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ZHOU YU'S TRAIN
aka ZHOU YU DE HUO CHE
USA: Sony Pictures Classics
Cast: Gong Li, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Sun Hong Lei, Li Zhixiong
Director: Sun Zhou
Countries: China / Hong Kong
Language: Mandarin (English subtitles)
USA: 97 mins
USA Rated: PG-13 for sexuality
USA Release Date: 16 July 2004 (Limited Release)
Zhou Yu (Gong Li) is an artisan living in Sanming, an industrial town in north-western China. Twice a week, she takes the train to rural Chongyang to visit her lover, a shy, handsome poet named Chen Ching (Tony Leung Ka Fai). Inspired by Zhou's beauty, Chen has crafted a series of poems for her, which has only drawn her closer to this quiet, gentle man. On one trip to see him, she encounters a friendly young veterinarian, Dr Zhang Jiang (Sun Hong Lei), who tries to purchase one of Zhou's ceramic vases - a gift intended for Chen that she throws to the ground rather than sell to a persistent Zhang. As the shards of the vase shatter on the floor of the train, we see the pieces of Zhou's romantic life with Chen - their first chance encounter at a dance where Chen gives her a beautiful poem before disappearing; her return to Chongyang to pursue him; their hungry lovemaking in the library where Chen works and lives; and the rush of passion as, despite the expense and inconvenience, Zhou returns to the countryside again and again to sate her restless heart. She speaks of selling family heirlooms in order to help Chen publish his poetry, and uses her savings to set up a public reading that no one attends.
By the time she meets Dr Zhang - an eager suitor younger and much more worldly than the sheltered Chen - Zhou has begun to realize that despite their passion, Chen does not know what kind of future he wants with Zhou. Desperate for proof of her lover's affection, Zhou walks along the rural train tracks searching for a lake that Chen compared her to in his first poem. Zhang, concerned for her safety, tags along, and urges her that whether or not she finds the lake, she must trust the passion in her heart. Although Zhang's intentions are clear, Zhou embraces him as a trusted friend. She remembers her last encounter with Chen - he has decided to take a teaching post in Tibet, effectively putting their relationship on hold. Unbeknownst to Zhou, Chen has lied to her about when he has to leave, and is already far away when she arrives again in Chongyang to see him.