Now Playing: A Touch of Sin

A Touch of Sin
Dir: Jia Zhang-ke, China, 2013
Rating: 9.9

“I’m not an admirer of the kind of films that Zhang Yimou makes. I much prefer Jia Zhang-ke’s films, like Still Life and I Wish I Knew.”

— Chinese President Xi Jinping, quoted by Tony Rayns in Film Comment


Now playing at the Music Box Theatre is A Touch of Sin, the latest from maverick Chinese director Jia Zhang-ke. This angry, provocative, disturbing and beautiful anthology film, consisting of four loosely linked vignettes, represents a triumphant return to narrative filmmaking for Jia, the most important member of the Chinese film industry’s “sixth generation.” It is the director’s first purely fictional feature since Still Life in 2006 (following a period in which he has made numerous documentaries and shorts, and one narrative/documentary hybrid, 2008’s 24 City). It is also my favorite of Jia’s movies to date and one that has convinced me to go back and revisit his entire filmography. While I was blown away by Jia’s masterful, Beijing theme-park-set epic The World in 2004, the first of his films I ever saw, I’ve had decidedly mixed feelings about all of the others, which I now concede may represent a failure of both comprehension and taste on my part. Jia makes urgent and complex movies about his rapidly and bizarrely evolving country and its leading role within late 20th century/early 21st century global culture — what critic Jonathan Rosenbaum might call “state-of-the-planet addresses.” To be confronted with works of art this new, however, can be a bit bewildering, not unlike the 21st century itself, pushing even a seasoned cinephile like me out of my typical patterns of response and judgement. Having said that, I have no reservation about calling A Touch of Sin the best film I’ve seen all year after only one viewing. A big part of what has made Jia’s latest more immediately accessible than most of his previous work, at least for me personally, is the way he makes the difficulty in adapting to modern life the explicit theme of the film. For this reason, and many others, anyone who cares about not just cinema but what it means to be a global citizen today should see this as soon as possible, and on the big screen if possible.


The four narratives comprising A Touch of Sin are linked not only by main characters who seem unable to adapt to changing times, a bit like Monica Vitti’s character in Red Desert, but also by how their various repressed frustrations lead to acts of shocking violence: a small-town resident fed up with corruption (Jiang Wu), snaps and goes on a killing spree of local politicians and business leaders; a loner in a Chicago Bulls stocking cap (Wang Baoqiang) methodically plans a robbery that seems to be merely an excuse to shoot other people, which provides him with some kind of cathartic release; a receptionist at a massage parlor (Zhao Tao), reeling from a doomed affair with a married man, stabs an overly-aggressive client; and a young man who works a series of factory and service-industry jobs in the “free trade zone” of southern China (Luo Lanshan) commits suicide by jumping to his death from the balcony of his factory dorm. Although the stories are presented consecutively and not freely intercut in the manner of Griffith, the idea of binding a quartet of stories primarily based on thematic parallels is at least as old as 1916’s Intolerance (which, thanks to the Cohen Media Group, had a triumphant re-release in 2013). What’s most shocking, indeed groundbreaking, about A Touch of Sin, has nothing to do with narrative structure nor any one of its individual moments of carnage but rather the way each eruption of violence seems the inevitable result of social, political and economic shifts, mostly relating to the PRC’s transition from the financial wasteland of the post-Cultural Revolution years to an economic superpower still in the process of privatizing and expanding: rural workers flock to big cities in search of decent wages but find their new environment dehumanizing, ordinary citizens file petitions that fall on deaf government ears, women working temp jobs to make ends meet are harassed by wealthy businessmen with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. What’s a fellow who’s mad as hell but cannot take it anymore to do but wrap a towel emblazoned with the image of a tiger around the barrel of a rifle and take matters into his own hands? This exquisite touch, which occurs in the film’s first story, is a nod to Ti Lung’s Tiger Killer Wu Sung character in Chang Cheh’s The Water Margin (1972), the first of several wuxia nods in A Touch of Sin.


