Black Coal, Thin Ice

China and Hong Kong submitted "Bai ri yan huo" (English captions), to the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival. We are in the icy northern Chinese provinces where a disgraced former policeman and his ex- partner turn their attention to the cold case that ended their careers and shamed them.

In this stylish award-winning film noir (Golden Berlin Bear: Diao Yi'nan and Best Actor: Fan Liao, both in the Berlin International Film Festival 2014) we see an intricately crafted script that left us scratching our collective heads.

The original crime eight years ago involved a corpse whose parts showed up in coal plants within a 100-mile radius. From the time of the victim's death until the body parts began showing up, it was impossible for someone to distribute them to all those sites. They failed to solve the crime.

Now body parts are showing up again, this time wearing ice skates! Our hero is compelled to get involved! We watch as he and his old partner shoulder their way back into the investigation. We see shockingly abrupt and violent killings, peculiar behavior, an inscrutable woman who seems near both the old crime and the new one, and a dogged, persistent man working on the case. There are some humorous repetitions that make us smile every time we see them, e.g., that motorbike, but they are few and far between.

Seeing how some of the action took place was very satisfying, but my suspicions changed so many times I got dizzy, and the ending left me with one foot in the air. Aarghhh!