Posted Oct 09 2018

LFF 2018 Preview - Ash Is Purest White

Dir: Jia Zhang-ke

Starring Zhoa Tao, Liao Fan

Beginning in 2001, Qiao (Tao) is a gangster’s moll. But these are small town gangsters in a small town, whose boss is more concerned with the beauty of ballroom dancing than reaching the heights of organised crime. Qiao is matched by her man, up and coming gangster Bin (Fan), and soon she is firing a gun to save him and doing five years in prison.

When she re-emerges into the world, it is a changed place, with shifting relationships and a sense of loss over the years.

Zhang-ke’s movie crosses many years (presumably to the present) telling what could have been an epic tale on a distinctly intimate level. The two central performers age convincingly over that time and Tao is particularly impressive, often bordering on heart-wrenching as she comes to terms with her losses, many of them underserved.

Yet the film has a tendency to be overly ponderous and meanders over the years, where a degree of conciseness would have been more appropriate. (By the time the UFO nut shows up – and indeed the possible UFOs – you can’t help but think we’ve wandered down a path too far.) It is a film of moments – the holding of hands, or, in one case via a water bottle, and the breaking apart of said holdings – but ultimately those moments are more significant, and more successful, than the film as a whole.

Ash Is Purest White plys the LFF on 12 & 13 October

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