In spite of a powerful central female protagonist in Tao Zhao (Mountains May Depart, Shun Li and the Poet), director Zhangke Jia (Pickpocket, Mountains May Depart) and his latest film is a fascinating but odd misfire.
A woman used: Tao Zhao spends time in prison for her man, small-time gang leader, Fan Liao (Black Coal Thin Ice, The Master). Only there’s no sign of him on her release. She sets out to to find him.
A romantic tragedy, Ash Is Purest White is a mix of gritty social realism (when it is at its best) and surreal strangeness (mass shadow dancing in the town square to Village People’s YMCA). Zhangke Jia explores how everyday people were affected by major political and cultural changes in China 20 years ago at the the turn of the century in his films – and Ash Is Purest White continues that exploration.
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival