Black Coal, Thin Ice

Two former cops start investigating the series of murders that tanked their careers when the killings begin again.


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  • ★★★★½ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd

    Diao Yinan’s startlingly bleak new film, as well-directed a noir as any this side of Chinatown, begins with a sequence in which a man’s severed arm makes its way from the back of a truck to the black river of a conveyer belt in a coal factory in northern China. When an attentive worker finally spots the errant limb, the machinery is shut down just before any damage can be done to the equipment or the company that owns it. In Black Coal, Thin Ice, men are practically invisible until they interfere with business, and women completely so until they interfere with men.


  • ★★★★ review by YI JIAN on Letterboxd

    Black Coal, Thin Ice (Actual translation is "Daylight Fireworks". Nevertheless, both are equally good names.) is a film so so so so so so so so beautifully shot, but suffers from a poor pace. At times I find it hard to follow the plot, part of the reason is because of the pacing, but mostly because I often got lost in the breathtaking cinematography. I had to replay a lot of scenes just to admire them again. I mean, look at that poster for christ's sake, what a work of art!

    (edit: aw they changed it.)

    Before going into Black Coal, I thought it would be a film similar to Joon-Bong Ho's Memories of Murder, turns out it's completely different. It's not even a police procedural film, more like a dark love story, and a great one at that. Did I mention it's incredibly well-shot? Oh yeah I did. Anyway, the camera work is superb. Wait, I'm just repeating myself here. Time to end the review.

    Noir-vember Film #15

  • ★★★★ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd

    like a chinese MEMORIES OF A MURDER with an oblique focus on gender... what a dense, magnificently directed piece of work. so eager to revisit and solve this thing.

  • ★★★★ review by Thomas Ringdal on Letterboxd

    A detective refuses to let go of a case, long after it's become cold, to the extent he is forced to leave his job to get his final chance to uncover the truth about what happened when several dismembered bodies were found in coal plants around the country five years ago.

    At times, Black Coal is a bit incoherent, and some events that seemed pretty major to me are left unexplored further. Takes a que from Korean cinema and adds some brilliant moments of comedy in an otherwise pretty bleak story, as well as some oddities that seem more at home in a Hal Hartley (or Claire Denis if you will, yes I'm referring to dancing) film than a Chinese noir.

    As for noir elements, there's people down on their luck, femmes not to be trusted, abuse of alcohol, alienation and the cinematography is a high point.

    The pace might have been just a tiny bit too fast for me, and it doesn't help much that you as the audience are left putting a lot of the pieces together by yourself, but it had a vibe I connected with, as I tend to to with noirs, and an ending so completely out of the blue yet at the same time in tact with the rest of the film I just had to smile. Plus, the female lead looks like what I'd imagine Judy Greer would have, if she'd been Chinese. That kind of distracted me on more than one occasion. A film that will benefit further upon rewatch, preferably not at 10 in the morning in a foreign country.

  • ★★★½ review by matt lynch on Letterboxd

    this has the same specters of capital and loneliness i find in a lot of classic American noir, and is equally populated with characters and places left behind by a culture that insists on moving forward just as fervently as those abandoned wish they could stay in the past.

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