By now, most of the buzziest films from last year’s Cannes Film Festival have already made their way into theaters, and a few have even picked up some awards season love along the way. You’ve surely caught up on Burning, Shoplifters, and Cold War—if not, fix that ASAP. But there’s one highly anticipated title still on the way: Jia Zhangke’s Ash Is Purest White.
The Chinese filmmaker, perhaps best known for Still Life and A Touch of Sin, reunites with his wife and frequent muse Zhao Tao for his latest drama. Beginning in postindustrial Datong in 2001, the film hops across three different timeframes to follow Tao as Qiao, a woman in a relationship with a gangster (Liao Fan). In the film’s first U.S. trailer, Qiao’s lover foolishly drops his pistol in the middle of a nightclub dance floor. She watches him disapprovingly, one hand on her hip, as he slumps over to pick it up. After he’s jumped by a group of criminals on the street, she becomes even entangled in his world of violence, soon learning to shoot a gun herself.
The film was a festival favorite among critics, and currently sits at a solid 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. In our Cannes review, The A.V. Club’s A.A. Dowd called Ash Is Purest White “a surprisingly funny, even loopy film at times, with bursts of slapstick and screwball humor, plus a sporadic absurdism.” Fans of Jia’s work will also be pleased to find parallels between Ash and his previous work, like Unknown Pleasures and Mountains May Depart. Even Zhao’s work in the film recalls her past collaborations with the filmmaker, a performance Dowd described as one of the most complex of her career so far. For those unfamiliar with Jia’s filmography, there’s no better time to dive in.
Ash Is Purest White arrives in U.S. theaters on March 15.