(mouse over image after page loads to see Chinese Title)

(aka 'House of Flying Daggers' or 'Shi mian mai fu')

directed by Zhang Yimou

China 2004

 

  In a form of backwards progression, director Zhang Yimou appears to be moving further away from ‘Art House dramas’ again, towards a kind of superlative ‘Shaw Brothers-ish’ martial arts films. And he does so better than that particular genre has ever seen… ever. ‘Beautiful’ may be an understatement as I doubt I have ever seen anything of such visual splendor ever before. It is eye and ear candy that is still pleasurably ringing my senses.

 

Near the end of the Tang Dynasty, government agents Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro), know as “The Wind” and Leo (Andy Lau) arrest Mei (Zhang Ziyi), a faux-blind courtesan, who, because of her impossibly choreographed dance and fighting abilities (in a resplendently flowing, long sleeved gown) is suspected of having ties to a revolutionary faction of underground anti-establishment extremists known as The House of Flying Daggers. What follows is a road picture of escape, deception, melodramatic love and intensely acrobatic fighting sequences all within a landscape of vibrant green, orange, yellow and blue colors. Not only is the film visually representative of Zhang’s Hero-esq style but the audio of pounding drums and swishing swords, knives and daggers, snapping bamboo as well as contemplative traditional music compounds the experience to the realm of the unforgettable... and for some I guess - unforgivable. Sure the love-interest aspect of the film is admittedly weak with not enough character development and there is cutaway shot that is never advanced in the plot, but both could be purposeful. Or perhaps it was broadening the narrative too much, stretching it beyond most viewers accessibilities. 

 

Snickers and laughter could be heard through some of the final scenes requiring a more fervent suspension of disbelief. Although many will not rate this film alongside masterpieces like “To Live” and “Raise the Red Lantern”, it has its defined place, if certainly more accessible and verbosely extravagant. I am so fascinated by Zhang’s shift of his current films that I am left dumbfounded. I don’t know what to think anymore. Personally, I can’t believe this is a monetary thing – you don’t sell out late in your career (he is only 54 by the way), but usually much earlier to attain the attention of would-be backers for future projects. Perhaps this is what he has always wanted to do – films representative of the time and place he was maturing as a young man - films that were popular with his friends and family ? – or perhaps this is his lost passion... or maybe, just maybe, he is found his calling in appealing to the larger slice of the general populace (This film, like 'Hero' is grotesquely popular in China). Certainly the work ethic and massive co-ordination involved in creating a film like this is awe inspiring. It is possible that the production-challenge is driving him. Regardless, he has proven himself a surprising director capable of anything...  out of

Gary W. Tooze

HERE is another synopsis!

Posters

Theatrical Release:  19 May 2004 (Cannes Film Festival)

Reviews    More Reviews    DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1- NTSC vs. Starmax (2-Disc Limited Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC vs. EDKO Video Ltd. (Two-Disc Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC vs. Zoke Culture (China) Region 0 - PAL vs. EDKO Films - Region 3- NTSC

Big thanks to Riny van Eijk, Chris Gould, Ole Kofoed and Gary Tooze for the Screen Caps!

(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1- NTSC LEFT vs. Starmax (2-Disc Limited Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC MIDDLE vs. EDKO Video Ltd. (Two-Disc Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

Distribution

Columbia Tri-Star

Region 1 - NTSC

Starmax

Region 3 - NTSC

EDKO Video Ltd.

Region 3 - NTSC

Runtime 2:02:46 1:59:08 1:59:09
Video

2.36:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 4.89 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.65 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.26 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

(Zoke Culture (China) (DVD-5) - Region 0 - PAL - 3rd vs. EDKO Films (Hong Kong) - Region 3 - NTSC - RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

or rent:

Distribution

Zoke Culture (China)

Region 0 - PAL

EDKO Films (Hong Kong)
Region 3 - NTSC
Runtime 1:57:37 (taken from NTSC source) 1:54:24 (taken from PAL source)
Video

2.22:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.77 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.74 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

 

 

 

 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 

Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1- NTSC

Bitrate:

 

Starmax (2 disc)(Korea)

 

Bitrate:

 

EDKO (2 disc)(Hong Kong)

 

Bitrate:

 

Zoke Culture (China) (DVD-5)

 

Bitrate:

 

EDKO Films (Hong Kong)

 

 

Edition Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1- NTSC Starmax (2-Disc Limited Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC EDKO Video Ltd. (Two-Disc Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC Zoke Culture (China) Region 0 - PAL EDKO Films - Region 3- NTSC
Audio Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1, DUBS: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin DTS 5.1 (768Kbps), Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kbps) Mandarin DTS ES 6.1 Discrete (1536Kbps), Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kbps), Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (384Kbps) Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0

