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A Touch of Sin


Dir. Jia Zhangke. 2013, 133 mins. DCP. With Jiang Wu, Wang Baoqiang, Zhao Tao, Luo Lanshan, Zhang Jiayi. In Jia Zhangke’s candid portrait of contemporary China, a series of vignettes dramatize the tragic injustices experienced by the nation’s underprivileged workers, each story rooted in real-life circumstances. A mineworker confronts the apathy of his local politicians and fellow villagers with an ultraviolent killing spree; murder and theft become the last resort for a migrant worker who encounters insurmountable money troubles; a modest receptionist at a massage parlor, threatened by two repugnant petty whistle-stoppers, attempts to protect her body and pride by slaying the men in a moment of sheer divine force (exhuming the ghost of wuxia warrior Yang Hui-ching in King Hu’s A Touch of Zen (to which the film’s English title refers); and finally, a teenage boy submits to mounting social pressures with suicide. Shot in expansive widescreen by longtime collaborator Yu Lik-wai and awarded Best Screenplay at Cannes 2013, A Touch of Sin is Jia’s sui generis entrée to wuxia cinema and a fearless, defiant examination of national tragedy.

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