FNC 2013: ‘A Touch Of Sin’ – a new form of martial arts cinema

A Touch of Sin film

A Touch of Sina_touch_of_sin_poster

Written and directed by Jia Zhangke
Japan, 2013

Jia Zhangke rightfully walked away with a Best Screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival for A Touch of Sin, an intricately plotted exploration of violence and corruption in contemporary China. Sin is a grim but poetic crime film, which the writer-director based on four shocking and true headline-making events, while browsing the Internet for stories of violent crimes censored by the government. These stories reveal a growing restlessness between China’s new ruling class and the working class, and paint an artful condemnation of the Chinese state capitalism. All four stories centre around tragedies of a common man or woman, all set in different regions of China, and all ending in bloodshed. The protagonists in each of its subsets are driven to violent ends while living in the world’s fastest-growing economy.

The first story follows Dahai, a small-town miner (Jiang Wu). Enraged by widespread corruption by the local village chief, he decides to take justice into his own hands via a shotgun massacre. The second and most nihilistic story follows a rootless migrant worker named Zhao San (Wang Baoqiang). The trigger-happy, motorcycle-riding thug drifts across the country committing crimes against the nouveau riche. Following this comes A Touch of Sin’s most thrilling episode: Jia’s wife, and frequent collaborator, Zhao Tao plays Zheng Xiaoyu, a spa receptionist who is pushed around by an abusive client. The story takes a deadly turn after he beats her with a stack of dollar bills. The final installment traces the decline and fall of a young factory worker (Luo Lanshan) as he goes from one discouraging job to the next, each placing him in humiliating circumstances. At one point, he finds love—so to speak—with one of his co-workers (Li Vivien), only to later discover she sells her body to old businessmen (one of whom is played by the director). To further emphasize a society falling apart, A Touch of Sin also makes background mention of several other real-life disasters, including a mine explosion and a deadly train collision. The chapters are linked mostly by theme, although sometimes characters will reappear in other installments. Meanwhile, the idea of moving between towns and cities without a fixed location is one of the more subtle ways in which Jia gracefully interconnects these four tales. Each character is driven to a emotional breaking point, and eventually each takes the law into their own hands.  


In telling these stories, Jia takes inspiration from two forms of traditional Chinese storytelling. He is quoted as saying that he considers A Touch of Sin to be a martial arts film about contemporary China. Meanwhile, he intercuts street performances of famous Chinese operas. While rife with these references, A Touch of Sin also feels very American, and inspired by several genres, specifically Westerns and pulpy crime films. Much like his previous work, the characters in A Touch of Sin are restless and desperate, wanting only to escape the harsh realities of their everyday life – and whatever happiness they might feel is fleeting.

Geographically, each sequence inches closer to the country’s southeast, home to construction zones, factories, and small villages where ordinary people barely get by, while earning minimum wages. The use of digital cinematography by frequent collaborator Yu Likwai helps convey a sense of documentary-like immediacy; characters feel as if they live in a world that’s so rapidly changing, they can never catch up. Throughout the movie, several animals are seen and used as metaphors. When the receptionist is beaten over the head, the scene recalls the similar abuse of a horse being whipped repeatedly by his owner. When Dahai picks up a shotgun, we see the image of a tiger in the background. And when Xiao Yu visits a sideshow, several snakes slither around the young woman’s feet. A Touch of Sin ends on a note that is anything but hopeful; the four protagonists who feel imprisoned by China’s extreme social changes may never find a way out. Unlike the goldfish released in a stream; a snake crossing the highway, or the horse who breaks away from his abusive owner, these four drifters may never again feel freedom or know happiness.

– Ricky D

– Ricky D

The Festival du Nouveau Cinema runs from October 9 to October 20, 2013. For a complete schedule of films, screening times, and ticket information, please visit their official site.

Add Comment

50 CEOs Who Never Went to College (and how they managed to succeed)
10 Different Types of Financial Aid
Top 10 Richest American Idols
V-Moda Crossfade Wireless
The 5 Most Expensive Wireless Headphones: Ultimate Auditory Clarity
25 Bachelor Party Movie Ideas
People playing the clarinet
10 Different Types of Clarinets
11 Different Types of Drums
7 Different Types of Roller Coasters
A bowl of oatmeal porridge
7 Different Types of Porridge
Shots of tequila
5 Different Types of Tequila (Plus Tequila Cocktails)
Fresh kale in a bowl
10 Different Types of Kale
8 Different Types of Cantaloupes
A Man in a Suit Opening a Car’s Door
9 Different Types of Car Doors
Headlights of a black car
9 Different Types of Headlights
19 Different Types of Construction Vehicles
Fire Truck with Warm Yellow Lights
9 Different Types of Fire Trucks
54 Different Types of Sports Played (Individual and Team Sports)
15 Different Types of Goggles
13 Different Types of Dumbbells
15 Awesome Alternatives to Skateboards (Plus Interesting Facts)
16 Different Types of Technology
man holding smartphone with vintage case
11 Types of Cell Phone Cases and Covers to Protect Your Expensive Smartphone
Black and Red Tablet Covers
8 Types of Tablet Cases for Kids, Protection, and Convenience
Camera, lenses and other photography equipments.
45 of the Best Online Camera Stores for the Perfect Pics