Mandarin Dolby Digital / DTS 5.1

Subtitles English, French, None Korean, English, Chinese, None Chinese, English, None English and Chinese (Burned). English, Traditional Chinese or None.
Features Release Information:
Studio: Columbia Tri-Star

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.36:1

Edition Details:
• Commentary with Ziyi Zhang and Zhang Yimou

• "Making Of The House of Flying Daggers (44:44)

• Creating the Visual Effects (4:21)

• Storyboard Comparisons (16:55)

• Costumes Gallery

• Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery

• Theme Song "Lovers" Music Video



DVD Release Date: April 19th, 2005
Keep Case inside cardboard case

Chapters 28

 

Release Information:
Studio: Starmax

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• Beauty and Pureness (5-Part Making of - 180 Min.)
• 1. Story of Flower
• 2. Story of Snow
• 3. Episodes in Production
• 4. Memory of Anita Mui
• 5. About Scenario
• Trailer
• Booklet with a drawn storyboard and production design photos
• Fold-out miniposter

DVD Release Date: 02-04-2005
Special Acrylic Case

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio: EDKO Video Ltd.

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• Making of (45:02)
• Storyboards
• Cast & Crew Biogrphies
• Site Visit
• Gallery
• Trailers
• TV Spots
• 'Lovers' Music Video
• Andy Lau in Dubbing Studio

DVD Release Date: 23rd December 2004
Double Amaray Case

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio: Zoke Culture (China)

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterboxed - 2.22:1

Edition Details:
• No extras!

DVD Release Date: October, 2004
Paper sleeve

Chapters 10

Release Information:
Studio: EDKO Films (Hong Kong)

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical trailer (widescreen with burned in Chinese subtitles) - 2:01
• Photo Gallery (at in click thru fashion) very nice images!
• Cast & Crew filmographies (static screens - only in Chinese)
• Collectable wallet sized holder containing 4 bookmarks

DVD Release Date: October, 2004
Keep Case

Chapters 12

 

Recommended Reading in Chinese/Hong Kong/Taiwanese Cinema (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

 

Check out more in "The Library"


 

Comments

ADDITION: Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1- NTSC - April - 2005 - Columbia has a bit of a record of mistreating some foreign films (ex. The Scent of Green Papaya, King of Masks, The Apu Trilogy etc.) - not only in the image department, but also having a lack of any extra features. This new "The House of Flying Daggers" DVD is stacked with extras, although the image is a bit softer than previous editions of the film.

The Image: Slightly softer than the Starmax and even minutely softer than the EDKO (2 disc edition). I would think a film with such strong visuals that it may not be noticeable at all on tube systems. I think the Columbia image may be slightly vertically stretched, but it is an extremely small amount. Colors are good and there is no visible cropping.

The Audio: Strong 5.1's in original and 2 DUBs, but no DTS. I found the audio to be excellent, but the EDKO's DTS beats it out.

The Extras: This is where the Columbia disc shines - the commentary has optional subtitles and the "Making of" featurette is insightful. I think this is the first Zhang Yimou commentary that I am aware of and I am still going through it. I will post more on this soon...

Subtitles: I've already stated my displeasure with Columbia's yellow subtitle, but the font here is also quite large an intrusive.

Bottom Line: Of Course I wished that Columbia had improved the image )or at least equaled the Starmax), I didn't have high expectations and it is not a total failure. I am overwhelmed with the extras especially the commentary which makes this a 'must buy'.

NOTE: There is also a Sony UMD 'Playstation" DVD version located HERE. Universal Media Discs (UMDs) are playable only in the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) and are not compatible with contemporary DVD players.

This Columbia version is cut for violence different than the UK version - The UK version is cut by the BBFC by 18 seconds. The cuts were to remove three instances of real animal cruelty (in this case, three horsefalls) which would have fell foul of Animal Cruelty laws in the UK.

We think the Columbia is longer as they play the music (from the video) at the end of the credits.

SPOILERS

(Thanks Will!) The Columbia DVD has a small cut ex. There is no blood when Mei removes the dagger. This was done to get a PG-13 rating. We will post when we know more.

and...

(Thanks Keith!) In the theatrical print, towards the end of the film, when Jin runs to Mei on the field, he leans down and cradles her. She wakes up briefly and whispers to him "Look... look behind you." At which point Leo comes flying out from behind him and they begin their final battle.

