Seafood (2001)

Rating: B-

Dir: Zhu Wen
Star: Jinzi, Cheng Tai Sheng

This feels almost like two films joined at the knees. The majority of the film is about an unnamed prostitute – well, she has names, we’re just not sure of her real identity – who heads to the seaside to commit suicide in the depths of winter. A local cop stops her, albeit by the crudest of tactics, at one point threatening to come back and rape her corpse. She changes her mind, and the two begin an odd relationship. Then suddenly, at the end, she’s back in Beijing as a working girl. Is it a flash-back? A flash-forward? Hard to say, but either way, it doesn’t connect with the rest of the movie at all.

For a film in which precious little actually happens, this is surprisingly engrossing – though this calmness adds impact to the moments when something does. It’s shot throughout with humour of the darkest sort; the finale has the heroine trying to spend a counterfeit bill, and you won’t believe where she found it. This end section has a lot of unrealised potential, with many possible alarms and excursions, but you get the feeling the director isn’t really interested. It contrasts markedly to the seaside scenes, which achieve an almost Zen-like state of stillness and emptiness. The landscape is sparsely populated and blanketed with snow – it’s every bit as harsh as the characters who inhabit this emotional desert.