(aka 'Sanxia haoren' or 'Still Life')

Directed by Zhang Ke Jia
China / Hong Kong 2006

 

Mainland Chinese director Jia Zhangke's Still Life (aka Sanxia Haoren), a last minute entry into the 2006 Venice Film Festival, eventually won the Golden Lion award thanks to its top-notch cinematography and wonderful storytelling. Still Life interweaves the story of a miner (Han Sanming) who travels thousands of miles to a town near the Yangtze River to look for his ex-wife and a nurse fetching her husband who has been working at the river without sending a single word home. While the film does not let these two characters cross paths, together they reflect changes in people's lives brought by the Three Gorges Dam, which flooded villages near the Yangtze River and led to the emergence of some new settlements. Already acclaimed for his earlier works, most of which also star Han Sanming and Zhao Tao, Jia is probably the best known Sixth Generation director. With Still Life, he continues his probing grassroots studies of Chinese life. Jia's previous acclaimed titles Platform (2000) and The World (2004) also competed at the Venice Film Festival.

Poster

Theatrical Release: September 6th, 2006 - Venice Film Festival

Reviews    More Reviews    DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

ZHONG GUO LU (Single Disc) - Region 6 - PAL vs. BFI - Region 0 - PAL vs. New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC

1) ZHONG GUO LU (Single Disc) - Region 6 - PAL LEFT

2) BFI - Region 0 - PAL MIDDLE

3) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC - RIGHT

 

DVD Box Cover

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There is also a 2-disc edition of Still Life (also region 6 - PAL) - which includes Jia Zhang-ke’s documentary Dong (68 mins Mandarin with NO English subtitles), filmed at the same time as Still Life.

Distribution ZHONG GUO LU - Region 6 - PAL BFI - Region 2 - PAL New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:46:32 (4% PAL Speedup) 1:47:44 (4% PAL Speedup) 1:47:24
Video 1.75:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.31 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.75:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.31 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.75:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.31 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: 

Zhong Guo Lu

Bitrate:  BFI

Bitrate:  NY'er

Audio Mandarin (Dolby Digital 2.0)  Mandarin (Dolby Digital 2.0) Mandarin (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles English, Simplified Chinese, None English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: ZHONG GUO LU

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.75:1

Edition Details:

• none 

DVD Release Date: January 2nd, 2007

Keep Case
Chapters: 12

Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.75:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by Tony Rayns

• Dong (68 mins Mandarin with English subtitles)

• 34-page booklet (color photos, essays)

DVD Release Date: August 18th, 2008

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 5

Release Information:
Studio: New Yorker

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.75:1

Edition Details:

• Interview with Jia Zhang-Ke (17:27) with English subtitles

• Dong (70 mins Mandarin with English subtitles)

• Downloadable PDF Press Kit

• 6-page booklet (color photos, essay by Sheldon Lu and Bernice Reynaud)

DVD Release Date: November 8th, 2008

Keep Case
Chapters: 5

 

Comments:

ADDITION: New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC - December 08': It appears as though we may never see a progressive transfer of this masterpiece (and it is still 'cut' - see below) but there are still some bona-fide positives about this New Yorker DVD. This looks a degree sharper than the corresponding BFI release although may again be taken from an unconverted PAL source. Transfers are a relative wash but we'll give NY'er a marginal edge.

New Yorker gives Still Life a superfluous 5.1 audio track and optional English subtitles.

Currently the New Yorker is actually cheaper than the BFI and despite the lack of commentary still offers the film in an acceptable CRT presentation along with 70-minute film Dong, the 20-minute subtitled interview with Zhang Ke Jia and the liner notes. The commentary on the BFI is great and a good reason to indulge but more than that seeing the film, which is highly recommended, seems the important ideal. As Jonathan Rosenbaum says "...a poetic mix of realism and lyrical fantasy".   

***

ADDITION: BFI - Region 0 - PAL - September 08': Both good and bad news. The new BFI is interlaced and sports 'combing' artifacts and I don't see it as especially sharper than the older Chinese release. Good news is that it appears to have a much stronger subtitle translation, has a wonderful commentary by Tony Rayns and includes 'Dong' (progressive!) with optional English subs, plus a 34-page booklet.

I can concur with Harri of Finland who sent this to us in email:
"Still Life, R2 BFI UK, is an anamorphic DVD-9, slight combing at places, not too bad. Optional subs.
Includes the companion documentary Dong, + Tony Rayns commentary. I also have the R3 Ying E Chi Hong Kong; this is non-anamorphic, hazyish (is that a word), combing visible, dual burned-in subs; it's not pretty.


I'd give it to the anamorphic BFI, but Yesasia also offers an anamorphic R3 Taewon Entertainment Korea-version, that I have not seen."

Overall the BFI is very much worth it for the extras. The film is highly recommended!  

****

 

ON THE ZHONG GUO LU - NOTE: 'The current release is cut somewhat. The Chinese authorities didn't like the shots of a small boy smoking. Bizarre. China's pollution is appalling added to which everyone seemingly smokes too. There are a few other cuts as well.' (Thanks Michael!)

The strong recommendation of this DVD is based solely on the film - perhaps Zhang Ke Jia's most accessible with two powerfully concurrent stories. A masterpiece.

The single layered DVD is coded for region 6, in the PAL standard, is interlaced (very slight combing can barely be detected - but is there nonetheless), and is widescreen but not 16X9 enhanced. The Chinese DVD has appeal as being the only game in town for this incredible film (aside from the 2-disc version also available from ZHONG GUO LU which has the same transfer)... and that it has English subtitles. The image does not look too bad at all considering - I see no manipulation as the film has been left appropriately dark throughout. Detail is as good as one could expect from the transfer media's limitations. As for the accuracy of the subs - I can't say, but there is not an abundance of dialogue in the film and the translations do not seem to be leaving out a great deal.

The DVD inferiorities don't take away from the magnificence of the film one iota. This borders on essential cinema folks - a riveting and memorable work from a truly masterful auteur. If there was a superior DVD version - we would easily recommend it but this is it for now - and we've certainly seen worse. For the price it is a no-brainer. 

Gary W. Tooze

 

 



DVD Menus

 

(ZHONG GUO LU (Single Disc) - Region 6 - PAL LEFT vs. BFI - Region 0 - PAL RIGHT)


 
 

New Yorker

 


Subtitle Sample

 

1) ZHONG GUO LU (Single Disc) - Region 6 - PAL TOP

2) BFI - Region 0 - PAL MIDDLE

3) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 

Example of Commentary subtitles on the BFI (and combing)

 


 

Screen Captures

 

1) ZHONG GUO LU (Single Disc) - Region 6 - PAL TOP

2) BFI - Region 0 - PAL MIDDLE

3) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 


1) ZHONG GUO LU (Single Disc) - Region 6 - PAL TOP

2) BFI - Region 0 - PAL MIDDLE

3) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 


1) ZHONG GUO LU (Single Disc) - Region 6 - PAL TOP

2) BFI - Region 0 - PAL MIDDLE

3) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 


1) ZHONG GUO LU (Single Disc) - Region 6 - PAL TOP

2) BFI - Region 0 - PAL MIDDLE

3) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 


DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Thinking of buying from YesAsia? CLICK HERE and use THIS UPDATED BEAVER PAGE to source their very best...

There is also a 2-disc edition of Still Life (also region 6 - PAL) - which includes Jia Zhang-ke’s documentary Dong (68 mins Mandarin with NO English subtitles), filmed at the same time as Still Life.

Distribution ZHONG GUO LU - Region 6 - PAL BFI - Region 2 - PAL New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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