If it seems surprising that a film so explicitly critical of what the Chinese Communist government and big business are doing to its people could be made with full state-approval, perhaps the quote at the beginning of this review (which allegedly occurred during a dinner conversation between Xi Jinping and an American diplomat several years before Xi became President) provides an explanation of how that could happen. It is more likely, however, that the Chinese film industry, which is becoming privatized along with most other sectors of Chinese business, is steadily relaxing the censorship laws that would have made the existence of A Touch of Sin unthinkable even a a decade ago (all of Jia’s work prior to The World was created independently and without government permission). That he is now making high-profile movies like this — artistically accomplished (it is shot in long-take tableaux by the great Yu Lik Wai), psychologically acute and sociologically prescient — is the strongest proof yet that a sea change is underway in Chinese cinema. I have long admired Hong Kong movies (since the pre-handover glory days) as well as those from Taiwan, and have also long been skeptical of their counterparts coming from the mainland, which tend to be safer affairs, if not outright propaganda. I’ve bitterly watched the decline of the Hong Kong film industry since 1997 and have feared that the special magic once produced by the “Hollywood of the East” would be lost forever as even the handful of Hong Kong filmmakers who have remained at home have increasingly had to look to the PRC for co-production status. As Hong Kong becomes inexorably reabsorbed by the mainland (it will supposedly cease to function as a capitalist system in 2047), however, it seems as though China may end up becoming more like Hong Kong rather than the other way around. Johnnie To’s Drug War, the first of the director’s films to be shot entirely in the mainland and every bit the equal of his great Hong Kong productions, is one encouraging sign of this. Whatever happens, when people look back at 2013 decades from now, I wonder if any snapshot of our time in any medium will look as vital as Jia’s forward-looking masterpiece.

You can view the trailer for A Touch of Sin below: 

About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

38 responses to “Now Playing: A Touch of Sin

  • Daniel Nava

    I also saw this at the Music Box this weekend. I was quite impressed, if not quite as smitten as you. It’s my first experience with Zhang-ke and if I were to describe the film in a word it’d be bold. Have you seen NEIGHBORING SOUNDS? I saw A TOUCH OF SIN as a blend of that and A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE.

    Anyway, great piece.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Thanks, Daniel. I loved NEIGHBORING SOUNDS and I totally understand the link you see between it (and A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE) and A TOUCH OF SIN. They’re all about violent eruptions that stem from the collision between the past and the present, no? NEIGHBORING SOUNDS and A TOUCH OF SIN will both be making my “Ten Best of 2013″ list.

  • John Charet

    Great review. I am looking forward to seeing a film by Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhang-ke. I can not wait for this to come out. I believe in Jonathan Rosenbaum’s latest Top 10 favorite film list (released during the 2012 updated Sight & Sound film poll), he placed a Zhang-ke film some place on his list. Although you probably already know my opinion of Asian cinema (I think very highly of it), I was wondering what you think of the action of Hong Kong master John Woo, a director I am a huge fan of. Cheers:)

    • michaelgloversmith

      Do you mean you cannot wait for this to “come out” on DVD/Blu-ray? Because it’s playing at the Music Box right now. I like John Woo’s Hong Kong films quite a bit, especially A BETTER TOMORROW, but not anything he’s done since. Incidentally, Jia pays explicit homage to A BETTER TOMORROW in STILL LIFE (in a shot of a dude lighting a cigarette with a counterfeit bill). Man, my “Best of 2013” list is getting crowded and I still haven’t seen BASTARDS, WADJDA or THE WOLF OF WALL STREET!

  • John Charet

    My mistake, I can not wait for it to come out on DVD/Blu-ray. Thank you for correcting me:) Hopefully, their will be a way for me to see it at the Music Box I hope. Also, The Wolf of Wall Street will not be released until Christmas Day. P.S. Even though Thanksgiving is not until tomorrow, I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving:)

  • Top Ten Films of 2013 | White City Cinema

    […] Mainland China’s greatest contemporary filmmaker, Jia Zhang-ke, made what is arguably his most vital film to date with this angry, occasionally shocking work of social criticism, in which four loosely connected stories are used to show how the collaboration between the Chinese Communist government and big business is wreaking havoc on the lives of ordinary Chinese citizens. Each story culminates in an act of tragic violence (all of which were apparently based on real events) while also paying deft homage to the “honor killings” that permeate the wuxia classics of yesteryear (beginning with King Hu’s A Touch of Zen, from which Jia’s movie derives its punning title). Shot by Jia’s longtime cinematographer, the great Yu Lik Wai, these stories unfold in long shot/long take tableaux that dazzle with their cinematic sophistication while also reinforcing the notion of tragic inevitability suggested by the circular narrative structure. Out of all the films I saw this year, this is the one that I suspect will be of the most interest in a few decades time when future cinephiles want to know what the year 2013 was like. Full review here. […]

  • Odds and Ends: A Touch of Sin | White City Cinema

    […] to Kino/Lorber’s stellar new Blu-ray, an occasion that caused me to realize how much my initial long review barely scratched the surface of this great work of art. Upon rewatching Jia’s bold, funny, […]

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  • Top 100 Films of the Decade, pt. 4 (#25 – #1): A Contest | White City Cinema

