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A Touch of Sin

Tian Zhuding

Jia Zhangke’s Cannes prizewinner comprising four fact-based stories of violence and murder is a virtual state of the nation report on China in 2013.

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  • Director-Screenwriter Jia Zhangke
  • Producer Shozo Ichiyama
  • With Jiang Wu, Wang Baoqiang, Zhao Tao, Luo Lanshan, Zhang Jiayi
  • China 2013
  • in Mandarin with English subtitles
  • 133 mins
  • UK distribution Arrow Films

Jia Zhangke lives in interesting times. A Touch of Sin is a virtual ‘state of the nation’ report on China in 2013 inspired by tweets about small, local incidents which escalated into rage, violence and even murder. Across four skilfully interlinked stories, which traverse the country from north to south and back again, Jia presents a range of indelible characters: an ex-miner enraged by corruption and profiteering, a man who kills and steals to stave off boredom, a woman who stabs her would-be rapist and a young kid drifting through the foreign-owned factories and nightclubs of the south. As the title suggests, the film pays dues to King Hu and other wuxia directors who explored earlier times when Chinese society had no adequate rule of law. Jia sees a present-day society in which violence seems almost endemic, and dares to ask: what is the country coming to?

Tony Rayns

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