F.I.L.M. of the Week (April 30, 2015)

30 04 2015

A Touch of SinSadly, I missed Jia Zhangke’s “A Touch of Sin” when it screened at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.  I caught up with the film recently from the comfort of my living room thanks to Netflix, though to just an audience of one.  What I would not give to go back and be able to experience this film with a crowd full of strangers – particularly the press screening at Cannes, which draws a diverse crowd from nations all over the globe.

The omnibus that is “A Touch of Sin” tells four stories of desperation and anger turned violent in modern China.  (And each has a real-life counterpart, to boot.)  Each explosion of rage triggers an odd mix of feelings, running the gamut from shock and disgust to schadenfreude and relief.  I would have loved to gather reactions by listening to the viewers during the screening and then stood out in the lobby to break down the responses by country.

But beyond a pseudo-social science experiment, “A Touch of Sin” still works well on an individual level.  These are not crazy vigilantes with a screw loose mentally – they are just mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.  Whether an average citizen who serves as a vocal critic of governmental abuse or a woman forced to endure constant demeaning by men, everyone has a reason for righteous anger.  Jia populates the film with a memorable cast of characters worth our attention and concern who also serve as surrogates for ourselves and the entire nation of China.

This is my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” because it manages to resonate on the personal and political wavelengths, at once specific and broad.  “A Touch of Sin” shows how the improperly, unsatisfyingly stitched social political and economic fabric of China can be ripped apart in one cathartic violent gesture.  Yet it’s easy to reimagine the action taking place in just about any country where inequalities based on wealth, power, and gender exist.  (Hint, hint, bold American filmmakers.)