    […] Mainland China’s greatest contemporary filmmaker, Jia Zhang-ke, made what is arguably his most vital film to date with this angry, occasionally shocking work of social criticism, in which four loosely connected stories are used to show how the collaboration between the Chinese Communist government and big business is wreaking havoc on the lives of ordinary Chinese citizens. Each story culminates in an act of tragic violence (all of which were apparently based on real events) while also paying deft homage to the “honor killings” that permeate the wuxia classics of yesteryear (beginning with King Hu’s A Touch of Zen, from which Jia’s movie derives its punning English-language title). Shot by Jia’s longtime cinematographer, the great Yu Lik-Wai, these stories unfold in long shot/long take tableaux that dazzle with their cinematic sophistication while also reinforcing the notion of tragic inevitability suggested by the circular narrative structure. Out of all the films I saw in 2013, this is the one that I suspect will be of the most interest in a few decades time when future cinephiles want to know what the year was like. Full review here. […]

  • Yaseen Fawzi

    I must say this is an interesting review you posted about A Touch of Sin. While I didn’t get into this film as easily as you did, I will admit that the main characters in each of the segments had their own complex qualities to them.

    The older resident is disillusioned by the modern-day state of affairs in China, and his killing of a few public officials represents his desire to right wrongs that he believes are detrimental to Chinese society. You do have to wonder, however, whether he really is mentally ill. The bank robber’s attack on the ordinary citizens was part of his psychotic attacks on people for no justified reason at all. The receptionist at the spa is initially shown as being timid and shy, but when she attacks a visitor who is abusing her, it is not only shocking, but entirely justified because the man was being a jerk, to begin with. By that point, she starts shedding her inner self and becomes more badass. The main character of the final segment, the factory worker, does small talk with a fellow employee whose fingers are cut because he is not paying attention. The factory worker is then excused, so he goes looking in vain for one minimum wage job after another. Once he discovers he is broke, he tries to tell his mother about his crisis, only to learn his family has no money either, so he commits suicide from the dormitory rooftop.

    The most interesting aspect of A Touch of Sin is how the director, Jia Zhangke, doesn’t dwell too much on the violence. When it does happen, it comes as quite a shock, such as in the aforementioned scene when the spa worker stabs the client or when the old man shoots his victims. In the opening sequence, an elderly person riding on a bike is stopped by a band of young ne’er-do-wells, but he goes out of his way to shoot at them one by one and rides away while the main character of the first segment is eating an apple. The only events that tie the actual story-lines together are the outdoor stage performances with an ancient Chinese backdrop. The film is essentially, as you said, the 21st century version of D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, in that it features unrelated stories which are all connected through one central theme.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Good observations, Yaseen, but I want to correct you on one point: the person on the bike who shoots the ne’er-do-wells in the beginning is not “elderly.” It’s the young protagonist who commits the robbery/double homicide in the second story. Yet another reason to watch the film again!

      • Yaseen Fawzi

        Missed that, but the film isn’t as clear about it initially (unless you pay close attention to his Chicago Bulls hat), and if that’s the case, the robber drives by the old man in the prologue and the incident is mentioned at one point in the first segment, but the main characters do not actually share a conversation or make contact from that point on. By the way, I haven’t seen anyone else from class posting a comment on this review so far.

  • Joey Rios

    A touch of Sin

    Where do i start? Well i enjoyed this film alot, im pretty sure because it had to do with having 4 different stories.

    What i can say is every single character was a total BAD ASS. They didn’t take any b.s from anyone.

    Starting with he beginning the guy with the Bulls beanie took out a gun and shot 3 guys for giving him a hard time and i think got away with it!

    I personally live in Chicago and with all the shootings happening idk if the Director Ji Zhang Ke choose a Bulls reason for that reason, but as soon as that scene happening just made me think of all the news and all the shootings happening.

    The way i saw the movie was basically people that hustle to live another day. Jumping from job to job and making a living. Doing what ever it take to get by another day. I would of never saw this movie if it wasn’t for your class, and now i tell all my friends to Check it out, it was really cool. I think this is definitely in my top 3 from all the movies we have saw in the whole class.

    I found some scenes very shocking, like when the girl killed not 1 but both guys at her job since they wanted to act up she both of them, in their place.

    Overall a very interesting movie i will talk to my friends about when we talk about movies, very different compared to what we are use to here in the U.S

  • Luke Moy

    A Touch of Sin I thought personally was great, and one of the best films I think we watched in class. Maybe I thought this because I could connect my personal life to the stories I hear from my grandmother telling about how tough life was back in China and then she decided to move here for a better life and they would have to adapt to all the new surrounding. The scene that made me think of my family is when the kid was getting yell at by his mother asking him for money this reminded me of a something that happened in my dads life when he was younger and first moved to America he couldn’t focus to much on his studies because he had to help my grandparents with their shop in order to pay rent and feed six people.

