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(aka 'Ye yan' or 'The Banquet')

Directed by Xiaogang Feng
China 2006

 

SCREENED AT THE 2007 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: Even in an age where period martial-arts epics have been made by the likes of Ang Lee, Kaige Chen, and Zhang Yimou, "The Banquet" stands out as high-gloss. Much of the behind-the-scenes crew worked on "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", and they've built the largest set ever used for a Chinese film. Executive producer Yuen Woo-ping handles fight choreography, and there are five featured soloists and singers on Tan Dun's score. Director Feng Xiaogang is going all out.


Such opulence demands a worthy story, and writers Qiu Gangjian and Sheng Heyu opt to transplant Hamlet to a particularly turbulent period of Chinese history. Although the basics remain the same - Emperor Li (You Ge) has seized his brother's throne and married his queen, Crown Prince Wu Luan (Daniel Wu) tries to expose his uncle's evil by gauging his reaction to a play that recreates the murder, Li sends Wu Luan into an exile from which he is not to return, and then final, bloody resolution at a banquet - several intriguing changes have been made. Gone are the ghost of the prince's father, his faithful friend Horatio, and the less faithful Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Where Queen Gertrude was a vaguely complicit figure in Shakespeare's plan, Zhang Ziyi's Empress Wan is at the center of everything, and having her be the prince's young stepmother makes for a big change in the relationship.

And it's a good one. Although it borders on sacrelige to suggest that Shakespeare in general and Hamlet in particular can be improved upon, there aren't many changes I'd want taken back. Wu Luan's fascination with actors and acrobats is now an integral part of his character - he has chosen to spend his time studying the arts, and it's made some think he is not cut out to be Emperor. Qing (Xun Zhou), the Ophelia character, is just as hopelessly linked to the prince, but it feels more like true love, at least from her end; she's strong and noble enough to do more than drown heartbroken offstage. Oddly, she's a stronger character in part because instead of feeling like she's there as an obligatory love interest until her death motivates Laertes, there's a little more depth to her relationship with Wu Luan because of Wan's presense.

Excerpt from eFilmCritic (Jay Seaver) located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: August 30th, 2006

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Comparison:

 Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region FREE - Blu-ray

Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region FREE - Blu-ray RIGHT

DVD Box Cover

   

Distribution Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region 1 - NTSC Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:10:52  2:10:50.676
Video 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.22 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Disc Size: 41,209,503,373 bytes

Feature Size: 35,386,521,600 bytes

Average Bitrate: 28.96 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC 1080P

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

Bitrate:  DVD

Bitrate:  Blu-ray

Audio Mandarin (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS), DUB: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)  DTS-HD Master Audio Chinese 4049 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4049 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Chinese 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Subtitles English (CC), English, Spanish, None English (CC), English, Spanish, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein)

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by Bey Logan
Disc 2

• Interview with director Feng Xiao-gang (20:16)
• Interview with actor Daniel Wu (23:29)
• Featurette: The Making of Legend of the Black Scorpion (15:03)
• 
Featurette: A Dynasty Uncovered: Behind the Scenes on Legend of the Black Scorpion (43:24)

• Trailer Gallery (3) with Cannes Promo (6:54)

NOTE:: Supplemental material has optional English (CC) or English subtitles

DVD Release Date: February 26th, 200
8
Double-lock Keep Case inside cardboard box
Chapters: 14

Release Information:
Studio: Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein)

Disc Size: 41,209,503,373 bytes

Feature Size: 35,386,521,600 bytes

Average Bitrate: 28.96 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC 1080P

Edition Details:

• Commentary by Bey Logan

• Interview with director Feng Xiao-gang (20:16)
• Interview with actor Daniel Wu (23:29)
• Featurette: The Making of Legend of the Black Scorpion (15:03)
• Featurette: A Dynasty Uncovered: Behind the Scenes on Legend of the Black Scorpion (43:24)

