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Ash Is Purest White(江湖儿女)

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China, France, Japan · 2018
2h 21m
Director Jia Zhangke
Starring Zhao Tao, Liao Fan, Feng Xiaogang, Xu Zheng
Genre Crime, Drama, Romance

In an industrial city in China, Qiao, a young dancer, falls in love with a mobster and ends up imprisoned for trying to protect him. She finds him after her release five years later. The story of their violent love set over the span of 16 years.

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What are critics saying?


The A.V. Club by A.A. Dowd

It’s a surprisingly funny, even loopy film at times, with bursts of slapstick and screwball humor, plus a sporadic absurdism.


Screen International by Allan Hunter

The meandering narrative sprawls like a great Dickens novel but individual encounters and elements that may seem like distractions all reflect back on the greater themes.


IndieWire by David Ehrlich

It’s a movie that often feels like a mega-mix of Jia’s greatest hits, but one that rehashes them with precious little of the ineffable grace that make each of them so valuable on their own.


New York Magazine (Vulture) by Emily Yoshida

By the end, the transformation of China is more compelling than Qiao’s love for Bin, but watching both unfold over time is continually thought-provoking, given the ephemerality of whole cities, much less love affairs.


CineVue by John Bleasdale

Ash Is Purest White is a fascinating chapter in Jia’s ongoing chronicle of ordinary lives affected by unprecedented change in China.


Variety by Maggie Lee

The work has its intellectually ponderous moments but is ultimately saved by Jia’s muse and wife, Zhao Tao, who surpasses herself in a role of mesmerizing complexity.


The Guardian by Peter Bradshaw

What does the ending of Ash Is Purest White mean — and what does its middle or beginning mean? I’m not sure. It feels like a gripping parable for the vanity of human wishes, and another impassioned portrait of national malaise.


Vanity Fair by Richard Lawson

I love the way Jia grapples with large social shifts in such metaphorical and yet still intimate ways, peering in on individual people caught in the churn of time and growth and framing them in the defining context of their surroundings.


The Film Stage by Rory O'Connor

Ash is Purest White is a tremendous, funny, heartbreaking, sprawling vehicle for Zhao, and what a gift it is to see her exploring the furthest reaches of those talents.

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