A Touch Of Sin
A Touch Of Sin (Tian zhu ding) starts off looking like one of those long films where nothing much happens. We see a man contemplating eating a pice of fruit he has picked up off the road at the scene of a fatal accident involving a fruit truck. Standing astride his bike as if his decision to eat or not to eat, weighed heavy on his soul. Then we cut to another man on his motorbike, riding along a winding mountain road, only to slow down and stop for some axe wielding thugs. Why he slowed down and stopped for these would be robbers doesn’t become fully apparent until later in the film, but rather than getting money from this lonely traveler, the thugs get a slug a piece from the mans concealed pistol.
It’s not exactly the start you were expecting from a film that I wrongly understood was about corruption in modern day China.
It wasn’t until after the film when I read up a-fresh what the film was about that I realised that it was more about the “corrosive effects of violence in contemporary China,” though in reflection themes of corruption also drove the film.
Things soon settled down to follow the life of the guy contemplating the piece of fruit, Dahai, who lives in a remote village whose livelihood is intricately linked to the local mine. A mine that used to be owned by the villagers themselves, until the local chief sold it to a big multinational company, making a few key characters in the village rich – being able to drive Audi’s and Maserati’s whilst everyone else struggles on in typical Chinese ways, not wanting to complain. Dahai is different however, and raises his voice, causing trouble, and in one scene, after publicly questioning the mine’s owner, gets repeatedly hit in the side of the head with a metal rod, but inexplicably does nothing to defend himself.
Things then get a little weird from our western perspective, and then after having a time to think about his life, Dahai goes distinctively Tarantino, cementing his story as the best of the four tales that make up this Chinese odyssey.
Next we follow the gun-toting motorbike guy, though not initially obvious due to unfamiliarity with the character, who goes home for the New Year, but leaves his wife and son shortly after because life is only exciting when you can shoot a gun. Life for him it seems is a collections of encounters where he can shoot and rob people. How nice, but less than engaging.
Thirdly is the tale of a young woman having an affair and working as a receptionist in a massage parlor. Initially the story looks to be taking the film in a downward spiral, but then the poor girl gets beaten up by her lover’s wife and brothers. Ah sweet justice. She lives however and continues to work, and one night a john with more money that sense insists that she i a whore and will give her what she wants. Due to a twist of events that seemed at the time to be a pointless story development, the girl is able to go all Kill Bill on the dude.
This would have been a fine point to leave the story, but with time literally dragging on, director Zhang Ke Jia insists on telling the story of a migrant worker who seems to me to be more of a slacker who just can’t be bothered staying with any job for too long, and the violnce he attracts in doing so.
Whilst sitting in the theatre watching A Touch Of Sin, it’s obvious that the film should have been a three act story, and by the time the credits roll you’re so over the film that you’ll almost have forgotten the moments of sheer brilliance.
The more you contemplate the films themes and actions of the four main characters, the more you come to appreciate the film in it’s fullness.
It starts off brilliantly, surges to it’s best early on, and losses steam at the end, but it’s still a worth story to see, and one that you will be contemplating for some time after, if you give it the chance.