As a film teacher (or probably more relevantly, a film geek), I watch just about as many films as I can. I often mean to include suggestions of films to watch in class here (including a constantly changing list of films about artists that every art class should have). Long story short- I was reading an interview with Danny Boyle when he came here to host the Shanghai International Film Festival last year. In response to a question about his favorite Chinese film, he mentioned Devils on the Doorstep as one of the best films to come out of China.
I'd never heard of it, but as the serendipity gods are always looking out for me, I happened to spot it at one of my favorite DVD stores just a day or two after I'd read the interview. Then it sat on my shelf for a few months. I just got around to watching it recently, and I have to say that its one of the best films I've ever seen.
Its also one of the most surprising films I've ever seen. The movie that you end with is so far from the movie that you started with, that its an incredible feat of creativity and vision that the director is able to pull of such a transition. The hard thing about recommending a film like this is that I can't say too much about it- what you will appreciate most about this film is the unexpected directions that it takes. That being said, understand that it is not for the faint hearted; taking place during the Japanese occupation of China, this film does quite graphically depict some of the horrors of war.
That being said, it is a fascinating film from a cinematic perspective, as well as a historical and contemporary socio-cultural perspective. Director Jiang Wen has been banned from making any more movies in China. Although he is married to a French woman and can work outside of China, he refuses. His stories, he says, take place in China, and that's where they are meant to be filmed and shown.