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“Stunning:” Crime and Punishment Reviewed by Variety

This week on dGenerate we will be featuring articles related to Zhao Liang’s acclaimed documentary Crime and Punishment to coincide with the screening of his films at Anthology Film Archives in New York City. Click here for more information on the screenings.

Crime and Punishment (dir. Zhao Liang)

This rave by Robert Koehler in Variety was one of the key reviews that drove us to pursue Crime and Punishment and eventually distribute it as part of the dGenerate catalog. Reading it, you can see why. Better yet, see the film at Anthology Film Archives during its run!

Here are some choice excerpts. The full review can be accessed at Variety.


By Robert Koehler

In his stunning “Crime and Punishment,” documentary filmmaker Zhao Liang upturns the common perception that Chinese media and artists have little or no access to corridors of the military and law enforcement. At the same time, Zhao reveals a community hugging the border with North Korea where lawbreaking and extreme poverty go hand-in-hand. Rigorously observational and sometimes quite amusing when it isn’t shocking, pic further cements China’s position as a doc powerhouse, and should spark tube and cable sales in most major markets.

Zhao’s artistry is instantly apparent in a telling credits sequence that dwells on the maniacally precise way the military police, based in a frigid, unidentified mountain town, fold their bed mattresses. Nothing better conveys how the cop-soldiers (deemed by local officials as more effective than their own constabulary) strive for exactitude, no matter how pointless the activity…

Zhao makes no judgments, and a scene in which a cop tells a barber about his severe hair loss from job stress suggests the system victimizes the enforcers as well as the suspects.

For fans of Chinese cinema, the middle-aged pickpocket specialist could be the central character of Jia Zhangke’s first feature, “Pickpocket,” grown older if not wiser. Zhao’s eye for outdoor “movie” scenes is just as remarkable as his intense, tight interrogation sequences, particularly a funny long shot following the old scrap collector’s wife, stubbornly haranguing the cops as they trudge down a snowy trail with her husband.

A one-man band on the production side, Zhao does it all behind the camera and mic, his sharp eye and ear keen to every unexpected moment.


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