    I really liked how when the director wanted it to be violent you saw it quick and fast like when the Kid jumped off his apartment and killing himself or when she girl sliced open that one guy for disrespecting her and thinking money can buy anything/anyone. Another one was when the first guy Dahai shot the guy that was beating the horse I think that in a weird symbolize way, the man beating the horse represents everyone that is telling him to get his life together and that there is more to life then getting rich and that you need to get married and stop being selfish. When he shot the man it set the horse free so it could do whatever it pleased and he relieved the horse from getting beaten by that guy again. which I think Dahai wanted is to be set free from everyone and not having people telling him what or how to life his life, obviously he went about it the wrong way killing everyone.

    I really liked this movie and will be sharing/ talking about it with friends in the near future. I also think this might be a good movie that my grandmother would enjoy because it would be a break from all the bad quality Chinese dramas that she watches.

  • Michael Canova

    I personally thought that this was probably the best film that we have watched in this class. I say this because there was never a part in this movie where I was bored. I was interested the entire time. This movie made me really think about how life in China must be. It made me realize how hard some people work just to get by.

    Something else that I liked about this film is how Jia Zhang-Ke made the violence quick and to the point in this film. We see the kid jump off from his apartment and commit suicide because he couldn’t find a good paying job and he and his family are broke. Or the lady ay the spa that killed the man because he was disrespecting her. But those are just a couple examples of many in this film. I also liked how each scene was a story about violence. They all revolved around that one theme. They were all for different reasons that we all encounter in everyday life. I think that is how I can relate to this film because I see murders and suicides on the news every day. And at the end when the guy shot the man beating the horse, he called the man the filthy animal because he was the one doing harm to a beautiful creature. I think that was his way of telling us to stop violence because one the horse was free, it was able to go do whatever it wanted, just like how we would be able to if there was no violence. Overall this was a very good and interesting film.

  • Maddie Rosenberg

    I wanted to start by saying that the music in this movie, was phenomenal. I didn’t think it would be a big part of the film, or even what the movie focuses on. However, the music turns so eerie when one of the characters is about to kill, that it plays a big part. Other than the music, I thought the movie was alright. I liked what it was trying to do; with all the characters killing and getting their revenge on people who wronged them. I even thought that two of the characters were complete badass’s. This movie just wasn’t for me.

    The one thing I do like while watching a movie, is to be on the edge of my seat. No one did that for me like the last and youngest character in the movie. The way his story was illustrated, before and after meeting that girl, was just sad. It was structured in a way that was sort of realistic. That when I actually think about it, a crush can go down that road. Although he couldn’t be with her, because she didn’t love him in the way he loved her, I was surprised when he just walked off his balcony. I thought he was just going to leave, or try to talk to his friend to fix it somehow. I completely agree with you, when you say that this movie just throws you off in regards of responding. Or even thinking about the outcome as being something “normal” or “seen before”. This movie definitely stands out.

  • Kevork Boyadjian

    A Touch of Sin is a film that truly represents global cinema. Jia Zhangke captures core problems within each generation of China. Each main character has their own stylistic look to them that distinguishes them from the desaturated looking populace. This film overall is quite enjoyable, personally I believe the first half was way stronger while the second half withers in comparison.

    The main takeaway from this film is adapting to changing conditions of a rapidly growing China. Each character of this film is under different circumstances and are from different backgrounds. We see personal justice play out in the first story. Then we see a man who seems disconnected beyond reason and commits robbery for the sake of boredom. We see a receptionist who stands her ground and finally a young man who does not fit within the world and who decides to take his own life. These are distilled explanations of the circumstances within this self aware story. The sense of optimism that is felt at the end of the film to me is somewhat shoehorned in. Most people portrayed in this film are suffering, but maybe these are necessary steps to build a resolved nation.

  • Jack Braje

    I found this film to be particularly predictable at many times, but I still enjoyed it a lot. it kept the viewer on edge for the majority of the film, and always had us thinking about what was to come next. Overall I did enjoy the movie and I really liked the camera angels that were used to shoot the film. defiantly one of the better films we watched in class

  • Daniel Kenny

    I really enjoyed this film and I think it is the greatest film we watched in class in terms to global cinema. The film did much more than tell the stories of four people, it told the story of an entire country. I had not gotten more of sense of what life is like in a different country except for maybe Redes but this film was much more relevant to me as I am growing up in a world where China is the new super power. Getting a look into the life in China as depicted in China gives me a better sense of global cinema. I am very glad I took this class now when the censorship is easing up in China and that I have been introduced to the great films of the world outside of Hollywood. Also I particularly agree with you in your review when you say the characters are all struggling to adapt to a changing country that was the most constant theme throughout and gave purpose to all the violent scenes.

