Ash Is Purest White (2018)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB

Original title:  Jiang hu er nü

China/France/Japan, 2018.  Arte France Cinema, Beijing Runjin Investment, Huanxi Media Group, MK2 Productions, Office Kitano, Shanghai Film Group, Xstream Pictures.  Screenplay by Zhangke Jia.  Cinematography by Eric Gautier.  Produced by Shozo Ichiyama, Nathanael Karmitz.  Music by Giong Lim.  Production Design by Weixin Liu.  Film Editing by Matthieu Laclau.  

The changing face of rural China is examined in this superb experience by Jia Zhangke, who once again pits human drama against socioeconomic development, but with far more impressive results than his previous effort ***Mountains May Depart.

The master filmmaker’s outstanding muse, ***Zhao Tao, gives one of her career best performances as Qiao, a woman whose boyfriend Bin (***Liao Fan) is a gangster of sorts for a corrupt real estate tycoon in their economically depressed town.  After his boss is murdered, Bin becomes head of the operation until a violent showdown (one of the most impressive action sequences Jia has yet filmed) gets Qiao thrown in the clink on her lover’s behalf.

When she is released five years later, she relies on her wits to get her across the country to find him before they end up back in their own town, which in 2018 is something quite different from what she knew in 2001.

Told in a series of small dramatic arcs that never permit one knowing where the story is going next, this mesmerizing film maintains an even tone throughout whose tight control never wavers.

Cannes Film Festival:  In Competition

Toronto International Film Festival:  2018

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