Suzhou River (2000) - full transcript

The river Suzhou that flows through Shanghai is a reservoir of filth, chaos and poverty, but also a meeting place for memories and secrets. Lou Ye, who spent his youth on the banks of the Suzhou, shows the river as a Chinese Styx, in which forgotten stories and mysteries come together. Mardar, a motorcycle courier in his mid-twenties, rides all over the city with all kinds of packages for his clients. He knows every inch and is successful thanks to the fact that he never asks questions. One day he is asked by a shady alcohol smuggler to deliver his sixteen-year-old daughter, Moudan, to her aunt. Mardar and Moudan grow fond of each other. But their tender happiness is disrupted when Moudan thinks that Mardar has kidnapped her for a ransom. She is so disappointed in him that she jumps off the bridge into the Suzhou River. Mardar is now suspected of murder. When a couple of years later he comes out of jail, he meets the dancer Meimei, an alter-ego of Moudan, and becomes fascinated by her.

If I leave you someday…

…would you look for me? Like Mardar?


Would you look for me forever?


Your whole life?


You're lying.

I like to take my camera to the Suzhou River…

…and just drift along, West to East…

…through Shanghai.

There's a century worth

of stories here and rubbish…

…which makes it the filthiest river.

Many people live here anyway

making a living on the river.

They spend their whole lives here.

Look, you can see them.

If you watch it long enough,

the river will show you everything.

It will show you people working…

…it will show you friendship…

…families, love…

…and loneliness as well.

And there was a time that

I witnessed a birth of a baby on a barge

Once a girl jumped to her death
from a bridge outside my window.

I saw the bodies of two young lovers

being dragged out the water by the police.

As for love,

As for love, I could tell you

that I saw a mermaid once…

…sitting on the muddy bank,

combing her golden hair.

But I'd be lying.


"Video Service pager: 64576688 call 1998"

Videographer, that's me.

Pay me and I'll shoot it.

You can see my pager number on any street-corner.

Pay me and I shoot anything.

Weddings, parties…

…I'll even shoot you pissing or making love…

…if that's what you want.


Don't complain.

…what you see.

Cameras don't lie.

That's what I told the owner of the Happy Tavern.

I hadn't had a job for some time…

…when he paged me and said
he had something special for me.

What do you want?

Your boss wants to see me.

Go ahead.

Are you the boss?

So you're the videographer.

Come and sit down.

Go ahead, sit down.

Two beers.

What I'm after… I'm pursuing that kind of…

The feeling I want is totally…

You get it, right?

It doesn't look special now…

In a minute!

I know.



He chatted with me for hours

and I realized that

He wanted me

to shoot his mermaid show…

…to help bring in customers.

I don't believe in mermaids…

…but then I saw her…

Her name was Meimei.

She's the mermaid.

I fell in love the first time I saw her in the water.

She gave me her pager number…


I could call her if I miss her.

I did call her…

…and we started going out.

Page 26089 twice please.

Tell her to come to Huang He Road as soon as possible.


I didn't know anything about Meimei's past.

She didn't say, and I never asked.

I just liked to look at her, and video her.

She didn't mind.

And soon we were spending all of our time together.

But sometimes she'd suddenly get sad.

I had no idea why.


she'd disappear for days

without a word…

…and then she'd show up again…

…as if nothing had happened.

It drove me crazy.

Every time she disappeared…

…I thought it'd be the last time I ever saw her.


Every time she closed the door behind her…

…I felt as if my life had stopped.


Page 26089.

To tell her…

I would stay on my balcony,
watching the people outside my window.

Waiting for Meimei to return.

Until I would see her

crossing the bridge,

I loved her way of walking with her hands crossed.

We'd have a drink

We'd have a drink on the balcony

and then she would leave.

I have to go.

Don't be late.

But if she had one too many,

she'd always ask me,

if she left one day…

…and didn't come back,
would I look for her, like Mardar did?

I asked her, who's Mardar?

She told me a story about Mardar,

a motorbike courier who spent his life…

…looking for this girl he had loved and lost.

She said that everyone

should have a love story like that.

I could make one up too.

The motorcycle courier. Mardar.

He made a little money

making deliveries in Shanghai.

Maybe he rode past my window on his way home…

…to watch his favourite pirate videos,

which is what he did…

…all night.

That's his life.

What else?

Let me think.

He's about 26 or 27.

His past…

Could be…

Mardar dropped out of school

and started hanging around the river…

…with other people without anything to do.