  • Richard Martinez

    A touch of sin was a wonderfully written and directed piece of artwork. I like the fact how the storyline had four different plots in it. Dahai, Zhou San, Xiao Yu, and Xiao Hui All have something in common which is they cannot keep up with the ever increasing pace of China’s progression and evolution Which was pointed out above in the article. I especially liked the part of the plot that focused on Zhou San And also on Xiao Hui. Zhou San Seems to enjoy the process of shooting people. He goes out of his way from his small town to other cities to commit killings. I especially liked one of the beginning scenes that showed Zhou San while he was riding around on his motorbike and three kids stop him to try and make him pay a toll. He reaches in his coat like he is grabbing his wallet and quickly pulls out a gun and shoots two out of the three men and goes and hunts down the third man and shoots him in the back. At this point in the movie I thought the he was just protecting himself, but I later realized that he knew what would happen at that bridge if he went down it so he went down the bridge with murderous intentions.
    Xiao Hui Was the other storyline that I especially liked in the movie. He was a boy and older than 17 or 18 that is forced to provide for his impoverished family. When an accident happens to one of his friends at the sewing shop that he works at Xiao Hui gets blamed by management. Management says that it was Xiao Hui’s fault because he was distracting the other man when he cut his finger so he is punished by having to pay for the other man’s salary while he is out of work. Xiao Hui cannot afford this because he has his own obligations to his own family, so he hits the road and goes to meet up with a friend in a nearby city who helps him find work. He gets a job in a hotel where he finds a girl from the same city that he is from that he falls in love with. The only problem is that she is an escort and he unintentionally had to witness one of her “job duties.” They become very close friends, however she points out that how much does he really know about her. She points out that she has a kid and she does what she has to do to support the kid. Xiao Hui ran away from his problem in his hometown, but it comes back to bite him in the ass. The man who was out of work because of his finger pays Xiao Hui a visit with some of his friends with the intentions of beating him up, however he shows that he is a bigger and better man than Xiao Hui by letting him go. This really saddens Xiao Hui because he had no other choice but to leave town because he has to help provide for his family. Soon thereafter Xiao Hui checks his bank statement seeing that there is no money. At the same time his mother calls him wondering where the money he is supposed to send her is. He has to tell his mother that there is no money right now to which his mother says that he is lying how could there possibly be no money. His mother tells him that he is living to expensively and he goes on to explain to her that he is not he is just trying to make do and he will send her money when he can. All of Xiao Hui’s stresses build the and he decides he cannot take it anymore and he just gets up out of his bed and walks over to the balcony and proceeds to jump off a high balcony at his new job.
    A touch of sin was a wonderful movie that I will definitely seek out and try to see you again in the future there was so many things going on in this movie just as there are so many things going on in the evolution of China’s future. I think the director hit the nail on the mark. I hope to see some of this directors others movies because I liked his directing style.

  • andrew

    I felt that the film was reflecting on how money whether or not someone has it or not will effect the world. For example the first story could be how money creates jealously, then in the next a sense of power which is still defeated by brute force, then the rest is like a pursuit for money, but in the world its just difficult which seems to make everyone lazy and take a easy way out

  • Jennifer Coldea

    A Touch of Sin had more violence than any movie that I have ever seen before. It became fairly predictable that someone was going to die in each of the four stories being told, but I believe it only proved that the way of all men leads to destruction and not just those in China. The injustice of the rich man hoarding his money as his village suffered in poverty drives a man into pure anger leading in his committing multiple murders. Then there was the man bored with life having nothing more to live for than the adrenalin of murdering and stealing purses. Following was the mistress home wrecking a marriage and the man choosing to leave the marriage he signed to commit to led to suffering in emotion and frustration. Being so frustrated she, too, kills a client for being aggressive with her in wanting to pay her as a prostitute. Finally, there was the young man hopping jobs and then becoming overwhelmed by his new “fancy” job at some prostitute house and in his lack of money for provision where he then takes his own life. This is a depressing film, again, showing the corruption people are always tangling themselves into in the most dramatic way. I could not watch this movie as an entertainment, but It most definitely got me thinking.

  • olivia

    A Touch of Sin is very much like the film Holy Motors. Each of the
    four stories in the film are all disconnected each having their own
    plot but connected because they all have the same underlying
    problem of the inability to adapt to the ever changing of the faceless society of southern China that leads to a sudden wave of violent
    action that ends in death.

    The first scene is a nomadic motorcyclist riding down a deserted mountain road where he is “attacked” by three young men, who
    he then kills. his action sort of represent a domino effect/ pattern
    of killing through out the four stories. In most film where people go
    around killing people there is always a build up and that leads to a horrifically bloody death. yet each of the deaths are abrupt and end
    very quickly leading into the next story. I think that this is sort of a representation of the culture that the characters live in where they
    barely scrape by working in jobs that dehumanize them.

