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

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

 http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/zhang.htm

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

Posters

Theatrical Release: 19 May 2004 (Cannes Film Festival)

Reviews    More Reviews  DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Zoke Culture (Deluxe Wooden Box: 4-Disc / HD Cam) - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Starmax - Region 3 - NTSC

Big thanks to Gary Tooze and Bjørn Erik Hundland and Riny van Eijk for the Screen Caps!

(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Zoke Culture (Deluxe Wooden Box: 4-Disc / HD Cam) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Starmax - Region 3 - NTSC - RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

 

 

Distribution

Columbia Tri-Star

Region 1 - NTSC

Zoke Culture
Region 0 - NTSC
Starmax
Region 3 - NTSC
Runtime 2:02:46 1:59:17 1:59:08
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: 7.81 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

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

Bitrate:

 

Columbia Tri-Star

 

Bitrate:

 

Zoke Culture (Deluxe Wooden Box: 4-Disc / HD Cam)

 

Bitrate:

 

Starmax

 

Audio Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1, DUBS: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1

Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kbps), Mandarin DTS 5.1 (768Kbps), Mandarin Dolby Digtal 2.0 (192Kbps)

Mandarin DTS 5.1 (768Kbps), Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kbps)

Subtitles English, French, None Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, None Korean, English, Chinese, 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

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

Chapters 28

Release Information:
Studio: Zoke Culture

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• Photo Gallery Booklet and Real Size Dagger
• Making of
• Zhang Yimou's Ideal about HOFD
• Japan Press Conference
• Japanese Preview
• Storyboards
• Cast Intro
• Scene Intro
• Still Gallery
• Trailer
• Music Video
• The way Andy Lau Dub
• Beijing Premier Event
• CD: Movie Motion Picture Soundtrack
• NO ENGLISH ON EXTRAS

 

DVD Release Date: August 24th, 2006
Special Wooden Box case

Chapters 17

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
• Fold-out miniposter
• NO ENGLISH ON EXTRAS
 

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

Chapters 12

 

 

Comments:

Notorious distributor Zoke Culture has come through this time with an HD CAM Remastered DVD. The film has a troubled history, and as a friend put it:

"For House of Flying Daggers, they went from film (first generation) into the computer (second generation @ 2k resolution loss), back to film (third generation) and then, back into the computer (fourth generation) for final digital master for DVD, etc."

Hence all the contrast/sharpness problems which you can see even more pronounced on other releases at this page.

It also seems, on the screen shots that are of the exact same frame, that the Zoke Culture release has more image information on all sides (in particular shot 3 of the crowd on the balcony).

Not a perfect transfer, but I'd venture to say it's the one closest to Yimou's intent. Don't make the same mistakes on "Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia"!

 - Bjørn Erik Hundland

 



DVD Menus
(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Zoke Culture (Deluxe Wooden Box: 4-Disc / HD Cam) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Starmax - Region 3 - NTSC - RIGHT)


 

 


 

Screen Captures

(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Zoke Culture (Deluxe Wooden Box: 4-Disc / HD Cam) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Starmax - Region 3 - NTSC - BOTTOM)
Subtitle sample

 

 


(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Zoke Culture (Deluxe Wooden Box: 4-Disc / HD Cam) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Starmax - Region 3 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Zoke Culture (Deluxe Wooden Box: 4-Disc / HD Cam) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Starmax - Region 3 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Zoke Culture (Deluxe Wooden Box: 4-Disc / HD Cam) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Starmax - Region 3 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Zoke Culture (Deluxe Wooden Box: 4-Disc / HD Cam) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Starmax - Region 3 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Zoke Culture (Deluxe Wooden Box: 4-Disc / HD Cam) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Starmax - Region 3 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Zoke Culture (Deluxe Wooden Box: 4-Disc / HD Cam) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Starmax - Region 3 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


 

 

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Report Card:

 

Image:

Zoke Culture

Sound:

Zoke Culture / Starmax (tie)

Extras: Zoke Culture / Columbia (subbed)
Menu: Columbia Tri-Star

 
DVD Box Covers

 

Distribution

Columbia Tri-Star

Region 1 - NTSC

Zoke Culture
Region 0 - NTSC
Starmax
Region 3 - NTSC




 

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Gary Tooze

Thank You!