One day a friend drives up on

a stolen motorcycle.

She runs great.


Max speed 160.

Pretty fast.

Soft accelerator. Like a dream.

Can I try it?

Be careful.

Be careful.

Slowly! Be careful!

Ease up on the clutch!

Mardar loves it so much…

…he buys it.

He thought he would go far on it…

…make something of himself.

He never thought…

…he'd end up a motorcycle courier.

Shanghai is swarming with so many delivery boys

that you hardly notice them.

But Mardar stood out.

Girls liked him because he was good looking.

His clients liked him because he kept his mouth shut.

Mardar used to go to a bar

to meet Xia-Ho…

…who gave him a lot of business.

Hi, Mardar.

The usual?

How's it going? Busy?

Same as ever.


That's Xia-Ho, there.

This time the job was different.

This time the delivery was a girl,


I think I saw her.

Is her hair braided?

Carrying a backpack?

She's walking

towards the Suzhou Road.

What's wrong?

Where do you want me to sit?

How about sitting in front of me?

I'd prefer to sit here.

Close your jacket.

Not like that.

Swing your leg over.

Hold on tight.

Moudan's father was a well-known dealer…

…who made a fortune dealing in

buffalo grass vodka from Eastern Europe.

After his divorce,
there were only two things he loved:

alcohol and women.

Every time he brought home a new girlfriend,

he'd call Mardar…

…to take Moudan to her aunt's,
to get her out of the way.

What are you looking at?

Watching you.

Why watching me?

Can't I watch you?

You always drive your bike so slowly?

- Anything wrong with that? - It's boring.

- Why? - It's just boring.

When you ride a bike you should do it for real.

How should I drive it?

Like Schwarzenegger. Or at least Matt Dillon.

- I don't drive like him? - Not at all.

I don't think you'd be able to take it if I drove fast.

It's you who can't take it.

- OK, let's do it. - Why not?

Let's go.

Let's go.



- Did you get paid? - Yes.

Thank you.

But Mardar and Moudan found they liked each other.

Moudan loved riding on Mardar's motorbike…

…and always got him to take detours

so she could stay with him longer.

Then, one day…

It was her birthday.

Mardar gave her a mermaid doll.

They spent the whole day together…

…and got drunk on a bottle of vodka.

She stole it from her father.

Mardar had never seen a girl

as happy as Moudan that day.

- Thanks. - Thank you.

A boy and a girl who hardly know
each other sit next to each other.

What happens next?


Love, of course.

Where are we going? I don't want to go home yet.

- Where do you want to go? - What?

- Where do you want to go? - I don't know.

The movies?


The bar?


Where do you want to go?

To your place.

I want to go to your place! Did you hear me?

But you always appear

In the rainy nights

There are no stars

There is no light

But your face always appears in my dreams

I wish you would be here

You're always like the wind

Blowing by.

But the story is not so simple.

There's more to it.

Maybe Mardar's not simply a courier.

What if Xia-Ho has some criminal connections?

And what if she and Mardar had been lovers?

You did well, Mardar.

Right, so what do you want next.

Trust me.

Why should I trust you?

Play with open cards. No secrets.

You don't trust me? Then I don't trust you.

Forget it.

What I actually mean is…

Mardar and I want out share.

Did I say anything else?

After that night, Mardar avoided Moudan.

He didn't answer her calls. He wouldn't see her.

Until one rainy night…

You only let me stay when I'm drunk.

You like me, don't you?

That's why you don't want to see me.

What is your problem? What's taking you so long?

- I haven't had the right chance. - The right chance?

- You love her, don't you? - Don't be ridiculous!

Ridiculous? Just do it.

What are you quarrelling about?

Come in.

You. Barber. Out of here.

Here's the plan.

Her father's got a new girl on Wednesday.

He'll send Moudan to her aunt's, as usual.

Take her to the building in the Kuan-Fu Road.

Keep her there.

Wait for my call. That's it.

After that, you can do whatever you like.

I know you're involved with this girl.

Maybe we shouldn't trust you.

And what if I don't want to do it now?

Don't push your luck.

The girl is rather pretty, isn't she?

You do like her, don't you?

Whats wrong with you?


One evening he got her drunk…

…and took her to the Kuan-Fu Road.

Where are we going?

What is this place?

Sit down.

Let's go to your place.

We're not going anywhere.

Sit down!

You can speak to her, but if you call the police she's dead.

Just leave the money as I told you…


Hold on.

You're good at singing, right? Sing something for him.


