This latest sublime offering from modern Chinese master Jia Zhangke tells the decades-spanning tale of Qiao, a mobster’s long-suffering lover played by the director’s wife and frequent muse Zhao Tao. Part gritty gangster epic, part sweeping romantic melodrama, the film offers a gratifyingly unpredictable and immersive narrative experience, and positively throbs with empathy for its oft-beleaguered yet formidable heroine. Like much of the auteur’s previous work, it paints a vivid portrait of the turn of the millennium as a seismic moment in Chinese history, which ushered in an era of rampant capitalism with largely destructive consequences. But it’s far from an earnest polemic, entertainingly punctuated as it is with jolts of absurdist humour and surrealism, from a jarring ballroom dance performance at a funeral, to what might be either a UFO sighting or an instance of divine intervention.
Ash is Purest White | Directed by Jia Zhangke (China 2018) with Zhao Tao, Liao Fan. Starts February 28.
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