Ash Is Purest White: an easy description of Jia Zhang-ke’s film is an epic love story, but that is neither wholly precise nor quite the point; a journey through time showing China’s transformation, with a relationship as a “foredrop” is a better description. It is a rich, interesting experience, even if at times the protagonist looks like a disembodied observer of her own life; her coldness and emotional distance affect the relationship with the film as a whole. Zhao Tao has a magnetic screen presence, even with her minimalist performance that nevertheless noticeably shifts as time passes; Liao Fan is also fine, holding a somewhat savage and powerful look that befits the character. The film is shot by director of photography Eric Gautier in extended, unhurried takes, that showcase the massive transformation of the land, the bright and colorful lights, and the actors’ work. The pace is undeniably pensive, but ultimately rewarding.