A Touch of Sin (1/24)

“The Beijing Olympics opened with a dazzling, pyrotechnic ceremony that showed us China as its leaders would like us to see it — a prosperous, unified, modern country that is able to do anything. There is, of course, another, less glamorous China, and that’s the one you see in the work of Jia Zhangke, who may well be the most important filmmaker working in the world today.” — John Powers, NPR

An efficient, narratively explosive polemic from China’s most politically engaged filmmaker — and one so rich with big-screen possibilities that we thought it a crying shame it was slipping away into the night, theatrically speaking. Jia Zhangke, who, up until now, was known for more meditative and languorous work (such as Platform, Unknown Pleasures and Still Life), brings a formal intelligence and patience to a canvas requiring merely half the outrage and bombast that he actually maintains for the film’s dazzling two-and-a-quarter hours. Four unrelated vignettes forcefully dramatize straight-from-the-headlines “bafflements” in which the “little guy” acts out, serving to illustrate the recent epidemic of violence plaguing China in the wake of its transformation from Maoist state into a teeming capitalist free-for-all. It’s steely, clinical, structurally loose, and sometimes ambitious beyond its reach, but it’s also the most invigorating and uncompromising piece of political cinema to emerge in years (let alone from China, where the film remains currently banned!)
Dir. Jia Zhangke, 2013, DCP, 133 min.

Watch the trailer for “A Touch of Sin”!
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