Thursday 11 July 2019

On Free-to- Air TV Channel 32- John Snadden welcomes the re-appearance of World Movies and its offering of ASH IS PUREST WHITE (Jia Zhangke, China, 2018)

French poster for Ash is Purest White
This past week in Oz saw the small screen debut of the newly minted free-to-air channel WORLD MOVIES, on SBS-TV.
One of the genuine surprises for me from this first roster of films was the China/France/Japan production ASH IS PUREST WHITE, from art-house fave Jia Zhangke. 
Although, I tend to avoid most of his films as I usually find them pretentious and dull, A TOUCH OF SIN (2015) being a good example. But his latest pic breaks new ground and for the first half is an engaging, slow burn crime feature which follows the low level criminality of two Northern Chinese gang members Bin (Fan Liao) and Quian (Zhao Tao). After the inevitable jail term, Qian roams central China searching for her ex-lover. Zhao Tao's performance is memorable as she lives off her wits and other peoples' money.
Zhao Tao, Fan Liao Ash is Purest White

The acting and writing are first rate, plus the cinematography which captures the visual schizophrenia of the modern Middle Kingdom.
Director Jia Zhangke's criticism of contemporary China is more subtle than in his previous pics, but is more effective as we watch a population deluged by progress at any cost. But progress to where....? The final image seen via a security camera is particularly haunting.
For its first weekend of films, WORLD MOVIES was devoted to Studio Ghibli titles - perfect school holiday fare!
This week looks to be the beginning of a Jacques Tati season and multiple screenings of Hou Hsiao Hsien's moody martial arts drama, THE ASSASSIN (2015).

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