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

Written By - aka Joi sun ho [Blu-ray]

 

(Wai Ka Fai, 2009)

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Creative Formula Ltd.

Blu-ray: Mei Ah

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:25:19.041

Disc Size: 21,191,632,814 bytes

Feature Size: 19,650,551,808 bytes

Video Bitrate: 21.98 Mbps

Chapters: 10

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 10th, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 24 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio Chinese 2389 kbps 7.1 / 48 kHz / 2389 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Dolby TrueHD Audio Chinese 1956 kbps 7.1 / 48 kHz / 1956 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio Chinese 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English, Chinese (traditional and simplified), none

 

Extras:

• Making of – in SD (16:45)

• Trailer in HD

• Photo Gallery

 

 

The Film: 8
Written by is a fanciful, yet anguished study of the interminable, complex problem of grief and letting go. It is now ten years since Melody's family was devastated in an automobile accident that left her father dead and herself blind. Melody was a child of 12, just old enough to know what death is, but young enough to hang on to an imaginary world where things might be different. Her mother and younger brother survived relatively unscathed, but her family still grieves. Mother sits at the piano, unable to get through her husband's favorite piece. Melody (Mia Yan) has been unable to accept his death or move on, and even contemplates suicide - her blindness making it that much easier for her to retain the image of her family, and especially her father, as they once were.

As in those stories where the dead hang around as ghosts, refusing to accept their fate, Melody and her mother (Kelly Lin) likewise cannot permit the father/husband to die. Melody hits upon an idea that she feels will resolve the matter, one that she hopes will heal the family’s unending sorrow: She begins to write a story – her Braille typewriter becoming the transmitting vessel between the living and the dead - in which her father (Lau Ching-wan) survives the accident, but is blind, and her mother, her brother and herself had all died. Into this fictitious world, she brings back the dead as ghosts to keep her father company.

Director Wai Ka Fai weaves a relentlessly entangled and spellbinding web of parallel stories: the one in the present universe where Melody and her mother and brother live, and the one in her novel. Events in both worlds get out of control as nature and the fates insist on having their way, the one universe inserting itself upon the other, requiring rewrite upon rewrite, where grief compounds grief unti only two choices remain.


 

Image: 8/9  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped 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.

Mei Ah's AVC encode sports a moderately high bit rate on a single layer disc. Colors are bright, yet realistic and natural. Skin tones are superb, yet it's all so smooth I suspect some modest DNR. Hair never quite sorts itself out and remains indistinct; edges of shirts are a bit fuzzy. CG effects are fascinating but take their toll on image resolution. Still, the overall impression is so engaging that it takes our mind off any anomalies and supports the idea of fantasy rather than acute pain. I trust this is deliberate and not mere carelessness.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 9/8
The DTS HD-MA 7.1 mix is a thing of beauty: blending delicately scored music, effects, ambiance and dialogue into a coherent whole. Surrounds are nicely localized; dialogue is crisp and correctly placed, sized and differentiated for location and voiceover. There are a few sudden, powerful crashes that will give the full range of your playback equipment a wakeup call. These feel more realistic than the exaggerated frequency response we often get with action or fantasy thrillers, which Written by is not, after all. The splatter of crashing glass pulls in one direction, deep bass in the other, while all the while Mia Yan's affecting voiceover and an enveloping piano hold everything together. Surrounds come into play nicely for death's trolley car, the chirping of birds at the cemetery and whirling fantasy bits in the graveyard of ghosts.

 

Operations: 2
Typical of many Asian videos, particularly Chinese, is the tendency to loud previews, logos and feature film. But Written by goes one better, by having the Making of volume louder still in comparison to the feature - you will want to keep your remote handy. The very short Photo Gallery is a bear trap that you might find very difficult to get out of once in. Feature film subtitles, on the other hand, are clear and unobtrusive, in idiomatic English.

 

Extras: 3
The 16-minute Making-of segment looks promising – largely a series of interviews interspersed with scenes from the film – but there are no subtitles. (Actually, there are subtitles, they're just not in English and are not removable.) The trailer is in full HD and looks great. The Photo Gallery should be given a miss if you know what's good for you (you've been warned.)
 

Bottom line: 8
Written by is directed by and stars the same men who gave us Mad Detective: Wai Ka Kai and Lau Ching Wan, but don't let that influence you one way or the other except that both films are quirky and imaginative for their respective genres. The new movie is not especially profound even though it's subject invites a deeper or, at least, less fanciful examination – but, then, this would be asking the movie to be something it isn't. I liked it and expect to watch it again before very long.

The Blu-ray image is a delight, if not perfectly resolved, but the audio is very good indeed. Despite its awkward operations and lack of extra features, I give Written by a Thumbs Up.

Leonard Norwitz
December 8th, 2009

 

 


 

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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