• 2 Trailers

NOTE:: Supplemental material has optional English (CC) or English subtitles

Blu-ray Release Date: October 26th, 2010
Standard
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 14

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Dragon Dynasty Region FREE - Blu-ray - October 2010: Legend of the Black Scorpion (or 'Banquet') is such a lavish film - it was quite breathtaking to see it in 1080P resolution. The DVD had as marvelous image but the Blu-ray tightens up even further (notable in close-ups) and the visuals now have real depth to them. The bitrate is 4x that of the DVD. In short it looks extremely impressive - almost 'demo' material - as I hope the screen captures below will bear out.

The lossless audio is up to the task equalling the outstanding video. We get a DTS-HD 'monster' 5.1 at 4049 kbps in original Mandarin. The film is rife with effects and deft separations. As mentioned in the film review portion there are five featured soloists and singers on Tan Dun's score sounding crisp and sharp with some nice subtleties peeking thru. This exhibits excellent range. There are subtitle options and my Momitsu has verified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

All the same extras as the DVD (see below) - minus one trailer and the 7-minute Cannes promo.

I enjoyed this film much more on Blu-ray (as often the case). It's a heck of a good looking film with a heck of a good looking cast. I'm surprised it didn't get more recognition but for those keen it should make for an outstanding night in the home theater - an Asian epic of grand proportions... and a great price too!

***

ON THE DVD: This came out with a decent image/audio in Region 3 (actually I believe the disc was region 0) HERE.  I can't speak how that MediaAsia transfer compares but this Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein), also sourced from MediaAsia, is excellent. Colors are bright and rich, detail is exceptional for an SD and contrast is at the very high end. The feature is on a dual-layered, progressive and anamorphic disc in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Kudos to the art direction and cinematography and I only wish I could see this film in the glory of 1080P Blu-ray as I'll wager it would be stunning. As it is, there are no complaints with this SD DVD.

Audio comes in three flavors - Mandarin DTS and 5.1 plus and English 5.1 DUB. I tested the two Mandarin tracks and was very impressed - they exported a lot of depth and clarity. Certainly worthy of the sterling image quality.  There are optional subtitles supporting the dialogue in English (CC), English or Spanish.

The reasonable 2-disc package is loaded with extras. Bey Logan has become an old hand at these Asian film commentaries and seems to improve on each one that I hear. Loaded with valuable, often hidden, information - we give the commentary a thumbs-up if you are at all keen on some of the history associated with the film. Disc 2 (also dual-layered) starts with two interviews. One 20 minute one with director Feng Xiao-gang - and like all supplements in this package - it has optional English or English close-captioned subtitles. A second, slightly longer interview has a one-on-one with actor Daniel Wu. There are two production featurettes - The Making of Legend of the Black Scorpion runs about 15 minutes and is moderately watchable. The second, A Dynasty Uncovered: Behind the Scenes on Legend of the Black Scorpion, goes into more depth with input from cast, crew and performers. It runs almost 45 minutes long. There is a trailer gallery (with 3 separate trailers of the film) and in that section is also a Cannes Promo (almost 7 minutes).

The film? - a bit ponderous at times but the wonderful visuals support the narrative and personally kept me attentive. It's kind of an old-fashioned structure to a certain degree and Ziyi Zhang is as lovely as ever (and nude). In some sense it achieves its 'Hamlet' link goals and fans of modern Asian cinema should definitely have a 'boo' - especially at this price - the package gives very strong value for all that you are getting. Yes, we recommend!   

Gary W. Tooze

 



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Disc 2


Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region FREE - Blu-ray


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Subtitle Sample

 

Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

Screen Captures

 

Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM
 

 


Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM
 


Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM
 

 


More Blu-ray Captures
 
 

DVD Box Cover

   

Distribution Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region 1 - NTSC Dragon Dynasty (Weinstein) - Region FREE - Blu-ray




 

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