    I learned in psychology class that if a person feels dehumanized or faceless (less identifiably) they are more likely to commit acts of
    crime, this is called the mob mentality. I feel like in some ways that is
    why each of the stories end with some killing someone, is because
    they feel faceless among the masses of people that are just as anonymous as them.

    i really enjoyed watching A Touch of Sin and reading this article
    because I’m not really big on any form of politics so it was interesting
    to learn about the government of Chin and how much control it had
    over the film industry. its just so mind boggling that they have to
    censor everything even if its fictional.

  • Matthew Teichert

    At the beginning of this movie I was very confused on what was going on due to the fast cuts to other characters without dialog. But once the movie was midway finished I realized that all the stories are connected indirectly to each other. The separate stories provide background context for each other so you see that the stories are related to each other. It would appear that the stories are individual in nature but they are all contained in the same region and so on a larger scale they are related to each other. The confusing nature of the stories did not allow me to fully enjoy the movie as a whole until it was all over. The end of the movie was what made the stories come together as one movie and not a bunch of short films. To me is seems that this movie is all about showing that the government and society is causing the people to go crazy. The movie is asking for a reform to change what the society and government believe in order to create a better environment for the people. Overall I thought this was a great movie that you have to see more than once to fully appreciate what it is saying.

  • Christian Gralak

    A Touch of Sin was a fantastic film! I thought the best part of the film was actually the cinematic properties it contained, especially in the beginning of the story where Jia Zhangke shows us all the mountains and bridges on the horizon. It’s an amazing POV from Zhou San who we see riding up the mountain on his motorbike. Then we get the action of him stopping and shooting three bandits who are trying to rob him and he just carries on in his fashionable way until he sees the large overturned fruit truck. We are also introduced to another main character named Dahai who is shown briefly. I loved the scene when Dahai is observing the crash and as he blows off a piece of fruit a giant explosion occurs, which was one of the most unexpected effects of the film.

    Dahai’s narrative story is my favorite of all four. I really enjoyed seeing how he went from complaining about what he didn’t agree with, to taking these issues up a whole other level. A crazy level where he was willing to blast anyway who was taking part in crooked illegal politics. This part recognizes some of the issues Jia Zhangke wants us to see in the changing times of China and it’s shift into modernity. We see the distaste of citizens with political leaders due to broken promises which lead to better lives for themselves and their counterparts while leaving poor villages and providence’s in sub-standard conditions.

    I really liked Zhou San’s narrative as well. He was more mysterious and to himself. I thought about how he really didn’t care to work on his land and grow crops or stay with his family and this reminded me of today’s American people – the younger generation of millennials who just want to travel the world because they’re bored with staying in one spot. Zhou’s addiction to shooting people seemed to be a big problem as well which may explain why he is so didn’t and quiet. Another great part I loved in this story was the shooting and cinematography of the fireworks during ( I think it was the Chinese new year) the celebratory holiday. The way that was shot was beautiful.

    Xiao Yu and Xiao Hui had interesting narratives but I didn’t find myself to be as drawn in to them as the first two. The story with Xiao Yu and her cheating boyfriend showed that money isn’t going to buy someone whatever they want anymore, and the story with Xiao Hui showed that being young in China is harder than you might think. The working conditions look horrible and the pay doesn’t seem to be enough to live comfortably, but rather just enough to get by. I thought my favorite part of the movie that revolved around Xiao Yu was when she returned to the village where Dahai lived, and I swear I think I saw Dahai walking in the crowd of people when they shown her arriving into his village, and she stands within the crown of people watching the performers on stage.

    I thought this was a great movie and will definitely need to watch it again in order to appreciate it more. I’ll probably have to tell my parents and girlfriend to watch it as well so I can see what they think. Hopefully they will enjoy it as much as I did.

  • Chris Golebiowski

    For this film, I really did enjoy it and the meanings it held. What I mean specifically about the meanings is how all the characters all connected to an animal in this film. For a general example, the character Dahai, who goes and kills his members for his job over a money issue connects with a horse as Dahai notices a man whipping his horse and Dahai felt like that horse. For the other character, Zhou is connect to Bull, Xiao Yu is connected to snakes, and Xiao Hui is connected to fish. The idea of having all these characters be connected to a group of animals is something I find truly fascinating. Also, all four of these stories seem to love the idea of death being involved and also a lot blood(the fourth story with Xiao Hui doesn’t count as he commits suicide by jumping off the dorm building). I find the idea of including brutal violence shows a powerful message by showing the characters go through some kind of issue in their lives and it seems violence was the solution to them and those deaths were very brutal as well.

