Weaving together four stories of people living in different Chinese provinces, this drama follows a miner protesting corruption, a migrant worker with a gun, a factory drone always drifting to a new job and a receptionist who’s been assaulted.
Jia Zhangke, famed for his reserved portraits of modern China, made a sudden switch, combining arthouse neorealism and bloody kung-fu vengeance into an angry political firebomb. Highly controversial—the Chinese government tried to suppress it—it won Best Screenplay at Cannes.
A more recent second viewing corrected my initial misimpression. In fact, the adoption by Zhao Tao of familiar wuxia poses after stabbing a sauna customer who’s been slapping her with a wad of bills for not prostituting herself is clearly designed to function as a Brechtian ‘baring of the device’ at the same time that it functions as an absurd fulfillment of the usual genre expectations. That is, it simultaneously invites our applause and makes us feel ashamed and/or embarrassed for applauding.
Tarantino and his fawning critics aggrandise comic-book style and comic-book-style morality into an impoverished, hypocritical conception of ‘art’; Jia artfully uses moments of comic-book amplification to heighten real-world ills, real-world injustices and the sometimes explosive but finally impotent rage of people trapped within a real world made distorted and grotesque by the predations of the powerful.
incredible depiction of corruption in undemocratic countries like China, Russia and Turkey. shows how "things work". Besides its admirable direction, the thing that struck me the most is the realism depicted in murder scenes. usually characters say some last words or some overly-dramatic action take place, whereas here, he just pulls the trigger. no dramatization, no last lines, just doing what you came to do.
A history of violence shaped by popular culture. Jia carefully contrasts the past with the future, the traditional with the modern, only to find that the nature of revenge has always been the same. Cultural wuxia heroes share the same stage as the petty thieves of 21st century China. His greatest film since Platform.
One of the most anti-capitalist of modern films, Zhang-ke (1st I've seen by him) is a bold filmmaker & to do what he did within China's censorship laws is incredible. It's interesting to think of this as one of those stupid 'hyperlink' movies that were so popular at the turn of the century. Unlike those ones, this is tied together by an over-arching theme (the failures of capitalism) & doesn't pontificate on nothing.
Nope, this is not a good film. It rarely happens, but I actually turned it off, because it wasn't convincing at all. Bad actors, unconvincing acting and surprisingly terrible for Jia. Too much mainstream perhaps.
Certainly one of the most important films I have watched from this millennium. Alienation, poverty, misery, corruption, all flows to an inevitable explosion of violence, reflecting the enormous social gaps of China. A complex expression of Marxism in cinema, "A Touch of Sin" is one of the most despairing films, reminding one of such subversive directors such as Fassbinder or John Carpenter. Everyone should watch it.
Daring in execution this four-part meditation on violence, wealth, dignity and identity is slightly uneven but never dull. Each thread weaves together seamlessly and pitched against the cold detachment of news today, Jia Zhangke demonstrates through an emotional, immersive and personal approach that arthouse film as social critique is potent and far from dead. 3.5 stars
dense reassuring cinema that never ceases to amaze / zhangke reinvents himself inserting his recurrent motives and symbols into completely new narrative patterns changing the rhythm and pace of his previous movies, expanding his visual geography but preserving the core - his sharp gaze of a documentarian, contemplative sensibility and queen of understatement zhao tao / in 4 words cinema of the future