Movie Review: A Touch of Sin

By William Kustiono

From the director who created 24 City and I wish I Knew, Jia Zhangke directed a Chinese crime film called A Touch of Sin. This film has won an award for Best Screenplay at 2013 Cannes Film Festival and will have its North American premiere at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival followed by screenings at the New York Film Festival.

A Touch of Sin revolves around four threads set in vastly different geographical and social milieus across modern-day China, ranging from the bustling southern metropolis of Guangzhou to the more rural townships. The film tells the story of a miner (Jiang Wu) as he revolts against corruption, a migrant worker (Wang Baoqiang) who finds possibilities in a gun, a receptionist (Jia’s wife, Zhao Tao) at a sauna assaulted by a rich client, and a young factory worker (Luo Lanshan) desperate to improve his social status. With stories drawn from real-life Chinese headlines, Jia Zhangke made an angry, gritty, gorgeous shot drama that traverses the lurching superpower from Shanxi coal mines to the gaudy brothels of Dongguan.

A Touch of Sin includes scenes of graphic violence, which Jia’s past works are known for to be quiet realism and surreal visions of contemporary China. This film was officially released in China, unlike his 2004’s The World, one of his earlier works made independent due to the government’s censors and thus never publicly released in cinemas.

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