    I really did enjoy this movie overall, with the occasional funny scenes and all the killings were just so damn awesome. The locations that this film was shot in looked great, especially for Xiao Hui story with the flashy lights around where he goes. The stories for the characters are very clear and understandable as we can see what issues all four of the characters go through. This film overall is a great experience and I may just watch it again to see if I missed anything as there was a lot to digest from this film.

  • Damaris Curescu

    A Touch of Sin I believe is a reflection of human nature. The tendency of human beings to destroy everything in our path. The four different story plots of a touch of sin show four different innate desires that are not being met by society. The film portrays the injustice of the wealthy man. The film portrays how quickly and rapidly Chinese society is changing, but this film can very well paint a picture for the world in general. Society, rules, norms, technology, values, morals.

    A Touch of Sin depicts how we cannot keep up with everything. Neither to we know how to adjust, cope and deal with all these changes. In the end, each of these four people end everything in a bloody rampage. How do we deal with injustice? How do we deal with change? How do we deal with foolish choices, just as the last character began to sink into debt, resulting in absolute despair?

    A Touch of Sin truly shows the horrendous sin of man, but at the same time is full of questions. It compels the viewer to truly question what do we, as a people, do about this changing society? And instead of everything going into complete turmoil, how do we solve it? How to we answer this urgent reality that is happening. Violence on the cover of almost every magazine, every news headline and every talk?

    I believe the answer cannot be found in this film. This film is a mere depiction of our world turning into complete and utter chaos. I believe the answer to that does not lie in the hands of human beings, but something beyond earthly wisdom and philosophies.

  • Daniel Lopez

    Touch of Sin splits the difference of the last two films we saw about violence – Thou Shalt Not Kill and Black Book. Thou Shalt Not Kill announces itself as an art film, stating in the beginning “The law should not imitate nature, the law should improve nature” and then continues to be brutally violent and explicitly about morality. Black Book is the opposite, having a facade of entertainment that blankets throughout a very violent film. Touch of Sin is very straightforward about the topic of violence, but it’s more than that, as it also addresses socio-economic issues of the modern era.
    The four stories follow characters that are from different regions, generations, and story lines, but what they all share in common is their inability to adapt to changes within the society. I believe the film’s message, in part, was to show that Chinese society (and to an extension global society) is changing so rapidly that the working class and ever shrinking middle-class are struggling to keep up.
    In the first story we see Dahai driven to mental illness as the government fails to investigate the multiple degrees of corruption in his hometown and goes on a killing spree. In the 2nd story, we see the psychopath do whatever he thinks he should to provide an income for his family, even it means killing innocent people. The 3rd story shows us a woman killing a man who physically abuses her. And the last, and saddest story, presents a young man who struggles to make a living commit suicide as he sees his future bleak and hopeless.
    In all these stories, the characters all took matters into their own hands since they saw no way out of their realities. They all seemed paranoid, and maybe for good reason, as the film shows the disparity between the few that have so much and the many who have so little. One must do whatever they must to survive (a repeating motif in our films this semester)
    This week I also saw a documentary that showed how much China idolizes the Western world. Being shut out of global trade markets for decades, once they opened their doors they found out how far behind they actually were. This was met with an economic explosion in the 80’s and 90’s that set China up to be the local hegemon in its sphere of influence, and indeed set to surpass the US economy by 2030.
    This growth of economy all over the world has led to very few people at the top to increase their general wealth. And while the middle class in places like China and India may be growing, here in the US and Europe it has definitely stay stagnant, and even diminished. Jia Zhang-ke sees where his country is heading. But instead of reveling in its growth in power and influence, he turns the mirror to his audience to ask them is this truly the way they want to go? He shockingly present violence throughout the film, constantly taking his audience aback at the abruptness and sheer terror of it all. It symbolizes just how fast a seemingly prosperous country can turn into a real nightmare for the vast majority of its citizens.

  • Aleks Djuric

    Not only do I think this movie is well made, but I think it does a great job of using four different characters to show the injustices that are going on in China. There is the social injustice and the political injustice. Dahai is trying to face the corruption of his boss, Xiao Yu has to deal with the gender inequality, Xiao Hui struggles to find a place where he belongs, and lastly Zhou San just seem to be driven crazy by society. The director of this film Jia Zhangke is showing the people what has become of their society, and they are to blame because they are letting it happen, so in order to change it they need to act and make a difference. The final scene in the film shows this the best, it is a group of people watching a show about a trial, and the lady keeps on repeating you are to blame, and the people in the crowd are just standing their with blank faces, not seeming to understand. But this film does not only relate to China, I think that people all round the world can relate because scenes like these are happening all over the world.

