Ash Is Purest White

There are not many character-driven films this epic. And even fewer focused on a female protagonist. (And can I just say the male reviewers talking about this as a gangster film are completely missing the point?) This is a meditation on patterns in human relationships and how even the cleverest of us can get trapped in them. Along the way, Jia shows us China - mining towns in trouble, dancehalls obsessed with YMCA, sweeping fields, the Yangtze River, smokey mah jong parlours, crowded buses, wedding feasts, cheap hotels, dirt roads, low level gangsters, unions, and the rising capitalist class. I’ve never been to China, but this film made me feel like I have. 

Zhao Tao is stunning in this film - beautiful, funny, clever, assertive and strong. But she wants what isn’t good for her - perhaps a metaphor on Chinese capitalism? Qiao’s character trajectory is less of an arc and more of a circle. But what could be more relatable than wanting what you can’t have?