Hurry up!

But your face always appears in my dreams…


Do as you're told and nothing will happen to her.

We're rich!

- How much did you get for me? - What?

- How much did you get for me? - 45 thousand.

45 thousand. I'm that cheap?


I'm that cheap!

Where are you going?

Leave me alone!

Where are you going?

Leave me alone!

Come back!

Leave me alone!

Are you crazy? Come back.

You lied. You don't like me at all.

Don't move or I'll jump!

So you can be baited too!

Do you think I'll jump or not?

I will come back as a mermaid,

and I will find you again!

I remember reading an article about it

in the paper.

The papers were full of the mermaid story for weeks.

For a while,

every boatman in Shanghai

claimed to have seen Moudan…

…or the Mermaid.

Mardar went to jail for a few years.

When he got out…

…he disappeared for a while…

…wandering from city to city.

Finally he came back to Shanghai.

No one knew what had happened to him.

People just thought…

…that he had gone crazy

because he couldn't forget about Moudan.

He started as a courier again…

…criss crossing the city from morning to night…

…just so he could keep looking for Moudan.

He asked everyone he met…

…but no one knew what had happened to her.

- You're new here. - Yes.

Did you know Xia Ho? She used to own the place.

No. I heard she was dead.


They say some guy called Lao B killed her. Over money.

- Do you know Lao B? - No

- You? - No.

He's dead too.

The police were chasing him

and he jumped off the roof.

- He's dead too? - Yes.

And then? That's the end, I suppose.

Not much of a love story…

…but I don't know how to go on with it.


…Mardar can finish telling his story himself.

"Video Service pager: 64576688 call 1998"




OK, I'll be there in a minute.

I know. No problem.



What are you looking at? Something funny?

Wait a minute. I'll buy you another beer!

Happy Tavern

It's a pretty wild crowd.

Locker Room

Be careful.

- Bye. - Bye.



No, thank you.

- What do you want? - You.

Who the hell are you?

Mardar. Don't you remember me?

- Sorry, I don't. - What happened to you?

OK, that's enough.

- Meimei. - Coming.

I've had enough of creeps like you. Piss off.

On your way! Get going!

Get going!

On your way!

You've made a mistake. I don't do 'extras'.

I don't want anything.

Why are you following me?

Get lost or I'll call the police!

But what happened to you?

What do you mean?

I've been looking for you ever since I got out of jail.

So what do you want?

Don't worry. I'm not dangerous. I'm not drunk.

So you want a drink now?

- Do you? - No, I don't.

Shall I drink with you? No problem.

Your turn.

I don't want a drink! I just want to ask you…

Listen, we knew each other before.

We were on the bridge…

I didn't lie to you.

I'm not lying now.

You were Moudan…


Sorry to disappoint you. But you're wrong.

Something is wrong with you. What's the matter?

- Nothing. I just have a show tonight.
- You don't have to go.


- I can't. - Please.

- Alright. - Fine.

I have to go.


- That night, - Where were you?

Meimei led Mardar to me.

What's the matter?

He told me that Meimei was Moudan,
the girl he had been looking for.

A few years ago I knew a girl.

She looked exactly like Meimei.

It's true.

Her name was Moudan.

She jumped from a bridge…

…into the river…

…and never came back.

They never found her body.

I'm telling you this because she looked exactly like Meimei.

Exactly the same.


You're wrong.

I've known Meimei for a long time.

She's my girlfriend.

Meimei is my girl.

She is not Moudan.

OK. I'll leave.

The boss told me

that Mardar kept going to see Meimei at the bar.

He went to her dressing room after the show…

…and told her all…

…about Moudan and himself.

Every detail.

How Moudan liked to wear press-on tattoos
of flowers on her leg…

…how she liked to paint her fingernails blue.

I picked her up at her door.

That is the first We met.

Every night,

- Second time we met. - the same story…

And she took out a bottle of Vodka and a mermaid.

I took her to a derelict building.

It had huge holes in the floor…

…and no toilet.

She was scared, I think.

The next day, when I was about to set her free…

…she asked me how much we got for her.

I told her 45 thousand.

She ran off, shouting that she was worth more than that.

I jumped into the river after her but couldn't find her.

They never found her.

What did she look like?

Like you.

But she always wore her hair in two pony-tails…

…like a little girl.

And? What else?

And she had a press-on tattoo…

…on her left leg.


They sell those everywhere. Lots of girls have them.

- Do you have one on your leg? - No. I'm not your Moudan.

