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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Election [Blu-ray] vs. Optimum DVD

(aka "Hak se wui")


(Johnnie To, 2005)





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Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Milkyway Image (HK) Ltd.

Blu-ray: Panorama (HK)



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:39:47.000 DVD - 1:36:02 (4% PAL Speedup)

Disc Size: 22,892,402,273 bytes

Feature Size: 22,611,056,640 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.99 Mbps - DVD - 5.59 Mbps

Chapters: 13

Case: Expanded Blu-ray case w/ flippage & slipcover

Release date: May 27th, 2009   DVD Release Date: Sep 11th, 2006



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 24 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video




DTS-HD Master Audio Chinese 2192 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2192 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio Chinese 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Chinese 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps



English, Chinese (traditional and simplified), none



• Interview with Johnnie To (28:50)

• Interviews with Actors (15:40 + 7:40 + 6:40)

• Making-of Documentary (7:15)

• Election at Cannes Photo Book (0:50)

• Original Trailer

• TV Spots


DVD Extras:
• The Making of Election (7:19)
• Interview with Johnnie To (29:02)
• Interview with Tony Leung (15:49)
• Interview with Simon Yam (6:43)
• Interview with Wang Tian-Lin (7:46)



The Film:

With Election, I dare say, that Johnnie To finally has matured. While he still is a director, who, from a western narrative point of view, leaps rather quickly from scene to scene, his earlier films often seeming to be missing scenes, Election shows a To, who allows authenticity and calm to enter his sphere, and while violence still is present, its not show boat slow-mo violence, but a sudden and more realistic display. From this alone, I welcome Election. If one then considers the politics concerning showing triad activity in HK films, not only is Election then To’s most mature, but also his most daring film to date.


Theatrical Release: May 14, 2005 (Cannes Film Festival)

Reviews     More Reviews

As with all films by To, it centres around two male protagonists, here the triad to-be leaders, the calm and diplomatic Lok (Simon Yam) and the larger than life Big D (Tony Leung). The Wo Sing Society is in the process of electing a new leader, and both candidates fight to get the position.

Surprisingly, there is little violence and action involved. To wants to depict the process of an election, thus most of the film is men sitting and talking. When To allows violence to interrupt, its sudden and without any “coolness”.

Nevertheless, Election is very intense.

Henrik Sylow


Image: 6/7   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Soft and weakly resolved, Panorama's AVC transfer to 1080p isn't going secure a place on anyone's demo shelf. In fact, it is unlike any other Johnnie To movie I know in terms of elegance of image. On the contrary, Cheng Siu Keung's photography often seems to go out of its way to achieve a naturalistic, unstylized look where there is precious little fill lit on backlit subjects or hardly any side lighting that might reduce flatness. That said, there are many dramatically lit scenes with striking bolts of light across huge swathes of shadow, at times narrow, at other times only enough to highlight the center of the action. There is some detail in those shadows, but don't expect much, since the overall softness washes much of it away. The transfer itself is unproblematic (assuming that it realizes the intentions of the negative), with few distracting problems aside from a few specks now and again.

Comparison to Optimum's Region 2 DVD is interesting, but it's hard to know what to make of it. The Optimum has an aspect ratio of 2.34:1; the Panorama, 2.39:1, yet the Blu-ray shows less of the frame in every direction, especially the sides. The Optimum is snappier, with brighter color and stronger light and dark values; the Panorama, though sharper, seems compressed and washed out by comparison. We can speculate that the Optimum is artificially enhanced. Don't know.




Panorama - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM



Panorama - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM



Panorama - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM



Panorama - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM



Panorama - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM



More Blu-ray captures









Audio & Music: 8/8
Unusual for a Hong Kong gangster flic, there is nary a shot fired. Audio effects are subtle, providing a sense of space rather than locational cues. The star of the mix, and what grabs our attention form the outset, is Lo Ta Yu's exotic music score: repetitively percussive and subtle by turns, often for guitar solo. Dialogue is crisp and properly sized and placed.


Operations: 6
No complaints aside from the totally unnecessary clattering flippage. The Bonus Features, most having English subtitles, are all passed over to the DVD disc, leaving the feature film complete on a single layer disc.



Extras: 4
There is no feature commentary, but there is a substantial half-hour interview with Johnnie To, who tells us that he makes movies not just for the Asian market, but for the rest of the world as well. I agree. There are shorter subtitled interviews with Tony Leung Ka Fai (Big D), Wong Tin Lam (Uncle Teng Wai) and Simon Yam (Lok). These four interviews are the best features – the look good, too, in 4:3 standard definition. The Making-of piece is far too short and feels too much like an extended trailer. The Cannes Photo Book is brief and weakly resolved.



DVD Menus


Bottom line: 7
Election is not your usual Johnnie To. Fans may be disappointed in its general lack of action, though when that happens it bursts forth with considerable energy, like an uncoiled spring, adding to the general suspense of the proceedings. Thoughtful and smart, I only wish the Blu-ray image had more zip.

Leonard Norwitz
March 26th, 2010




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About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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