    Overall I liked this film and could relate it to Redes the other film we watched in class, because they both deal with corruption and the common people are the ones who are being hurt. Also they both end the film with the same message which is telling the people that if they want change, they are the ones who have to make the change.

  • Chris Eddy

    “A Touch of Sin” is a entertaining, complex and exceedingly tragic film. Each of the four stories’ protagonists are dealing with their own demons. All of the stories end in tragedy as well, excluding the ambiguously hopeful continuation of Xiao Yu’s story at the conclusion of the film.

    The theme of loneliness is easily viewable in the film. Each story’s protagonist struggles with being an ‘outsider looking in.’ However, I’m more curious as to what each of their ‘sins’ is, in accordance to the movie’s title as well as the ending where the theater actor asks Xiao Yu “Do you know what your sin is?” The word sin typically conjures up Christian imagery and beliefs in regards to morality. As far as I can recall, loneliness and failure to adapt are not on the list of 7 deadly sins. I thought about it, and I think that their sin is wrath.

    Dahai is angry at his governments refusal to acknowledge it’s corruption, Zhou San is angry at society for refusing to accept his proclivities, Xiao Yu is also angry at society for ostracizing her for loving a married man and for demeaning her simply because of her gender and Xiao Hui is angry at himself for being unable to come to terms with his romantic interests occupation and as well as being unable to make his family proud. In the end, each of the protagonists anger is a result of their fear/incapability to accept change and their loneliness/lack of meaningful social connections. Like the film “Touki Bouki”, “A Touch of Sin” is a very angry film.

    I personally don’t know much about Chinese culture, but just thinking about what I do know from the news and articles – rapid industrialization, unequal ratio of old to young and male to female, governmental corruption – all of these issues I see “A Touch of Sin” examining.

  • Ronak Mhatre

    Touch of sin is a movie is Chinese film which is very will showed about three different stories at one time. it shows how a person is related to one another for their living . how hard is the life to live and the people go to the wrong directions to earn money and sometimes it causes death. there is too much of violence in this movie.
    I want too mention some extraordinary points in the movie because it is very hard to define each and every part of the movie as the movie changes from one shot to another shot at a very different level. every different shot has a different meaning coming out of it.
    the first and the second story is more related to each other because the shot in the movie in starting when 1 man shoots the teenagers while riding the bike and he passes through the main hero of first part of the movie and looks as if nothing had happened. Then during the first part of the movie the main hero starts shooting persons whom he feels is bad and then kills the richest man who is friend of him. he also kills the man who calls him Mr Golf is the funniest part of the movie that i think. then while in the second part the man shoots for robbery. he earns lots of money by robbery . the shot when he killed both man and his wife while carrying money that robbery was planned so easily and done but there were no people or police that can find him that i found a little weird. In fact i cannot see any policeman or government officer in this movie all the things are happening illegally and he is not afraid of dyeing and he also has a family and the man he worships devil not the god but ;later he wife knows how does he earns money.
    In the third part there is shown about love of teenage boy and girl but later he know that she has a child as she is prostitute and he lives her. he does a job and his mom asks for a money but he didn’t had money and he suicides. as per i think he could have worked more hard and try to figure more money.
    At the end of the movie the rich mans lady came to the job in factory which by seeing that shot feels that she has no money. there is also prostitution shown in this movie and how it is practiced on large scale. There was also a shot in second part where the lady kills 2 persons as they forced her to have sex with her.there is 3 movies combination in this movie which makes this movie more intresting an excellent movie i have ever seen.

  • Emily Casaletto

    While I am disappointed that I was not able to see the film during class, I can tell that the film was very powerful. The director Jia Zhang-ke seems to focus the film on the social and political tensions that are currently occurring in China. The film is broken up into four separate parts that all connect and intertwine with one another. The film “A Touch of Sin” is the first fictional film produced by director Jia Zhang-ke since 2006. The focus of his past films has been mainly documentaries, shorts and a narrative/documentary hybrid type movie.
    China currently is run as a socialist republic, consisting of the Communist party as the only political party. There are a few different aspects to the way that the state exercises its power. The state power is exercised through the actual communist party, the Central People’s Government, the provincial and also local representation. It is considered to be a dual leadership, where each local Agency is under equal authority divided amongst the local leader and also the leader of the bureau who is a level higher than the local government. The people’s Congress is elected by voters. The film delves deeply into the struggles that are seen by most hardworking people living in China. Despite the citizens having a right to vote, they still feel as if they are not represented well.
    From what I read on the blog, the film seems like it is a must- see! I’ll be sure to locate a DVD somewhere or maybe it will be playing in a theatre sometime soon. Asian cinema is something that I would like to get into more, because the storylines all seem so complex and original. We’ve watched a few films that were produced in an Asian country and all the films seem to vary greatly.

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