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To be really frank I’ve never made a review of a artistic movie with layers of interpretations like this movie offers. I also don’t have a credible interpretation myself, so I’ll quote some necessary interpretations and statements here. All quotes and statement will be credited, of course. Perhaps reviews of Jia Zhang-ke movies are the only reviews with footnotes and references I have in this stupid blog. So, here it goes.

 

A Touch of Sin tells a story about four people that seem to not know each other and are unrelated. It starts off with a story about a motorcyclist getting robbed by teenage thugs and how he gets away with it through violence. He later comes in the second tale of the movie. But the first tale is about Dahai (Jiang Wu) who accuses a rich man of embezzling money that should’ve been given to local people in that area. He watches this man in his private plane, in his Maserati. He criticizes all that but the corrupted system shuts him down until he chooses to do his own justice, in his own vengeance through a rifle and a roaring tiger.

 

The aforementioned motorcyclist (Wang Baoqiang) then comes in the second tale as a migrant worker who comes home to celebrate his mother’s 70th birthday. The third tale is about a massage parlor receptionist (Zhao Tao—Jia Zhangke’s wife) who gets beaten by her lover’s wife. Later on she fights back a rape attempt done by two massage parlor consumers going there to have some fun, thinking that every woman there must be some kind of prostitute. Zhao Tao’s character fights back with a small knife by painting the screen red; and when I watched that scene I wish I were in a cinema so I could share the standing applause with other spectators. The movie is closed by a story about a teenager (Luo Lanshan) who by accident is mutated to work in a nightclub as a waiter and also accidentally falls in love with one of the hookers there.

 

As McCreadie posted in her review, Jia Zhangke is that of Tarantino-style.[1] She said that in terms of violence portrayed in the movie. I do really agree though that the movie is so vocal and brave, criticizing the harsh life in modern China and whatnot, but there’s something beyond that. The style of the movie—four stories knotted by a red string; violence—reminds us a lot by that of Tarantino in Pulp Fiction (1994), right? Tian zhu ding bears resemblance with Tarantino’s style of directing and that is in the good sense.

 

Beyond the nausea-inducing violence, it is notable that the movie offers the spectators beautiful cinematography. The cinematographer, Yu Likwai, portrays rather painfully beautiful landscapes of China—the snow, the mountain, and sometimes the slum areas, in such a beautiful way as well. Also the glamour nightclub in the last tale, portrayed side-to-side with a confused teenager’s forbidden love and loneliness. Or the shooting scene in the first tale, done in front of a beautiful temple, because blood goes beautifully with temple, no? It is a high achievement for cinematography department and that makes the movie more beautiful.

 

Talking about Jia Zhangke’s movies we cannot refuse to talk about hidden meaning. Something beneath the surface. References. Addiego (2014) explained about the visual connections in the movie; that of Dahai’s red coat in the first tale to be used by the nightclub hostesses later in the last tale, or when Zhao Tao’s character in the third story gets beaten by two men resemble a lot with horse’s whipping done earlier in the movie.[2] McCreadie also explained that—in her own words—“the film’s glimpses of China today intrigue.” As like Jia’s previous movies, Tian zhu ding is a strong criticism towards Chinese government and as he himself said it in a Q&A session at the screening, “The expansion of China has been so fast, there’s been no room for the system to catch up with any kind of humanity.” (McCreadie, 2013)

 

[1] McCreadie,Marsha. 2013. A Touch of Sin. Accessed at http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/a-touch-of-sin-2013 on April 3rd, 2014.

[2] Addiego, Walter. 2014. ‘A Touch of Sin’ review: A vision of violence in modern China. Accessed at http://www.sfgate.com/movies/article/A-Touch-of-Sin-review-A-vision-of-violence-in-5109394.php on April 3rd 2014.