The Wild Goose Lake (2019) Review – Chinese Motorcycle Noir


Chinese films are conventionally known for their action sequences, though they shine underratedly  their depiction of saturated color palette, scene design and stunning (sometimes gore) visuals. In Diao Yinan’s “The Wild Goose Lake,” a stylish neo-noir cinema of saturated colors and astonishing visuals is illustrated. Every single shot of  “The Wild Goose Lake,” seems perfectly composed and lit with explicit attention to details.

Even from the first scene of the film, sparkling with golden filters, and vibrant colors, one can perceive the tone and theme of the film that is going to traverse throughout. Without wasting any moment, it sets up the ground of a Noir Cinema with suspenseful pauses, empty frames, neon lights, reflections, smoke and even an undercurrent of eroticism.

One could constantly feel the urge to pause certain scenes, just to admire its color composition and design. The Wild Goose Lake, gives an admiral suggestion of being similar to Nicolas Winding Refn film, such as Drive (2011).

The Story

The Wild Goose Lake, set in the Chinese city Wuhan, chronicles a small-time gangster , Zhou Zenong (played by Hue Ge).  Zhou accidentally kills a cop while chasing an enemy of the gang, and now is being hunted by both the police forces and hired mobsters with a handsome price on his head. In his hiding, he meets an alluringly mysterious Liu Aiai (Gwei Lun-mei), a compassionate prostitute at a train station, who has a different set of motives that involve Zhou Zenong. But what exactly her motives are, are explained in the film in a complicated series of flashbacks, with a neo-noir-istic conclusion.

Exposition, Composition, and Action.

The Wild Goose Lake, from the very first frame, exposes its theme and the story it is going to follow. The suspenseful background score, hollow pauses with explicit colors and frame exposition, sets the mood for a slow paced thrilling neo-noir film. There are numerous scenes in the films, deliriously choreographed in underground spaces, to hint the viewers about the low-key mobster activities the protagonist is involved in.

The attractive chase scenes between rivalry gang members are shot with a spectrum and trials of color on screen that decorate the canvas. These give a suggestion of Wong-Kar Wai’s Fallen Angel, in terms of these compositions.

The film knowingly complicates the thorny twists and turns, as we go along with the ride, half dazed, half confused, not always sensing there is a destination, simply because the film’s operatic motions and psychedelic colors demand to be accompanied. There are some grueling fight sequences which are grueling yet gore. Specially the last sequences between Zhou Zenong and the mobster, might hint Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, in terms of blood bath and splashing.

Chinese action genres are popularly known for their extravagant, loud and needless action, but “The Wild Goose Lake,” delineate  subtle, raw brawls with realistic chase sequences and pragmatic gun fights. These elements are both stunning yet horrifying and some can leave you tongue-tied.

In The Wild Goose Lake, Yinan creates a scattered world that allures it’s audience to melt and mix in its stunning, riotous glow. If you are looking for an epitome of a Modern Neo-Noir Cinema, “The Wild Goose Lake” wouldn’t disappoint you, but if you can’t handle the slow paced films, please keep the coffee ready, but whatever you do, do see the film, for an experience.

The Wild Goose Lake directed by Diao Yinan is a Chinese Neo-Noir crime thriller released in 2019. It was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. The Wild Goose Lake is streaming on MUBI.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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