On the Columbia DVD, Jin runs towards Mei, looks down at her, and Leo comes flying out right then and there. No "Look behind you" moment with the two lovers. Now this might not be an unknown cut, because when I paid to see the film in a theater (at the Brooklyn Academy of Music), the same scene was missing. It makes me wonder if Zhang went back after the New York Film Festival and/or critics' screenings - where there was much tittering because Mei "woke up" several times - and edited the scene to make it more palatable.

/SPOILERS

*****

ADDITION - Starmax (2 Disc) - February - 05 - Although Riny (a new contributor - many thanks!) did not get a couple of exact frame matches, it is quite evident that the Starmax edition is very good - as good as the EDKO (2 disc) - if not a notch ahead in sharpness. I suggest reserving judgment on a definitive edition till the Columbia Tri-star release comes out in April 2005-listed HERE.

*****

ADDITION - EDKO (2 Disc) - January - 05 - The new two-disc release from EDKO Video features a much improved transfer (i.e. not a PAL to NTSC conversion). Better colors and contrast. It also contains a discrete 6.1 audio track as well as a host of extras. Right now, THIS is the one to get folks.

*****

Well, I am hoping I don't have to say too much here. It should be painfully obvious that the EDKO is far superior. To add insult to injury the Zoke Culture logo (capture 1) is on all the time. It has no extras, it is hazy, they have digitally manipulated and messed the wonderful colors. Arghhh! I strongly recommend seeing this in the theatre, but barring that the EDKO is the best alternative right now. We hope to add numerous other superior versions as they are released.

NOTE: We will verify why the time on the Chinese version is longer. It may be a misprint.

 - Gary Tooze

 

 

 





DVD Menus

 

(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1- NTSC LEFT vs. Starmax (2-Disc Limited Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC MIDDLE vs. EDKO Video Ltd. (Two-Disc Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC RIGHT)
 

 

   
   


(Zoke Culture (China) (DVD-5) - Region 0 - PAL - LEFT vs. EDKO Films (Hong Kong) - Region 3 - NTSC - RIGHT)

 

 
 

 


 

Subtitle Sample

(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. Starmax (2-Disc Limited Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC 2nd vs. EDKO Video Ltd. (Two-Disc Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC 3rd vs. Zoke Culture (China) (DVD-5) - Region 0 - PAL - 4th vs. EDKO Films (Hong Kong) - Region 3 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


Screen Captures

(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. Starmax (2-Disc Limited Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC 2nd vs. EDKO Video Ltd. (Two-Disc Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC 3rd vs. Zoke Culture (China) (DVD-5) - Region 0 - PAL - 4th vs. EDKO Films (Hong Kong) - Region 3 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. Starmax (2-Disc Limited Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC 2nd vs. EDKO Video Ltd. (Two-Disc Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC 3rd vs. Zoke Culture (China) (DVD-5) - Region 0 - PAL - 4th vs. EDKO Films (Hong Kong) - Region 3 - NTSC - BOTTOM)(Starmax (2-Disc Limited Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC TOP vs. EDKO Video Ltd. (Two-Disc Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC 2nd vs. Zoke Culture (China) (DVD-5) - Region 0 - PAL - 3rd vs. EDKO Films (Hong Kong) - Region 3 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. Starmax (2-Disc Limited Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC 2nd vs. EDKO Video Ltd. (Two-Disc Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC 3rd vs. Zoke Culture (China) (DVD-5) - Region 0 - PAL - 4th vs. EDKO Films (Hong Kong) - Region 3 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. Starmax (2-Disc Limited Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC 2nd vs. EDKO Video Ltd. (Two-Disc Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC 3rd vs. Zoke Culture (China) (DVD-5) - Region 0 - PAL - 4th vs. EDKO Films (Hong Kong) - Region 3 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. Starmax (2-Disc Limited Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC 2nd vs. EDKO Video Ltd. (Two-Disc Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC 3rd vs. Zoke Culture (China) (DVD-5) - Region 0 - PAL - 4th vs. EDKO Films (Hong Kong) - Region 3 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. Starmax (2-Disc Limited Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC 2nd vs. EDKO Video Ltd. (Two-Disc Edition) - Region 3 - NTSC 3rd vs. Zoke Culture (China) (DVD-5) - Region 0 - PAL - 4th vs. EDKO Films (Hong Kong) - Region 3 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


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Report Card:

Image:

Starmax

Sound:

EDKO (2 disc)

Extras: Starmax
Menu: EDKO (2 disc)
DVD Box Covers

Distribution

Columbia Tri-Star

Region 1 - NTSC

Starmax

Region 3 - NTSC

EDKO Video Ltd.

Region 3 - NTSC



 

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