A man and a woman meet. Pouring rain, a desolate corner of the city, a cigarette that flares in the dark. He is the leader of a gang, she a prostitute with hazy allegiances. Director Diao Yi’Nan leaves no room for doubt in the opening scene of The Wild Goose Lake: this is film noir. Like the classic noirs that ripped open the nihilistic underbelly of the USA post-World War II, Diao shows us the debauchery of contemporary China by putting his characters on a road to nowhere.
Although Diao reunites the lead actors from his Golden Bear-winning previous film Black Coal, Thin Ice, he sets a new course with this highly stylised successor. The plot is simple – the criminal, the prostitute, on the run from everything and everyone – but here it is all deliberately messed up until it becomes almost abstract. We have to stay on our toes as Diao beats us around the head with one bloody, neon-lit visual tour de force after another.