Ash is Purest White
Gateway | Best of 2019
Arguably the greatest working filmmaker—not just in China but in the world—Jia Zhangke has been making masterpieces for at least two decades. His latest feels like a culmination, drawing as it does on characters, plot elements, motifs and themes from almost of his previous features, and quite extensively so from Unknown Pleasures and Still Life.
The magnificent Zhao Tao (who has appeared in all save Jia’s first film) plays Qiao, the girlfriend of gangster Bin (Liao Fan). When he comes under attack, she intervenes to save his life and winds up in prison for her actions. Freed in 2006, she goes looking for her lost love, and what follows is a journey of discovery and disillusionment that takes us to the Three Gorges area and ends in 2018—right back where it started, but with a great many things changed…
From harrowing violence to stretches of poignant stillness, Jia’s film is rich in memorable moments and, with the assurance of a true master, he folds them into a story arc that takes us through years of transformation—for Qiao, for Bin and for their country at large. At once intimate and sprawling, delicate and powerful, this is a work to treasure.
"Jolting, seismic shifts in 21st century Chinese society are viewed through the bittersweet ebb and flow of an epic love story…The meandering narrative sprawls like a great Dickens novel but individual encounters and elements that may seem like distractions all reflect back on the greater themes." Allan Hunter, Screen Daily
"A gripping parable for the vanity of human wishes, and another impassioned portrait of national malaise." Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
"Fierce, gripping, emotionally generous and surprisingly funny." Justin Chang, LA Times
*Please note that several Best of 2019 screenings are 19+.