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Monday, April 21, 2014

Home Movies/Out on Digital: April 21

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■ A Touch of Sin

Enigmatic and fascinating, A Touch of Sin tells several complementary stories from contemporary China. Director Jia Zhangke exposes the country’s odd juxtaposition of Confucianism, communism and capitalism. In A Touch of Sin, China is a place of crime and violence, migrant labor and stern factory overseers, sexual tourism (with a Maoist twist) and corruption by high-flying party bosses. The one percent gets on well in this society, while everyone else struggles with anger and despair.

Black Jack

British director Ken Loach is known for warts-and-all contemporary realism. His 1979 film Black Jack (out on Blu-ray) transposed his acute concern with everyday injustice to a backcountry 18th-century English setting. Loach’s penchant for naturalism was apparent in his use of non-professional actors, 16-millimeter film and natural lighting. Based on a young adult novel, Black Jack follows the adventures of a plucky boy and the ruffian (who escaped the hangman’s noose) who kidnapped him.

Trap for Cinderella

An explosion leaves a young woman with scars and amnesia. She can’t recognize her face in the mirror, and reconstructs bits of memory from old letters and a diary (shown in flashback). Writer-director Iain Softley’s mildly intriguing thriller involves fraught relations between childhood friends (one a rich fashionista party girl, the other a middle-class wallflower) with an emotionally unstable melding of identities—and a twist. Highlights include committed performances by Tuppence Middleton and Alexandra Roach.