Zhang's follow-up to Rainclouds over Wushan is again set on the Yangtze River, an area that will be flooded when the Three Gorges Dam is completed. Six twenty-somethings convene for a summer weekend on the river; four are old schoolfriends (one guy still works locally as a cop, the others now live in Beijing) and the group includes two couples. The cop, whose marriage is in trouble, feels out of place and takes off early, promising to return with the boat later to pick them up. While he's away, the group falls apart: an unsigned billet doux provokes paranoia and jealousy, one couple breaks up and one woman goes missing. Zhang planned this as a thriller and had to rethink/rewrite it extensively when his script didn't pass censorship; the surviving mystery elements are actually the weakest links in a rather striking group-portrait of China's emerging middle-class, riven by insecurities and backbiting. The cool, distanced visuals, the unhurried pacing and the missing girl motif inevitably recall L'Avventura - by no means to the film's detriment.
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