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Directors of For Sama

Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
Ritesh Batra (Photograph)
Schmidt & Abrantes (Diamantino)
Wanuri Kahiu (Rafiki)
Jia Zhang-ke (Ash is Purest White)

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NYFF: Ash is Purest White

Murtada Elfadl reporting on the New York Film Festival which begins Friday

Have you seen Jia Zhangke’s previous film Mountains May Depart (2015)? Did you whoop with joy when his wife and collaborator Zhao Tao danced to the Pet Shop Boys’ Go West in the memorable opening sequence? Well you are in for another treat from this duo. Tao dances again, and to another delightful well known song that we won’t spoil here. More than that, Ash is Purest White is the showcase for her immense talent that we were hoping for...

Like the previous film, Ash is Purest White is told in three acts. We follow Qiao (Tao) and her mobster boyfriend Bin (Liao Fan) in 2001, 2006 and 2016. They live within the jianghu underworld, the mobsters and their associates who inhabit that world in North Western China have their own values and codes of conduct. A fierce act of loyalty separates the couple and they spend the ensuing years entangled despite their estrangement, as if unknown forces keep bringing them together.

The film explores time and change and no matter how we’d like to cling to people, love, relationships, everything changes. It gives us the best kind of melodrama, full of big sweeping events and big emotional catharsis for its characters and the center of it all a raw full bodied performance from Tao. Watch her in the film’s second act when the camera is squarely on her in close up as she sits in a concert hall singing along to a cheesy song, yet the emotions that play on her face are full hearted and profound.

And from Qiao and Bin’s story, Jia’s pulls wide to reflect the changing times and attitudes in China. He sprinkles in idiosyncrasies for each character that make them feel real, couple that with the sweeping reach of his storytelling and the end result is bold, epic and fully detailed in equal measures. However mostly we leave with Tao's indelible face etched in our memories and proof once again that this a collaboration of director and actor that we want more of.

Ash is Purest White plays at the New York Film Festival on October 1st and 10th.

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Reader Comments (3)

I thought Zhao Tao's beautiful creation and delineation of Qiao is one of the best performances this year. Saw Ash is Purest White at the NZIFF after a rapturous response at Cannes. I hope it gets distribution next year. And should be in conversation more.

September 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

I hope both she n Liao Fan get nom in the upcoming Golden Horse Awards in Nov.

She was previously nom for Mountains May Depart in 2015.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

Yeah, it's incredible and another addition to both of their stunning careers. At this stage if you don't think Zhang-ke and Tao are on the level of director/actor collabs like Scorsese and DeNiro then you're simply not paying attention. Every. Single. Time. She is radiant. He is so overflowing with dramatic ambition.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

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