A Touch of Sin – Review Notes


Four stories set in the money and status obsessed society that is modern day China. I was under the impression from the poster that this film was just about the red apple eating guy, sat on his motorbike. I was confused as to why everything was moving so quickly until it became apparent that the film was more than one story. Hollywood mainstream film narrative structure is apparently hardwired into my brain.

First story – a man can’t take the corruption at the mine any more.
Second story – a very quiet migrant worker with a secret job.
Third story – a receptionist whose life falls  apart in one day.
Fourth story – a young man searches for a girlfriend and a fairly paid job.

touch of sin still 1a zhao tao

It is portraying China as a place where no one, apart from the super rich, has a good life. The rich live in their ivory towers while all the little people fight amongst themselves for the remaining crumbs of the pie. The iconic sights of Shanghai and Beijing are not shown in this film – just the dirty industrial mega cities that are reality for most Chinese people.

Director Jia Zhangke’s film was nominated to the Palme D’or at the Cannes film Festival last year and ended up walking away with the best screenplay award.

Previously, the director has made films outside the state run film bureaucracy but this is the first to be made with state funding. I can’t actually believe that this film is allowed to be made and released outside of China, as it doesn’t paint the country in a very good light. At all.


A few messages that this film conveys – everyone is a slave to money in the new, ultra individualist China. Corruption is something that everyone is aware of and most people are powerless to change. Unless, that is, they want to be part of the corruption themselves. Money is the goal even when people don’t know what they want it for.

Human life is not prized too highly in a country where there is a population of 1.36 billion. Money first, family, health, romance, friendship….all come after.

Great performances from all, especially the younger cast members. This is displayed in a great scene where two characters and chatting and checking the news on an iPad. The message being that everyone is indifferent to shocking events when they’re seen on an iPad screen.



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