A Touch of Sin
Jia Zhangke channels Chan-wook Park in this film, which left some at Cannes confused. Combining elements of the South Korean revenge genre and American western with his more typical focus on the effects of urbanization and globalization on everyday Chinese citizens, it lasts an insistent two hours and 15 minutes, during which a respectable number of characters are killed and/or thoroughly humiliated.
A Touch of Sin dangles four story threads without interweaving them: the life of a dissatisfied villager who takes up a shotgun against kleptocracy in the name of justice; a psychotic young husband in a Chicago Bulls cap who treasures his pistol and uses it often; a mistreated mistress who turns into a dagger-wielding ninja after being slapped around (literally) by a greedy man’s wad of yuans; and a young factory worker who struggles to find love and a job that’s not exploitative.
The slightly schizophrenic film layers Chinese concerns into a constant backdrop of violence against the poor, women and the politically vocal, all augmented by rampant corruption. The portrait of China it paints is extremely unflattering, but with all the gun violence and Lady Vengeance ninja antics, it doesn’t feel traditionally Chinese, either. Rather, Jia puts on a crazy show of spectacle whose potential political connotations make its having passed the infamous Chinese censors all the more incredible.