Warsaw 2013 Review: TRAP STREET Is A Thought-Provoking Gem Of Chinese New Wave
All those who've been closely watching the gradual evolution of Chinese cinema over the course of the last ten years must've realized by now that the country's directors are tackling all the more controversial topics with less fear and more confidence, mostly to stunningly spot-on results. The Chinese new wave is at the peak of popularity all over the world right now and Trap Street is a film that only confirms this trend in an utterly convincing way, even more when one realizes that it's a directorial debut of a woman who's previously worked only in production. Because it's a film that uncovers a ridiculously serious yet deeply concealed problem, it's been shown only in places outside China and even the producer during the Q&A said that he isn't sure whether the movie will have its Chinese premiere or not.
It starts off as a story of a boy meets girl. The boy named Li Qiuming (Yulai Lu), a jaunty surveyor, spots a beautiful girl (Wenchao He) during one of his days on the job in the heart of Shanghai. Immediately, along with the main character the viewer is able to feel a deeply mysterious aura that surrounds the woman, making her all the more attractive, a sort of femme fatale for the modern times. He sees Guan only for a brief moment, but tries to find her no matter what, and when he does he still doesn't realize how dangerous that encounter might actually turn out to be. While he falls in love with the woman he still isn't aware that some strange people are watching his every move.
It's a very mysterious and engaging film, one that changes it focus throughout its 1,5 hour time, and does it with utmost precision, so as not to mess up the final effect. Though at first the mystery concerning the titular trap street, which isn't showing on any GPS devices is only a sub-plot to a enjoyable love story, the tone shifts to a darker one in the third act, assaulting the audience with an intense interrogation footage that might give the shivers even to regular thriller fans. The narrative becomes even more beguiling due to the fact that that neither the main character nor the audience can enter the mystical place called Lab 23. Vivian Qu build up a really clever plot, and a poignant one at that, and while it's easy to be fooled by the love story's rather light-hearted vibe, the intensity with which the thrilling part hits the screen is a remarkable one.
Trap Street's straightforward approach to the harsh reality in 21st century China is as courageous as it is terrifying. There's one scene that perfectly represents the main idea behind the movie, a sort of thrilling political commentary on the ongoing situation in China. While in the middle of his other job, Li looks for a hidden camera in one hotel room and consciously breaks the fourth wall, looking straight into the eyes of the viewer as if to communicate that we're all being watched all the time and everywhere we go, and there's nothing we can do about it. And mind you this doesn't apply only to the Chinese viewers. The character's risky yet much needed part-time job later comes back to haunt him right after he himself becomes the victim of the powerful system. Following a rough interrogation session he is once again reconnected with the girl of his dreams, yet it's hard to say if their relationship will last, given the fact that his camera-related phobia starts to rule his daily life. Leaving the ending open to interpretation only confirms that Vivian Qu is a director that everyone should know and follow closely in the years to come.
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