Jiang hu er nv / Ash Is Purest White
Jia Zhangke – China
IN A NUTSHELL
Spanning over 17 years, this film begins in 2001 and ends on a melancholy New Year’s Eve that ushers in 2018, we follow the character of Qiao (Zhao Tao), a local beauty from a dying coal-mining town in love with a local mobster Guo Bin (Liao Fan). Their complicated relationship unfolding against the backdrop of a country changing at a dizzying pace. Through the character of Qiao we witness the changing role of the woman in society, and we see the emergence of a new version of China. (by Bianca Garner)
“What does the ending of Ash Is Purest White mean – and what does its middle or beginning mean? I’m not sure. It feels like a gripping parable for the vanity of human wishes, and another impassioned portrait of national malaise.” – – – – – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“The performances of the two leads are riveting. Liao initially projects a cool authority but is warm and at times almost deferential with Qiao, suggesting an understanding between the two that renders thoughts of marriage irrelevant.” – – – – – David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
“The film’s emotional core belongs to a magnificent Zhao Tao, a strong contender for the Cannes 2018 Best Actress Award. As Qiao, Zhao perfectly captures this complex character full of rage, emotion, and determination. The camera is fixated on her for the majority of the runtime, and we follow her story as she transitions from a lover to a prisoner and then back to a lover and a mobster.” – – – – – Mina Takla, AwardsWatch
Director Jia Zhangke is no stranger to the Cannes Film Festival, and bagged the Screenplay prize a few years ago for the excellent A Touch of Sin. His wife Zhao Tao has been his leading lady quite literally in his movies over the years.
Both look pretty strong contenders here, the likelihood that as individusals they could be honored rather than the film itself. There appears to be less crowds in the race for Best Actress, so Tao has a real shot here. This seems the way to go should the jury want to reward the film. But I’m not so sure.