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Do not miss Ash is Purest White. It’s a Chinese masterpiece, says Rashid Irani

A cracker of a tale tracks the people caught in the middle, when centuries of tradition collide with new definitions of progress.

Updated: Aug 01, 2019, 16:22 IST

By Rashid Irani, Hindustan Times

The film focuses on a small-time mobster (Liao Fan) and his formidable moll, played by a mesmeric Zhao Tao, who is also the director’s wife and muse.

ASH IS PUREST WHITE

Direction: Jia Zhang-ke
Actors: Zhao Tao, Liao Fan
Rating: 5 / 5

Over the years, his work has been showcased at movie melas across the country. Gratifyingly, this time — in a first — a film by the mercurial Chinese auteur Jia Zhang-ke has also been accorded a mainstream theatrical release.

Spanning three time periods during the new millennium (2001, 2006 and 2018), the narrative of the evocatively titled Ash Is Purest White chronicles the rapidly changing cultural, economic and physical landscapes of modern China.  

Centuries of tradition have been eroded by the onrush of progress, leaving the older generation to face an uncertain future. Societal transformation has affected a former small-time mobster (Liao Fan) and his formidable moll (a mesmeric Zhao Tao, the director’s wife and muse).

Working for the first time with French cinematographer Eric Gautier, Jia presents a snapshot of the ever-evolving small towns and provinces where he grew up. An expertly choreographed action set piece and the pulsating disco-inflected music add to the overall impact.

Cinephiles craving something more substantial than Hollywood’s fast and furious follies would do well to spare a couple of hours for Ash Is The Purest White this weekend.

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