Told as if David Lean and Richard Linklater hadn’t already perfected railway romantic drama, Zhou Yu’s Train treats the simple moments of boarding and disembarking with overblown stylistic posturing that tepidly rips off In the Mood for Love—swelling musical cues to slow-motion walks across the platform. So extreme is the film’s train glorification (a sex scene is set to the screeching sound of wheels on rails) that when a character is shown sitting on a bus, the end is apparently nigh. The love triangle among pottery maker Zhou Yu (Gong Li), her long-distance poet paramour (Tony Leung Ka Fai), and her fellow traveler (Honglei Sun) devolves from opaque mystery into boring melodramatics and incoherent contrivances (director Sun Zhou incorrectly assumes that two Gongs are better than one by giving the actress a second character whose existence he fails to explain until the unsatisfying climax). The saving grace—blink and you’ll miss it—is an absurd re-creation of “The Safety Dance” as Gong Li frolics through the Chinese countryside leaving all her cares behind.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 6, 2004