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606 Ratings

Black Coal, Thin Ice

白日焰火 | Bai Ri Yan Huo

Directed by Diao Yi'nan
China, Hong Kong, 2014
Drama, Crime, Film noir


Small-town detective Zhang recruits his former partner when a series of similar murders to the ones that ended their careers occur fives years later. His investigation soon leads to a laundromat owner, whose gentle, enigmatic demeanor are compelling to Zhang despite her connections to the deaths.

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Black Coal, Thin Ice Directed by Diao Yi'nan
The film is a brilliant instance of genre being deployed as a code that can transcend time and space: by referencing the recognizable features of classical film noir, the movie links two contexts that seem at first to be irreconcilable, making legible the wide, homogenizing reach of capitalism across epochs and cultural borders.
October 22, 2018
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Diao paints light on the dirty snow and frosted glass, the result at times strikingly, starkly beautiful: the sick greenish-yellow of the lights at a nighttime ice rink, the reds and purples of neon signage. Noir was never supposed to be a big-budget genre; it works with what it can get. In snow-coated apartment blocks and industrial landscapes, Black Coal, Thin Ice finds a deep, deadly chill.
March 08, 2018
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Black Coal, Thin Ice is noir stripped so bare that its stark procedural lapses into the abstract, where bleached daytime shots create a purgatory that lapses into the hell of the night, where monochrome contrasts of black skies and icy streets are given a sinister gloss by neon green and fuchsia.
October 01, 2015
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