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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka 'Black Snow" or "Ben ming nian')

Directed by Fei Xie
China 1990


Product Description
Winner of the Silver Bear in Berlin in 1990, Xei Fei s film is a politically daring tale of urban alienation and despair. A former prisoner arrives back in his native Beijing to find that he has no family or prospects or friends, just his underworld contacts trying to drag him back into a life of crime ... Black Snow emerges as a powerful study of displacement. It takes place at the shattering juncture of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and vividly captures the social impact of potential political change at that time.

Li Huiqian (Jiang Wen) has been out of circulation for quite a few years, because he has been a prisoner. On his release, he returns to the family home that he grew up in. Only a couple of elderly aunts remain there. He has difficulty dealing with the new money-and-profit orientation of everyone around him, but is able to find a job as a clothes-seller. He gradually wises up to the ways of the people around them, but not quickly enough to keep him from doing some really stupid things. In particular, he falls in love with a much more sophisticated singer whose career is on the rise, and nothing seems to go right for him in that relationship.

Theatrical Release: February 14th, 1990 (Berlin International Film Festival)

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DVD Review: Second Run - Region 0 - PAL

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Distribution Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL
Runtime 1:39:03 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.21 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.


Audio Mandarin (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, None

Release Information:
Studio: Second Run

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Interview with Xie Fei (31:49)
• 12-page liner notes with essay by Shaoyi Sun

DVD Release Date: March 8th, 2010

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 10



Second Run's progressive dual-layered DVD sports a pristine full-frame transfer with exceptional detail, sharpness, contrast and colors. Black levels are extremely prominent and their may be some moiring but I was very impressed with how it looked on my system. I can't recall a 1.33 image having this high quality although scattered frames do show some speckles. There are numerous instances of true depth of field - a rarity with the SD-DVD format.

The 2.0 channel audio has some sync issues but it was nothing I couldn't easily live with. Dialogue is clean and clear as is the music sequences. There are optional English subtitles available.

Extras include a highly interesting 30-minute interview with the director in mandarin with English subtitles. he talks about the changes society has gone through in the 90's - especially for film. Second Run have included a nice liner notes booklet with photos and an essay "The Exquisite Sadness in Life: Random Thought on Xie Fei's Films"  by Shaoyi Sun. Short of a commentary these supplements fill in many gaps.

Described on the festival circuit as "... Xie Fei's gritty tone and subject blaze the trail for the Sixth Generation's 'underground' provocations." I still felt somewhat 'propogandized' with the essential tone showing the future a grim one post the Student Beijing uprising where community spirit and quality of life had purer ideals. Perhaps I am too politically jaded - interpretations seem less clear as the film runs to its conclusion. Jiang Wen's performance is a huge strong point to endorse a viewing. The image is outstanding and it's easy to get used to the audio sync issue. Both the interview and liner notes make for solid extras. I don't know that the film is an important one but it does both entertain and provoke discussion. Second Run comes through yet again... recommended!   

Gary W. Tooze


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Distribution Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL

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