A phenomenal movie, by Chinese director Jia Zhangke (A Touch of Sin, 2013), large screen only. The reviews are very positive but mostly nonsense. Here are the two things you need to know to understand this movie:
1. Most of what is on the screen after the Three Gorges scene probably isn’t really happening. The woman is crazy and is dreaming or imagining it. There is plenty of absurd coincidences and contradictory information (the health and mind-state of the ex-boyfriend are various fantasy versions), but the real clincher is when the UFO appears. How can so many reviewers (NYT) be baffled by this?
2. The film is a stinging critique of the CCP, in Straussian fashion, and much of the action is a running commentary on a previous Chinese film, the wonderful The Chinese Mayor (maybe the best movie about how China works?). Both are set in Datong, a quite undistinguished Chinese city in Shanxi, and Ash is Purest White shows how the building of Datong, glorified in the earlier movie, is in fact based on corruption and mob rule. Also check out the surveillance and Xinjiang references for a full understanding of the politics of this movie.