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ASH IS PUREST WHITE

ASH IS PUREST WHITE

Jia Zhang-ke · China · 2018 · 136 mins · PG
IMDbRotten Tomatoes

In this story of thwarted yet resilient love, Jia Zhangke, the revered Chinese director (Mountains May Depart), subtly distills nearly two decades of gradual social change into the story of a small-town gangster and his moll. A beautiful marriage of the political and the personal, 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.

When Bin is attacked by thugs, it is Qiao who fatefully intervenes and pays the steepest price. From there, the film undergoes a series of thrilling narrative reversals but always keeps Qiao at the fore, grounding its portrait of long-term social and technological flux with the kind of gutsy, lovelorn heroine who would be right at home in a 1940s Hollywood melodrama.

Ash Is Purest White is fierce, gripping, emotionally generous and surprisingly funny. Those accustomed to seeing Zhao in Jia’s movies (the two are married) will be impressed by the depths of her acting here. It’s the richest, most subtly complex performance she’s given to date.

– Los Angeles Times
“An exceptionally fine movie that plays out on a large and leisurely scale.” 

--San Francisco Chronicle

“Jia's films retain their documentary-like interest in real places and actual events, but acknowledge that depicting the new China requires a touch of surrealism.” NPR
“Represents both the director and his lead actress at the peak of their powers." RogerEbert.com
Cast Tao Zhao, Fan Liao, Yi'nan Diao
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