Four tales of bloody revenge in a complex modern China.
Jia Zhangke (China/Japan, Masters)
Wednesday, September 11, 9 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 (350 King Street West)
Thursday, September 12, 2:30 p.m.
Ryerson Theatre (43 Gerrard Street East)
After a string of insightful documentary portraits of contemporary Chinese life, Jia Zhangke returns to fiction with the bold and bloody A Touch of Sin, a revenge thriller about four underclass workers from different provinces who rise up against their masters in startling, if often ineffective, ways. Jia extends his documentary preoccupation with quotidian life to genre material with this present-day wuxia tale about honourable men and women who live by a stringent code in an otherwise corrupt world.
The film finds real power in the daily rhythms of Jia’s working protagonists, who trudge through thankless jobs—at mines, textile factories, and saunas—only to be rewarded with indifference and abuse. The final stretch admittedly feels a bit on the nose in its evocation of guilt and moral damnation, as a character stumbles upon a performance of a Chinese opera that too conveniently sums up her life. But that’s a thematic indulgence we can allow after the visceral force of what has come before: a striking, immaculately crafted mix of class critique and crime thriller.