Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Indiewire logo

Jia Zhang-ke's "A Touch of Sin" Divides Critics, Adds Bloodshed to Critique of Capitalist China

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik May 16, 2013 at 9:22PM

Jia Zhang-ke's latest "A Touch of Sin" is dividing critics in Cannes, but the bigger surprise is that Chinese officials haven't censored the film. This more mainstream depiction of Jia's trademark themes of dislocation, alienation, and social and economic inequality in the "new" China will only get further potential international play and more attention, given the film's genre elements.
0

Jia Zhang-ke's latest "A Touch of Sin" is dividing critics in Cannes, but the bigger surprise is that Chinese officials haven't censored the film. This more mainstream depiction of Jia's trademark themes of dislocation, alienation, and social and economic inequality in the "new" China will only get further potential international play and more attention, given the film's genre elements.

Jia


The first trade reviews from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter suggest that Jia has gone a bit off the deep end, and yet, the film continues to convey, "in arresting detail," writes David Rooney, "assembly-line industrial communities, bleak mining towns [and] the crumbling remnants of China’s past."

With a beleaguered coal-miner, a receptionist, a factory worker, and a younger itinerant worker, Jia's cross-section of lost, lonely and ultimately violent working-class Chinese citizens certainly falls in line with much of his previous work. (When I interviewed the director in 2008, he told me, "It's almost like China is eating its tail. It's going forward, but what it gets in return is disproportionate to what it loses.") And as I wrote last week in a column on MoMA's "Chinese Realities" series, "A Touch of Sin" also seems to mirror the documentary subjects coming out of contemporary China, which often focus on "the once industrious citizens of Mao’s China who are now unemployed, alienated and disenfranchised."

That these same workers are finally propelled to respond with violence to oppression is a major turning point in Jia's work, and perhaps a more lurid turn for China's Sixth Generation realist filmmakers. In Variety, Justin Chang acknowledges the shift, and yet, considers it might be a logical move, with some viewers seeing the film as making "explicit the convulsive undercurrents present in his work all along, exploring the extreme consequences of local corruption and neglect, rampant greed, poor labor conditions and countless other social ills fueled by China’s economic miracle."

Given that these concerns are now writ large--and in bloodshed--one wonders how long the Chinese government will support the film.

Follow us

E-Mail Updates



Recent Comments

By Tony: I saw this with my girlfriend. She was completely taken in by it. This movie is no better than a soap opera. Absolute drivel, pandering to…

Can Tearjerking Doc "The Hunting Ground" Change Colleges' Sexual Assault Policies?

Jan 28th, 2015 1:03am

By Joe Britz: While rape is a horrible crime, it doesn't mean we simply toss Blackstone out the window. The foundation of our justice system is innocent…

Can Tearjerking Doc "The Hunting Ground" Change Colleges' Sexual Assault Policies?

Jan 28th, 2015 12:31am

By Amelia: It reminds me of the Dark Ages, where people would accuse a woman of being a Witch and everybody would simply believe the accusation because…

Can Tearjerking Doc "The Hunting Ground" Change Colleges' Sexual Assault Policies?

Jan 27th, 2015 3:25pm

By Joe: There is no rape culture. Rape is a sickening and illegal act but apparently there are some who want to return to the old fashioned lynch mob…

Can Tearjerking Doc "The Hunting Ground" Change Colleges' Sexual Assault Policies?

Jan 27th, 2015 1:31pm

By roosevelto: I think that this movie is many things, one of those is political. Even if we suppose that it wasn't Afflec's intention, when has become…

"Argo" Reconsidered: Ben Affleck is a Right-Wing Propagandist

Jan 16th, 2015 5:08pm

By roosevelto: I watched the movie with the most naive eyes possible. I said to myself, don't care about facts, don't care about propaganda, don't care abou…

"Argo" Reconsidered: Ben Affleck is a Right-Wing Propagandist

Jan 16th, 2015 4:53pm

By Anthony Kaufman: "The Look of Silence" will definitely be on next year's list! It hasn't opened in the U.S. yet.

The Top 12 Documentaries of 2014

Jan 3rd, 2015 1:09pm