective questioning his methods and eventually his mind after a series of mysterious murders in a small rural town.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
“A film noir that’s so vintage it comes wrapped in crackling celluloid and old cassette tapes, Only the River Flows follows one obsessive detective’s long and elusive hunt for a serial killer in 1990s provincial China, and the effect it has on a small town with plenty of secrets lurking beneath the surface.
Written and directed by Shujun Wei, the movie is less a nail-biting thriller than a puzzle-like homage to the noir genre itself, with echoes of Jean-Pierre Melville, Chinatown and Memories of Murder. But even more so, it’s a portrait of Chinese society before the recent economic boom and in the wake of the Tiananmen Square protests, at a time when citizens lead repressed lives of quiet desperation.” — Jordan Mintzer, Hollywood Reporter
“Imagine the gleaming surfaces of Park Chan-wook’s terrific Decision to Leave stripped of romance, all scuzzed-up and grimy. Imagine drilling down through Diao Yinan’s Berlin-winning Black Coal, Thin Ice and finding unexpected seams of absurdist dark comedy. You are now somewhere in the seamy offbeat world of Only the River Flows director Wei Shujun’s inventive riff on Asian-noir that gives the expanding subgenre something its Chinese contributions often lack: a pitch-black sense of humour.” — Jessica Kiang, Variety