Tag Archives: A Touch of Sin

Countdown: 2013’s Bounty of Foreign Films

The Academy did a nice job this year in honoring foreign language films. Each candidate was wonderful, and we were especially pleased to see The Hunt and The Broken Circle Breakdown get attention. But the fact is, there were so many exceptional foreign language titles released this year, a lot of really wonderful movies didn’t get the nod. And that’s too bad, because without the Academy stamp, they went largely unnoticed in theaters. So, we decided to honor them ourselves. Please enjoy our list of the best foreign language films that did not get an Oscar nomination this year.

1. Gloria

If there’s one thing the films on our list have in common, it’s the strength of their female leads. Nowhere is this more the case than with the Chilean import Gloria. Paulina Garcia owns the title role with a performance that is raw emotion in action. With nary a false note, Garcia takes us on whirlwind coming-of-middle-age tale that never ceases to surprise.

2. Blue is the Warmest Color

Moving at its own pace, the French film packs an emotional wallop as it follows young Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) through her first affair of the heart. Anchored by Exarchopoulos’s powerhouse performance, and her touching chemistry with co-star Lea Seydoux, Blue is a beautifully human, wildly compelling love story.

3. The Past

Available today on DVD is a poignantly complicated, beautifully told tale of family dysfunction and the constant presence of our past. Blessed with unflinching performances – particularly from a magnificent Berenice Bejo – the wonderfully textured The Past keeps your attention as its mystery slowly unravels before your eyes.

4. Beyond the Hills

A Romanian story of forbidden love, progress and superstition, Beyond the Hills offers an understated and unhurried picture that leaves you shaken. A tale of survival and a displaced generation’s quest for security, the film makes for a beautiful examination of the weird, counter-productive, even dangerous relationship between primitive and modern Romania.

5. A Touch of Sin

That same tug of progress against a backdrop of old world creates the dehumanizing and corrupt environment for Zhangke Jia’s A Touch of Sin. The film dips a toe in four interweaving stories of individuals torn by the too-rapid cultural shift in China. Amid bullet and arterial spray, four beautifully developed characters struggle against their own bleak futures.



When Push Comes to Puncture Wounds and Bullet Holes

A Touch of Sin

by Hope Madden

A handful of befuddled but beautifully realized characters fall through the tears in the cultural fabric of a too-rapidly modernizing China in Zhangke Jia’s A Touch of Sin.

The film sets four tales spinning simultaneously, each uncovering the unpredictable challenges and opportunities facing four characters who are dealing with capitalistic expansion, an unprecedented and often unstructured change in more than just their economic reality. As each grapples with the task of making a living among the unscrupulous who’ve already learned to exploit the fledgling economy, bloodshed becomes ever more appealing.

Jia’s imagination and scope are epic, but his film remains intimate. Though his pacing is slower and his dialog certainly more restrained, Jia’s film draws on some of Tarantino’s staging preferences when push comes to puncture wounds and bullet holes. Like Tarantino, though, Jia never abandons his characters.

He remains invested in each one, whether it’s the disgruntled miner hoping to hold village officials responsible for community welfare, the young woman defending her honor to herself as well as her unwelcome suitors, the transient who enjoys his freedom and his handgun, or the adolescent thrashing desperately against a lifelong outlook of meager wages and soul-crushing employers.

The physical environment is as unforgiving as anything in this bleak, colorless winter where everyone looks cold and uncomfortable – not abjectly miserable, just utterly unhappy. It’s a perfect backdrop for these lost souls, although Jia seems to be suggesting that these outcasts may not be all that atypical. Not one is in an entirely unique situation, and only the gun-happy transient even seems like an odd duck. No, these are very regular people who finally, irrevocably react rather than submit.

This is the real brilliance in his film. With each passing storyline, the line between “he just snapped” and “would I have done the same” blurs. Jia wonders throughout how an intelligent, rational person is supposed to manage with no future.