From the mining village and luxurious brothels to the regimented rigidity of a factory that looks like the infamous real-life iPad facility where workers were killing themselves, Jia's China is at once seen in a broad geographic and linguistic sweep; regional dialects are heard and commented on. Yet, despite its heterogeneity, the country is shown as under the sway of one process - the grinding introduction of state sponsored capitalism. A co-production with Takeshi Kitano's film company Office Kitano, A Touch of Sin's violence has the same black absurdity as the Japanese maestro, even as it bursts out with shocking suddenness.
Jia is as careful as ever to compose his shots with a genuine sense of beauty and, though we see the environmental degradation of the country, there's still scope to witness the glorious beauty of his nation's landscape (the acclaimed director has already picked up a major festival prize with the Venice Golden Lion for Still Life in 2006). The broadness of his canvas sometimes stretches and there are a couple of moments where the shifts of tone clang, but given its ambition there's still a lot to admire in this view of the China that lies behind the myth and propaganda.
The 66th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 15-27 May, 2013. For more of our Cannes 2013 coverage, simply follow this link.