3 Chinese movie gems of choice

A Touch of Sin / by Zhangke Jia

The English title may reference to the Wuxia movie “A Touch of Zen” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Touch_of_Zen), but is kind of misleading, even though some hints in Zhangke´s work might indirectly support that. A radical, subversive movie with a subversive title, referencing also parts of a well known Beijing Opera, creating a story-arc of centuries being aggregated in episodic stories of contemporary reality. This movie can be more considered a re-enactment or fiction-documentary, which gets downplayed or overlooked by most reviews available. It is based on real events who got preserved through micro-blogging and social networks because they were chosen to be not published officially: four harsh threads set in vastly different geographical and social milieus across modern-day China, ranging from the bustling southern metropolis of Guangzhou and Dongguan to the more rural townships in Jia’s home province of Shanxi. The radical decisions of the protagonists form an overarching theme which show different reactions to oppression, corruption and exploitation. The film is awaiting the official release in China, but so far has not been cleared. For a good reason – this is social dynamite. Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

Bai Ri Yan Hou / Black Coal Thin Ice by Diao Yinan

What a surprise, an original voice refreshing the genre of crime- and detective story coming from China. Witty and in its own pace a serial killer case gets unfolded and how the protagonists revolve around it with their choices of action – forming a small firework of carefully crafted scenes. Suspense and twists at its best, as well as a social drama. So much in between the lines, the grey zones of failing and not faltering, sometimes failing because of not giving in. Diao spent eight years in total to write the screenplay and manages to form a special atmosphere around a state of condition, mirrored in the title which also reads as “Daylight Fireworks”. What a dense, finely balanced story! Rightfully chosen to get awarded the Golden Bear at Berlinale 2014.

Wu Ren Qu / No Man´s Land by Ning Hao

One of the few modern attempts to cite and evolve the genre of the Western – in the East. A veritable Neo-Eastern including a busload of cinematic references but still an original screenplay and high-value production and great cast. A joyride if you like twisted plots will devour what can be called a holy mix of John Ford`s classics, the Italo-Western movement and road-movies like “Wild at Heart”- but now Ning Hao is taking care of this framework and offers a contemporary Chinese solution. Intelligent cinema on all levels with enough action to satisfy also a more hormone-driven audience. To produce a coherent and witty rollercoaster up to the last seconds is rare – very good—please, more!

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