A Love & Anarchy classic. At the heart of the programme for over three decades.

Ash Is Purest White (2018)

Jia Zhang-ke was never going to make a conventional jianghu underworld movie, and even if genre elements and hard- edged character details are woven into Ash Is Purest White, this typically unhurried, long-span drama is very much of a piece with the Chinese auteur’s contemplative body of work. Starting in 2001 and ending on a melancholy New Year’s Eve that ushers in 2018, the film provides a transfixing leading role for Jia’s wife and indispensable muse Zhao Tao. She plays a woman from a dying coal-mining town in love with a local mobster, their complicated relationship unfolding against the backdrop of a country changing at a dizzying pace. […] The evolution of contemporary China, of course, has always been Jia’s central theme as tradition has made way for modernity, bringing both losses and gains […]. This latest feature is Jia’s first not shot by regular cinematographer Yu Lik Wai. Noted
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The Brawler (2017)

Writer-director-producer Anurag Kashyap is back at the top of his game in The Brawler, an unconventional boxing film and love story that offers a barbed critique of India’s much-abused caste system, religious intolerance and the political corruption that permeates society. A hybrid genre of his own devising combines Bollywood mainstream action and pacing […] with art house themes and engrossing characters. [The film is] [p]acked with energy, humor, melodrama and fun […]. Thematically recalling the 2014 biopic Mary Kom that had Priyanka Chopra rolling with the punches as India’s great Olympic woman boxing champ, this story about the rise of a local fighter to national competition is also inspired by true events. Shravan (Vineet Kumar Singh in his third acting turn for Kashyap) is a muscle-bound guy from Uttar Pradesh who is training under abusive boss Bhagwan Das (played with icy villainy by Jimmy Shergill). […] When they get into
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Extraordinary Mission (2017)

Extraordinary Mission is an extraordinarily lush feat of production, presenting an acutely visualized widescreen world, its scenes occurring across a multitude of appealingly rundown locations, vast, nearly abandoned industrial and manufacturing spaces of great width and depth, populated by a small cluster of figures transacting yet one more crime in the chain of crimes necessary to get Golden Triangle heroin into central China. Xuan Huang plays undercover cop Lin Kai, a former junkie, who infiltrates the Twin Eagle drug cartel run by Thai ringleader, Eagle (Duan Yihong). Lin Kai’s handler, Li Jianguo (Zu Feng) also has history with Eagle. Even when the script by Hong Kong screenwriter Felix Chong (Infernal Affairs) adds another complication, the individual scenes simmer and then detonate in rich settings, whether a jungle shack with rain pinging its roof, tumbledown factories, or sheds and depots, all rusticated cathedrals to how money was made when Hong Kong
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Grass (2018)

[…] Hong Sang-soo’s Grass could double as a snapshot of his filmography; tales of life, love, connection, sorrow and yearning all unfurl in a cafe. […] [I]n his only film slated for this year thus far after 2017’s three-title bonanza, Grass, [however], demonstrates a fresh type of playfulness from the prolific filmmaker. Brandishing his classic naturalistic style, Hong’s black-and-white effort pieces hops between conversations at the central alleyway coffee house, listening in – and zooming for emphasis where necessary, of course. On the Beach at Night Alone [HIFF 2017] star and Berlin 2017 best actress winner Kim Minhee, in her fourth consecutive film for Hong, proves a distinctively solo figure amidst the groups swapping chatter over beverages. Writing at her laptop but quick to explain that she’s not a writer, she’s happy spinning her eavesdropped snippets into her own commentary. Unsurprisingly, Minhee stands out among the cast, though every player
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Operation Red Sea (2018)

To save one single Chinese national held hostage in a war-torn African country, China’s navy sends an elite squad on an anti-terrorist mission the features so many explosions it’s like Operation Desert Storm squeezed into one day. […]. [G]enre fans in overseas markets will be awestruck by the mind-blowing action […]. The closest Hollywood precedents of Lam’s biggest production to date are Michael Bay’s 13 Hours and Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down. Not only are they films on terrorism shot in Morocco, all work hard to plunge viewers into a nerve-shattering, immersive experience. Lam’s production is just as overblown, with […] a graphic depiction of human casualties (such as stumps of limbless torsos) that manages to be as numbing as it is stomach-churning. Covering Morocco’s imposing mountainous and desert terrain, Lam, who doubles as action director, makes use of the high altitude vantage points to stage some terrific sniping sequences.
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Sir (2018)

Gently suggestive and mostly confined to richly detailed interiors, the contempo Mumbai-set Sir recalls Tran Ahn-hung’s The Scent of Green Papaya [1993] for its depiction of a furtive love blossoming between an upper-crust architect and his widowed domestic helper. Yet rather than reiterating Tran’s nostalgic fetishization of the docile Asian woman, tyro writer-director Rohena Gera emphasizes the female protagonist’s [Ratna, (Tillotama Shome)] dignified struggle for self-sufficiency. […] [T]he film […] gains gravity for its insight into Indian social rigidities that tether both impoverished villagers and well-heeled urbanites. Gera is a female Indian director making her mark celebrating women’s empowerment against dire economic odds. […] [H]er direction exudes a simple grace that transcends local issues. […] The production strives for an unassuming but polished visual style that doesn’t sensationalize chasms between rich and poor. DP Dominique Colin’s beautiful slow pans glide across rooms where the protagonists each scurry around in solitude,
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