Jia Zhang-ke, China/France 2018, 141 minutes
A beautiful marriage of the political and the personal... Ash Is Purest White subtly distills nearly two decades of gradual social change into the story of a small-town gangster and his moll. The movie opens in 2001, in the northern village of Datong, where Guo Bin (Liao Fan), a member of the jianghu underworld, runs a mahjong parlor. But from the start, it’s Bin’s girlfriend, Qiao (Zhao Tao), who magnetizes the camera’s attention. A fiercely devoted partner to Bin, she more than holds her own in this masculine enclave, and her own belief in the brotherly codes of the jianghu, a commitment referenced by the title, runs startlingly deep.
[Jia’s film] is fierce, gripping, emotionally generous and surprisingly funny. Meanwhile, even those accustomed to seeing Zhao in Jia’s movies, might be taken aback by the depths of her acting here, with the richest, most subtly complex performance she’s given to date.
- Justin Chang, LA Times, 21 May 2018.
Screened in co-operation with the Confucius Institute of Victoria University of Wellington.