By Mónica Delgado
Ash is purest white has all the characteristic elements that define Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhang-ke’s recent cinema. Meaning that, it seems that the film forms a diptych with another film that was in Cannes Official Competition, Mountains may Depart, due to the way in which the stories are articulated: chapters or defined parts, a following of the characters through different generational lapses, and choreographies and musical motifs (Go West bye the Pet Shop Boys and here YMCA by the Village People) in order to set a local atmosphere.
In one part, the use of this festival formulas, can give the idea that Zhang-ke was measuring or molding his stories to fit the festival liking, however, despite this “déjà vu”, he achieves to make an attractive film, portraying a woman who lives immersed in her love for the underworld, and how her world of discreet negotiations and games of luck slowly deteriorates, proving her loneliness.
Like in his previous films, the Chinese filmmaker centers his tale on a feminine figure, this time in Qiao (a remarkable Zhao Tao, fetish actress of Zhang-ke), who lives in love with a mobster, and due to a tragic circumstance, ends up in jail and forgotten. The recovery of lost love, and the return to the hometown become Qiao new motivations, motivations that the Chinese filmmaker translates through the passing of years, in a period of several years, showing how the feelings and social environment are transformed.
With outstanding moments, like the attack to Bin (Liao Fan), the trip to Qiao in ship and her transit through an unknown district, or those final shots where the technology (surveillance cameras) becomes the being where the human beings, observed, could find comfort, make Ash is purest white a film to consider for the Golden Palm, since its qualities affirm Zhang-ke as one of the most important Chinese filmmakers, with a particular and unique style we still celebrate.
Directing and script: Jia Zhang Ke
Cinematography: Eric Gautier
Cast: Tao Zhao, Liao Fan
Production companies: arte France Cinéma / Beijing Runjin Investment / Huanxi Media Group / MK2 Productions / Office Kitano / Shanghai Film Group / Xstream Pictures
China, 2018, 150 minutes.