Ash is Purest White:Chinese Women Odyssey at The Turn of The Century

On May 11th, Jia Zhangke’s new film ‘Ash is Purest White’ as the main competition unit film premiered in Cannes won the audience applause and praise in France. The heroine of ‘Ash is Purest White’ is still Jia ‘s wife, Zhao Tao. In addition, the film also has director and stars such as Liao Fan, Feng Xiaogang, Xu Wei, Zhang Yibai, Yan Yinan, Zhang Yi, Dong Zijian and Ding Jiali as actor.


‘Ash is Purest White’ is the fifth film that Jia Zhangke entered the Cannes Film Festival. For Jia Zhangke, the key words of this film are ambition and change. Mentioning ambition is because he tried to string together his classic works in the past. We can see the karaoke room in ‘Xiao Wu’, the mobile song and dance troupe in ‘Zhan Tai’, the lens that leans on the ship’s side in the ‘Three Gorges Good Man’ and a three-stage timeline similar to ‘Shan He Gu Ren’.

The film presents changes of three Chinese landscapes in 2001, 2006, and 2017. The sense of ritual and absurdity coexist. In 2001, the small town gang brothers swear in front of Guan Erye and collectively stare at the Chow Yun Fat Hong Kong film ‘Heroes’ in the video recorder. Even the Latin dance performance is still a new thing in the bar; in 2006, the mobile song and dance troupe carried the lion and tiger Cage’s tricks, Ding Jiali, holding a box of lunch, are praying to thank God. After a second, she could steal other people’s wallets. The driver of the motorcycle became blue balls because his wife is out of work. In 2017, Dr. Feng Xiaogang of the hospital asked the scan code of WeChat to contact the cure for the disease. The ‘rules’ of the gang are no longer. The actor who sits on the squat can only look at the young girls in the live broadcast to spend his free time.


The literal translation of the English name of this film is ‘Ash is Purest White’, as if to say that the heroine who is the most suitable for the ‘hero’ is the most noble. When Zhao Tao appeared on the scene, she ignored the contradictions and social chaos and only asked for stability in the world, but she still gave freedom because of love. After being abandoned by her boyfriend, she was not disappointed and faced the narrow predicament alone. Using the absurd way to solve the problem, and ultimately to achieve redemption with their own strength, Zhao Tao does not change the initial heart of emotion.

At the beginning, the actor Bin Bin used a gun to teach Zhao Tao how to become ‘hero’, but the only one who stay as ‘hero’ is Zhao Tao herself. It can be said that Zhao Tao has pinned on Jia Zhangke’s romantic imagination. At this level, he even broke through the scope of Chinese society and began to look at the universe and discover that everything is the same. The society is developing, the universe is running, the purest and noble Zhao Tao is only the prisoner of the universe. The stage of ‘hero’ are like dust and ash in the universe. In the end, no one can completely get rid of the fate of looking up at the stars.

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