Even though the bloody genre elements seem at odds with the more documentary-like camera work, Jia excels in seeking poignancy and poetry in the injured and the insulted, whether it is the faces of the villagers who are sent to welcome a corrupt bigwig or the farmers growing vegetables on the river bank in Chongqing, where high rises loom in hazy sky.
Through Jia’s cinematic eye, violence is never rendered celebratory or thrilling. During one sequence, an abusive customer repeatedly whips Zhao’s character with a stack of money, while a Louis Vuitton handbag-toting woman is gunned down in broad daylight. As we watch a workhorse savagely whipped by its master in another sequence, we are reminded of the brutality and existential despair that are hallmarks of being alive in today’s China.
A Touch of Sin is currently showing as part of a mini retrospective of Jia Zhangke’s work, which includes The Pickpocket, Platform (站台, 2000), Unknown Pleasures (任逍遙, 2002) and Still Life. The festival starts today and runs through March 20 at Eslite Art House (誠品電影院) and Spot Huashan Cinema (光點華山電影館). The director will attend question-and-answer sessions and hold panel discussions during the festival period. More information can be obtained at the event’s Facebook page at facebook.com/a.touch.of.sin.taiwan.