Even if I do have one…

- I don't believe you. - You don't?

You want to see for yourself?

Am I the girl you are looking for?

Am I the girl you are looking for?

What's wrong? Tell me what's wrong.

Has something happened?

Say something. Is it over?

Are we finished?


Or should we have sex first?

Wait, please.

Don't touch me.

Love is a nightless city, memories are stars

Tears are warm, feelings are cold

He lost his heart to another girl

It hurts

Whole nights alone

The sun like a light in my room…

If the ending is the same

why bother to think again

If wounds let people grow

Why am I afraid of breaking up

Relief is admitting that it was a mistake

I should let it go

You have the freedom to go
and I have the freedom to live well

Come on! We are running late!

Relief is to dry the tears and moving on

Find a new direction

The world is wide
and I would someday realize a dream.

Beer, please.

If the end is the same

why bother to think again

If wounds let people grow

Why am I afraid of letting go

Relief is admitting the old mistake

I should let it go

You have the freedom to go
and I have the freedom to live well

A crave for bravery sprouting in my mind

Worry no more, those who love me

Relief is admitting that it was a mistake

I should let it go

let it go

I have the freedom to live well

What are you doing?

Hit him!

What are you doing?

You're killing him!

A few days later, Mardar came to see me again.

He ranted for a long time.

He knew it was me who had him beaten up…

…but he wasn't angry.

If I would let him go on looking for Moudan…

…he would give Meimei back to me.

What was he talking about?
The bastard messed up my life…

…but still had the nerve to smoke my cigarettes…

…drink my vodka…

…and keep me up all night

with his nonsense about love.

I'm going to go away for a while.

Do you think Moudan is still alive?

I feel she is still alive,

somewhere in the city.

I need to keep looking for her.

But what about Meimei and you?

Meimei told me a lot about her feelings.

She loves nobody but you.


…she didn't tell me directly that she loves you.

But I know Meimei's feelings.

The next day the Happy Tavern was closed down.

And suddenly it was
as if none of this had ever happened.

No Happy Tavern, no boss…

…no Meimei…

…no Mardar.

Some time later,

a courier delivered a strange package.

Inside was a bottle of buffalo grass vodka

and a note from Mardar.

It said:

'Thank you. You let me find her.'

'Now I can tell you the end of the story.'

'I found her in a 24 hour shop out in the suburbs.'

'I had heard they sold buffalo grass vodka.'

'The vodka found Moudan for me.'

Can I help you?

Do you have wild buffalo grass vodka?

Yes, we have. That's 175.


Take me home.

The knocking on the door brought me
out of my daydream.

I didn't know when it had started raining again.

- Can you come with us please, sir. - Yes.

It was the police.

They wanted me to identify a body.

It happened not far from the bridge
where Moudan had jumped.


They told me that the guy was a courie

and the girl worked in a 24 hour shop.

over there

They were drunk on buffalo grass vodka.

keep out of the way

I was scared

keep out of the way

to see the bodies

Recognise this guy?

but it was Mardar.

They found my address and telephone number on him.

Next to him was a girl

who looked exactly the same Meimei.

I couldn't believe it wasn't her…

I needed to see her…

I saw Meimei on her houseboat.

She knew nothing. I told her what had happened.

She was shocked but insisted on seeing for herself.

There's been an accident. Mardar is dead.

Let go off me.

I thought it was just a story.

I didn't think Moudan really existed.

I thought he was lying. I thought it was me he wanted.

But he wasn't lying…

He never lied.


If I left you…

…would you look for me? Like Mardar?




Your whole life?


You're lying.

Things like that…

…only happen in love stories.

You don't believe me?

No, I don't.

Do you mean it?

On that rainy day on Meimei's houseboat…

…we were together again. Like old times.

I sat up all night watching old videos
I had shot of her.

In the morning, I went back to see her.

There was so much…

…I wanted to say to her.

But I was too late.

She was gone.

"Find me if you love me"

It was the best damn drink I'd ever had.

It reminded me of the days I had with Meimei.

If she hadn't run away,

maybe we'd be drinking together now, like we used to.

Floating down the Suzhou River to the sea.

The sun would come out…

…and the river would be clear and full of fish.

I could run after her, look for her like Mardar.

I could go back to my balcony…

…and wait for her to appear on the bridge,
walking with her hands crossed…

…and then this love story of mine might go on.

But I won't because nothing lasts forever.

So I'll just take another drink and close my eyes…

…waiting for the next story to start.