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Suzhou River

Poster for the movie "Suzhou River"

Suzhou River (2000)

83 min - Drama, Foreign, Romance - 29 January 2000
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A tragic love story set in contemporary Shanghai. The film stars Zhou Xun in a dual role as two different women and Jia Hongsheng as a man obsessed with finding a woman from his past.

Director:  Lou Ye


A tragic love story set in contemporary Shanghai. The film stars Zhou Xun in a dual role as two different women and Jia Hongsheng as a man obsessed with finding a woman from his past.

Collections: Lou Ye

Genres: Drama, Foreign, Romance


Official Website: 
Country:   China
Language:  普通话
Release Date:  29 January 2000

Box Office

Company Credits

Technical Specs

Runtime:  1 h 23 min

Suzhou River (苏州河): A Cinematic Journey Through Shanghai’s Urban Landscape

Suzhou River (苏州河), a 2000 Chinese romance film written and directed by Lou Ye, is a tragic love story set against the rapidly changing backdrop of contemporary Shanghai. The film features Zhou Xun in a dual role, showcasing her versatile acting skills alongside Jia Hongsheng.

Background and Style

As part of the “Sixth Generation” of Chinese filmmakers, Lou Ye’s work in Suzhou River reflects a gritty and realistic portrayal of urban China. The film’s setting along the Suzhou River, amidst the chaotic riverside architecture, contrasts sharply with the glitzy modernity often associated with Shanghai.

Despite international acclaim, Suzhou River initially faced challenges in China, including a temporary ban on Lou Ye from filmmaking, due to unauthorized screening at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. It has since been authorized for viewing in China.

Plot Synopsis

The narrative unfolds through the eyes of a videographer, Zhang Ming Fan, who falls in love with Meimei (Zhou Xun), a performer at the Happy Tavern. The story then delves into the tale of Mardar (Jia Hongsheng) and Moudan (also played by Zhou Xun), whose lives intertwine with kidnapping, crime, and tragic love.

Influences and Themes

Western critics have noted the film’s stylistic similarities to the works of Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai, particularly in its urban romanticism and cinematography. Additionally, parallels have been drawn to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, with the film’s thematic use of water and obsessive love. The narrative and visual style also echo elements of Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

Chinese film scholar Shelly Kraicer viewed the film as an homage to writer Wang Shuo, particularly in its noir-like depiction of characters living on the fringes of society.

Reception and Impact

Suzhou River was heralded as a significant contribution to the sixth-generation movement in Chinese cinema. Critics lauded its innovative narrative and directorial style, atmospheric conundrum, and homage to film noir. It was celebrated for its visual storytelling, though some critics found the plot less convincing.

The film received high ratings on review aggregators, with Rotten Tomatoes reporting a 91% positive review rate and Metacritic assigning a score of 76, indicating generally favorable reviews.

Awards and Nominations

Suzhou River has been recognized with several awards and nominations, including:

  • Tiger Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, 2000.
  • FIPRESCI Award at the Viennale, 2000.
  • Grand Prix and Best Actress (Zhou Xun) at the Paris Film Festival, 2000.
  • Critics’ Award at Fantasporto, 2002.

Suzhou River stands out as a poignant, visually arresting film that captures the essence of Shanghai’s urban transformation and the complexities of human relationships in a rapidly changing society.