Internationally acclaimed Chinese master Jia Zhangke (The World) won the Best Screenplay prize at Cannes for this startling — and startlingly violent — modern wuxia tale of four outcasts on the margins of a rapidly changing China, who channel their underclass rage into a bloody and murderous rampage.
A Touch of Sin
Chinese master Jia Zhangke continues to resist the reigning vulgarity of the mainstream movie marketplace. After a remarkable immersion in documentary filmmaking that produced such amazing works as Useless, 24 City, and I Wish I Knew — all shown at the Festival — Jia returns to fiction with a genre-bending film that has roots in traditional tea-house storytelling. In A Touch of Sin (which was awarded Best Screenplay this year at Cannes), he confronts China's extreme social changes with a daring aesthetic, drawing inspiration from real-life events to compose a visually arresting, emotionally disturbing fresco of the underprivileged.
His portrait of China unfolds in four chapters, following an episodic structure that seems to adopt the brevity and concision of weibo (China's Twitter-like microblogs). The film unveils the tragic destiny of four sinners from four different provinces: a miner (Jiang Wu) who takes revenge on a corrupt village chief; a gun-loving migrant worker (Wang Baoqiang) who shoots his way to easy money; a modest sauna receptionist (Zhao Tao) who, humiliated by a client, turns into a fierce, dagger-wielding goddess; and an abused youth (Luo Lanshan) who endures long working hours and all manner of psychological violence.
A fascinating mix of social realism and
contemporary kung fu, A Touch of Sin
invents a new form of martial arts cinema:
filmic tai chi for the poor of this world,
those who have learned to turn abuse into
willingness to fight injustice.
Special thanks to The Japan Foundation, Toronto