Touch of Sin demonstrates the best
approach to an anthology film. Director Jia Zhangke (Xiao Wu, The World,
Still Life) tells four thematically connected stories set in
four different parts of contemporary China. The characters are as different
from each other in terms of their social status as the cities and villages they
live in, but they are all at violent crossroads. With these stories of
corruption and hopelessness, Jia not-so-subtly suggest that the new China is
also at a violent crossroad. The movie marks a rather shocking change of pace
for the filmmaker known mainly for lyrical surrealism--it is as brutally
violent as anything from Scorsese or Tarantino. This exquisitely rendered
violence never comes off as gratuitous and is well in line with the societal
critique of Jia’s other pictures. Indeed the comparison to Scorsese or Tarantino
could just as well be made for how well the themes of the movie adhere to its
unique structure. While all four narrative threads flow one after the other, we
are certainly left with the memories of each preceding story as the next one
unfolds, and there is connective tissue that prevents the movie from feeling
like four short films tacked together. Where as most anthology movies have
stronger and weaker episodes, Touch
of Sin is compelling from start to finish, with
each tale and each main character strikingly different from the others. We know
right off the bat that every one of these mini narratives is going to end in
acts of bloody violence but we still have no idea when and how it will come,
and the various motivations of the main characters are fascinating to
contemplate. Apparently all the stories are based on true events, but the film
is clearly an artful fiction steeped in the history of martial arts movies from
both China and Japan. It is a film that both celebrates and condemns violence
in the best cinematic tradition.
Wu Jiang, Vivien Li, Lanshan Luo, Baoqiang Wang, Jia-yi Zhang, and Tao Zhao
17 May 2013
Color / 2.35 : 1
Nelson Yu Lik-wai
Matthieu Laclau and Xudong Lin
17 May 2013
2.35 : 1
How I Rate Films
One of the 5000 greatest films. Usually only awarded after repeat viewings, so there are more five-star films from decades past than recent years.
An excellent film. Possibly one of the 5000 and certainly worthy of repeated viewing.
A good film well worth seeing. Films listed at the top of this ranking could end up one of the 5000.
A disappointment, an interesting failure, or just a bad movie. Still, maybe worth seeing: I often enjoy the top two-star films in a given list more than the bottom three-star films.
A bad, rant-worthy film. Should be avoided regardless of hype or talent involved.
One of the worst films.
Film from the previous year released this year
Seen during film's original release
Seen more than twenty times