Arts & Leisure

Movie review: Ash is Purest White

Tao Zhao stars in “Ash is Purest White” (2018).

Ash is Purest White— Running Time: 2:16 — Rating: R
Do go to “Ash is the Purest White.” Let’s look at the tough part of this new film that is earning excellent reviews from the pros. The Chinese language pulls our eyes to the running translations at the bottom of the screen. That means we miss some important facial expressions and quick behavioral actions that are key to the culture and dialogue of this very good movie.
Aside from those hurdles we see some grand acting by Tao Zhao as Qiao and Fan Liao as Bin. As we watch their tale unfold, we are given several parts of China as Qiao makes her way through a tough journey. Watching the behavior, the gestures, and the intermingling as the landscapes and cultures change becomes progressively interesting as we get to know the main characters.
Qiao and Bin are a couple who oversee a gang of crooks with their own set of principles that they apply harshly. We meet Qiao as she strides with confidence through the mob. Bin asks the mobsters only that they behave with decency toward each other. We are suddenly on the inside of this gang of crooks where guns are illegal and smoking is ever present.
When Qiao violates the legal system in a big way, she goes to jail for five years. On her release, she crosses the country again in search of Bin and hands us another chance to see a piece of China. As we follow her journey, we see differing cultures, writings, illustrations, habits. And yet they, and we as we watch, are all human beings figuring out their lives.
The differences between our cultures and theirs seem so great and yet here we all are on the same round earth, many countries touching others, citizens alike with similar bodies that allow us to function in like ways. It’s our brains, every single one different from every other, that make us individuals. But how is it that neighboring countries — Canada/America/Mexico here, or China/ Russia/North Korea there — live just steps across border lines and yet have thoroughly different cultures and languages?
That’s the fun of watching this movie. As we follow Qiao on her long journey through differing cultures, China seems new to us in every way and we are very lucky to have her as our strong, quiet guide. Actor Zhao earns a big salute as she creates Qiao’s life. She is a fine actor who earns great credit for leading us through several Chinese cultures.
Our time with this film is filled with the details and behavior of those faraway cultures that linger far beyond our leaving the theater. Our guide has given us a tour of various Chinese lands as seen by a young woman searching without money for the man she loves. The surprising thing is that we need no more plot than that as we follow her. A salute to actor Zhao and writer/director Zhangke Jia.
— Reviewed by Joan Ellis

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