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You can feel the conviction of its director, Jia Zhang-ke — one of the few filmmakers of any nationality who weighs the impact of social and political shifts on people — in every shot. Divided into four main sections, each centered on a different character, the movie opens near a northern town where a man in a green army coat, Dahai an imposing Jiang Wu , has started a solitary campaign against the village chief and the local boss, who have grown rich selling collective property.

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Most of the villagers turn away from Dahai and his protests, laughing and grimacing by turns, seemingly resigned to what some might be called fate. Jia, however, is interested in forces beyond the providential.

A Touch of Sin | BAMPFA

What concerns him are people who, caught in the jaws of historical change, are battered, exploited and dehumanized by others who now value only things, like the private plane that the big boss buys and the Maserati that he parks unlocked in front of his factory. In some movies, such connecting moments can be quasi-mystical and sentimental we are the world and tend to gut whatever political point hovers in the vicinity.

Here, the characters are connected by their existential reality of being alive in contemporary China. Here, high-rises pierce the hazy sky and peasants grow vegetables on riverbanks. Here, high-rises pierce the hazy sky and peasants grow vegetables on riverbanks.

Clip: A Touch of Sin, "Intro" (NYFF51)

His wife looks away; his mother looks through him. This, Mr. Jia seems to be saying, is happening right here, right now. The eruptions of violence, some of it bloody, add to the intensity as do other filmmaking choices. Jia has long blurred the line between fiction and nonfiction through his use of digital cinematography, which helps convey a sense of documentarylike immediacy, and through real locations and nonprofessional performers working alongside trained actors.

Jia — and is having an affair with a married man. Her story opens soon before she gives her lover an ultimatum; in return, he gives her a knife that will find its mark. Perhaps I'm being too critical of Zhangke; his aesthetic is as wonderfully surreal as ever. I think my feeling is simply "and what? The institutions are corrupt and what?


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Obviously, this film is a polemic about China in the 21st century and how its uniquely oppressive economic paradigm effects those on the lowest rungs of its ladder. But maybe the real essence of the film isn't something so particular as "capitalism in 21st century China," but rather an Read more Obviously, this film is a polemic about China in the 21st century and how its uniquely oppressive economic paradigm effects those on the lowest rungs of its ladder.


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But maybe the real essence of the film isn't something so particular as "capitalism in 21st century China," but rather an examination of humanity's failed dominion over its interior nature, the ways in which our primal urges of lust, hatred, control, and desire can spin out in directions that reach beyond our continual efforts at self-domestication. These are stories which outline the contours of our liminal spaces between humanity and passion, showing how small, trivial words or actions, fed by our most elemental emotions, aggregate into tremendous tragedy.

The pictures Zhangke paints are of a 21st century China burdened by gluttonous capitalism, but the colors he uses are of a substance much deeper and more universal. I really enjoyed your comment and wondered about the "and what.

A Touch of Sin

But maybe that's a cop-out. It is totally mesmerizing to watch though! Zoe, you make a good point. The film's existence is certainly a testament to Jia Zhangke's bravery and it probably should be commended for raising this dialogue and bringing it to an international audience. I was likewise entranced but I still feel that the film is too narrow and heavy-handed Read more Zoe, you make a good point. I was likewise entranced but I still feel that the film is too narrow and heavy-handed to move beyond its polemical rhetoric.

An Interview With Jia Zhang-ke

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Kino Lorber. Running Time. Zhangke Jia. Cantonese , Chinese , English , Mandarin. Watch now. Comments 9.

A Touch of Sin

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