Ash (2017) | Pingyao International Film Festival | Year Zero
Director: Li Xiaofeng | Cast: Luo Jin, Xin Peng, Nie Yuan, Jiang Peiyao, Huang Jue, Yang Yiwei, Sun Hao,
Director and co-writer Li Xiaofeng improves on his thoughtful but flawed debut Nezha with this sinuous and sumptuously cinematic modern morality thriller the explores through a fractured narrative the simple premise: a choice of redemption or recidivism for two young killers.
Elegant and intriguing, ASH has echoes of Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin in its reflection on good and evil in contemporary China where a young detective Chen Weikun (Nie Yuan), is tasked with investigating the brutal murder of an ordinary man Ma Xudong (Yang Yiwei), in a local cinema. He draws a blank with the victim’s family but pursues a shady suspect who is seen loitering in the shadows. Flipping toward a decade, we then meet surgeon Wang Dong (Luo Jin),who is celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife, Xuan Hui (Jiang Peiyao) and it soon emerges that the two men are strangely linked. The tension mounts as the mist gradually clears on the fulll story involving a long-standing pact forged between Xu and Wang after their crimes which continue to haunt them, as Chen doggedly probes the past.
With its universal theme, cast of subtly instinctual newcomers whose personalities contrast to great effect, and pristine technical craftmanship from Dutch DoP Joewi Verhoeven, ASH makes for an absorbing and provocative watch. Simon John Fisher Turner’s atmospheric score creates just the right mood for this first class, if overlong Chinese thriller. MT
PINGYAO INTERNARIONAL FILM FESTIVAL | YEAR ZERO | 28 Ocotber – 4 November 2017