Crosscurrent (Yang Chao, 2016): China
Reviewed by Thomas Luke Madenwald at AFI Film Festival Los Angeles, California.
Crosscurrent is the story of a young ship captain navigating many journeys at once. After the death of his father, he finds a book of poetry in the depths of the ship and begins to fall in love with its mysterious and darkly beautiful outlook on life. He takes a risky job to transport a rare fish up the Yangtze River for a very dangerous man in the mob. As his ship slowly moves up the river he begins to deal with many internal and external obstacles such as, grieving over the loss of his father, losing his brother and uncle along the way, the stress of transporting a mysterious cargo, and the strange way the book of poetry he found seems to be telling the story of his journey. The book seems to be a map to a mysterious woman who is the spirit of the river. As he travels deeper and deeper into China, the river becomes the journey into his soul and the the destination of his demise.
The cinematography and sound in this film was by far the best I saw at the 2016 AFI Film Festival, not to mention most of the other films I have ever seen. I could almost see the cinematographer painting before my eyes. I began to be pulled in to the film as the river slowly pulls things up river with its powerful current. There were so many wonderful slow moving shots of things that are struggling. What does that mean? Well every scene gives you the feeling of things struggling and aching to make it to its destination. The way the cargo ships would move slowly across the screen during the twilight of morning reflecting on silver water would gave me the feeling of icebergs or ancient monstrous beings with engine’s churning and moaning, trying to make it to their final resting place.
The color and visuals were so refreshing and unique but all followed the same genre with cool blues and grey/green silvers. This became so familiar that when there would be a single flame or candle light in a shot, it would stand out like and give you the sense that you were watching something Vincent Van Gogh tinkered with.
Taking from the river and the surrounding setting and mood of the film, the director, cinematographer, and editor made the pace of the film that of the boat slowly drugging upriver. As an audience member you really feel as though you are on the boat and slowly starting to be shown what is to come next like seeing the distant outline of the shore becoming visible through the fog of storytelling.