Zhou Yu's Train (Zhou Yu de huo che) (2002)

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Released 7-Nov-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary, The Fog Of War
Trailer-Mona Lisa Smile
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 89:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Zhou Sun

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Li Gong
Tony Leung Ka Fai
Honglei Sun
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Shigeru Umebayashi

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

   Zhou Yu's Train is a complex love story set against the contrasting worlds of urban and rural China.

    It is notable for the central performance of Gong Li as Zhou Yu. Fans of relatively recent Asian cinema will remember her exquisite performances in Raise The Red Lantern and Farewell My Concubine. More recently she was in Memoirs of a Geisha and Miami Vice.

    The plot for Zhou Yu's Train is at once simple and maddeningly opaque. Zhou Yu is a ceramic artist capable of creating exquisite works of art. She meets Chen Quing (Tony Leung Ka Fai) and is immediately smitten, for Chen, as well as being a mild mannered librarian, is also a poet. He stirs the romantic soul within her and before long she is regularly making the lengthy train journey to and from his house. In fact, the train and the journeys she takes on it are central to the film.

    Chen is anything but a romantic. His creative and romantic spirit is poured directly into his poems leaving little left over to satisfy her needs. Nevertheless, Zhou Yu cannot stop making the journeys to be with him.

    Into this mix comes the more realistic Zhang Qiang (Honglei Sun). He meets Zhou Yu on the train and is likewise enraptured by her. The rest of the film is an examination of the love triangle under pressure as well as a somewhat sombre look at the unfortunate consequences of love and desire.

    So much for the easy part of the plot. Unfortunately, director Zhou Sun, who also contributed to the script writing, overlays the film with a narration as well as a further character, also played by Gong Li, who is likewise in love with Chen. Only more modern clothing and a punky haircut differentiate her from Zhou Yu. She is inspired to find out more about Zhou Yu from the collection of poems that her lover Chen has produced entitled Zhou Yu's Train. Confused? You should be. It is never made clear whether the whole story of Zhou Yu is supposed to be grounded in reality or is a fiction arising from the poems. It also does not help that Zhou Sun's dialogue is spare and unyielding to examination. Frequently we are left scratching our heads as to the motivations of Zhou Yu in deciding between her lovers.

    Still, the film has its attractions. Aside from the beautiful Gong Li and the steady if restrained performances from the other leads, the visual look of the film is quite stunning. This is particularly so in the interior scenes which are beautifully lit and framed but also the exteriors in the Chinese countryside. Zhou Yu's Train is definitely not a film for those who like their cinema clear and to the point. The back cover blurb draws comparison with the Wong Kar Wai films In the Mood for Love and 2046. The comparison to the latter film is fairly apt as it also had a languid sensual tone and a sometimes inscrutable plot. Those who like their romance to be as complex as real life will find much to admire and enjoy in the film.

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Transfer Quality


   Zhou Yu's Train is presented on DVD in a 1.78:1 transfer. It is 16x9 enhanced. I am not certain but this seems close to the original aspect ratio.

    There is no question that the film is beautifully shot and presented on DVD. Director Zhou Sun uses a jerky hand-held camera with jump cuts and numerous slow motion scenes to mix up his film but it is at its most beautiful in the quiet and still moments. There is an exquisitely beautiful scene of Zhou Yu dancing at 7.46 and a crisp luminous scene of her sorting bowls at 59.35 which amply demonstrates the beauty of her image.

    The print itself is not always impeccable. There are some minor artefacts throughout, however you have to be really looking to notice them. There is also some slight edge enhancement on some of the exterior scenes which is only noticeable at a few points such as at 30.50 where the pink halo can be clearly seen around Zhou Yu. There are no other defects in the transfer.

    The English subtitles are clear and easy to read.

    All in all this is a good visual transfer of a beautifully shot film.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


   Zhou Yu's Train is presented with a Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 Kb/s) soundtrack.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand and appears to be in lip sync.

    The original music in Zhou Yu's Train was composed by Shigeru Umebayashi. He contributed the exceptional music for House of Flying Daggers with its unforgettable heart rending themes. Although that film had a very traditional Chinese musical theme, Zhou Yu's Train is almost French in character with a slight carnival undertone. At times it makes the film seem like a French inexplicable love story rather than a Chinese inexplicable love story! Although not as memorable as his effort with Flying Daggers the music is an effective counterpoint to the on-screen action.

    The soundtrack makes good use of the surrounds for subtle ambient effects. The subwoofer also gets a workout with frequent trains pulling past.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The DVD does not come with any extras aside from some film trailers. Interestingly, the trailers for Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary and Fog of War are both superb in their minimalist presentation. However, the theatrical trailer for Zhou Yu's Train is beautiful to look at but has a strange voiceover which acts as a disincentive for anyone seeing it (on another disc) to buy the movie.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The Region 1 version of Zhou Yu's Train appears to be substantially the same except for the presence of different trailers on the DVD.


    Zhou Yu's Train is an interesting if somewhat confusing love story centred round the lovely Gong Li. The film is of great interest to those who love her as an actor or current Asian cinema in general. It may also be of interest to anyone who likes gentle romances, however the disjointed narrative may prove an annoyance.

    The transfer for the film both in audio and visual terms is impressive, particularly in some of the interior shots. The slight edge enhancement on exterior shots could be off-putting once you notice it.

    There are no extras to speak of.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo DV-SP300, using Component output
DisplayNEC PlasmaSync 42" MP4 1024 x 768. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJBL Simply Cinema SCS178 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
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