(aka 'Summer Palace' or 'Yihe yuan')

Directed by Ye Lou
China / France
2006

 

A sublime coming of age drama from the director of Suzhou River and Purple Butterfly. Yu Hong (Cui) leaves her rural village to attend Beijing University in 1987. Touched by the political fallout of the Tianamen Square massacre two years later, the latter half of the story follows Yu Hong and her friends as they come to terms with adulthood. Brimming with sensuality, this film will resonate with many viewers who experienced their own sexual and political awakening at university.

After leaving her village, Yu Hong spends her first months of university quietly pining for her old lover until she is befriended by an older student, Li Ti who introduce her to Zhao Wei, the boy who becomes the great love of Yu's life. Once Yu begins spending time with Li Ti, she starts to experience the delights of university life in the capital: evenings of dancing, cooking, gossip and flirting.

Her relationship with Zhao Wei is intense and tempestuous: they arrange trysts in Li Ti's dorm room while she spends nights off campus with her boyfriend. When Zhao Wei eventually loses interest in Yu, she makes a terrific scene many will identify with their own late teenage behaviour: sulking anger followed by tearful break-up sex.

Meanwhile, as a backdrop to their passion, political unrest is stirring - while Yu and Zhao embrace, student protest chants can be heard outside on the campus grounds. This eventually culminates in the events of the Tianamen Square protests of 1989. The students gather ecstatically on flatbed trucks as they are transported into the city centre to attend the protest. While the now well-known images of that protest remain unseen in Lou's film, the after effects are readily apparent.

Excerpt from Eye For Film located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: May 18th, 2006 - Cannes Film Festival

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DVD Review: Palm Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Palm Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 2:14:01
Video 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.65 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:

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

Release Information:
Studio: Palm Pictures

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1

Edition Details:

• Featurette: Making of Summer Palace (36:42)
• Chinese Censorship (5:49)
• Trailer
• Previews

DVD Release Date: March 11th, 200
8
Keep Case
Chapters: 18

 

Comments:

The image quality on this Palm Pictures release leaves a lot to be desired. First off, although the DVD is dual-layered and anamorphic, it is interlaced indicating a non-progressive transfer. This seems common for the distributor in some of their recent releases (see Ten Canoes). The colors are dullish and detail is quite mediocre but acceptable for CRT viewing. I see a heavy greenish haze over much of the image - whether this is intentional or not - I don't know.  There are scenes with intentional grain - giving an added edge of realism. This is translated to the DVD image moderately well but there is still extensive indications of digital noise. On the positive, at least, I don't see excessive manipulation and the image is fairly clean from speckles or damage marks. There are optional English subtitles that do not seem fully translated but is more than adequate to interpret the narrative which is generally expressed without dialogue. 2 tracks are offered - Mandarin 2.0 and a 5.1 track that sounds desperately like a ineffectual bump. Regardless, I tested both and they sounded quite similar faithfully representing the audio without noticeable pops or drop-outs. 

Supplements offer a theatrical trailer, some previews and two featurettes: Making of Summer Palace runs 36 minutes and has some behind the scenes activity with minimal discussion and in the other director Lou Ye and Producer Nai An talk about Chinese censorship and the, often absurd, hurdles working within that system and their being banned - it lasts only 6 minutes long.

The film is quite wonderful and it's a shame that this is the best DVD production for North America. The extras are worthy but I still find the package a bit pricey so if we can find an alternative - we will definitely post it here. 

Gary W. Tooze

 



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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...

Distribution Palm Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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