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

Memories of Murder [Blu-ray]

(aka "Salinui chueok")


(Bong Joon Ho, 2003)





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Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Sidus Pictures

Blu-ray: CJ Entertainment



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

Runtime: 2:11:08.277

Disc Size: 41,920,568,044 bytes

Feature Size: 32,945,565,696 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.01 Mbps

Chapters: 19

Case: Standard Blu-ray case w/ slipcover

Release date: December 14th, 2009



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video




DTS-HD Master Audio Korean 4060 kbps 7.1 / 48 kHz / 4060 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio Korean 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Korean 448 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps



English, Korean, none



• 2 Audio Commentaries by the filmmakers and cast

• Cast Interviews (approx 27 min)

• Interviews with the filmmakers (approx 29.5 min)

• Behind the scenes featurettes (approx 26.5 min)



The Film:

Memories of Murder was only the second Korean film I watched. That was in 2004 when CJ-Entertainment brought out their all-region 2-disc Special Edition DVD. Along with Park Chan-Wook's Oldboy, Memories of Murder was sufficient evidence that this little peninsula, still in a state of surrealistically suspended war with its northern half-brothers, had a take on the art form that was worth investigating. Since then I have followed the films of Bong Joon Ho (prior to and since the ones mentioned) and Park Chan-Wook with an eagerness that in the past would have accompanied the films of Hitchcock or Billy Wilder.

The CJ DVD was also to convince me of the worth of original Korean video productions. Their 2-disc special edition reserves all the special features (85 minutes worth) for the second disc, allowing for careful transfers of the feature film with high bit rates. Note the ghostless comparative cap as compared to the Universal Region 2. Giving the DVD the onceover before playing the Blu-ray reminded me of the level of excellence of the Korean DVD, and I wondered just how the Blu-ray was going to beat it, but, eclipse it, it has, both in terms of image and audio.

Excerpt of review from DVDBeaver,com located HERE



The Movie: 9
To the excerpted review by Henryl Sylow, which reveals too much I feel, I add only this anecdote from the annals of psychiatry: Hospital patient X was famous for his unusual delusion: He insisted that, despite evidence to the contrary, that he was actually dead. Doctor after doctor tried to persuade him otherwise until Dr. Q came up with this compelling strategy: He asked X if dead men breathe. "Of course not," replied X. Dr. Q placed a mirror under X's nose and showed him the mist. "Oh my God" cried X, "Dead men do breathe." There is a wonderful turn in the film that pivots on the idea that documents (for which we might read: beliefs, assumptions, expectations) never lie. But, you see, documents do lie. And so does life.

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

Gary rightly gave CJ Entertaiment's Blu-ray a Thumbs Up in the Image department for Bong Joon Ho's most recent film, Mother, and I agree. If anything, Bong's earlier film looks even better. I found some of the most reach out and touch it images we've seen in this medium, and no transfer issues. No heightened contrast or sharpening and rare, and easily overlooked edge enhancement. When Bong wants things to look sharp and impenetrably resolved, they are (as in the lingering reaction shots of Song Kang-Ho or the fleeting glimpses of corpses), and when he wants fog, you can just about out make out the droplets in the air and taste them if you're so inclined, that is, if you don't mind the feel of murder in the air.




(Special Edition - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. CJ Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM)



(Special Edition - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. CJ Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM)



(Special Edition - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. CJ Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM)



(Special Edition - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. CJ Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM)



(Universal - Region 2 - TOP vs. Optimum Asia - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE vs. CJ Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM)



More Blu-ray Captures













Audio & Music: 8/9
From the whisper of tall grass in the wind to the roar of a train, the Korean DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix reveals and underscores, but never exaggerates. Memories of Murder, while truly a horror story, is never a horror film. We are always placed squarely in reality while events rage out of control as the body count increases, the likely suspects decrease, and as the detectives lose their perspective. I recall one audio pan that suggests the approaching footsteps of a detective as he walks around the corridor behind us during an interrogation. It's the sort of effect that could have been played for sinister effect, but here it is just matter of fact, just as the killer waits for his next victim in the grass and rain beside the road. The music by Taro Iwashiro (Red Cliff, Shinobi) has a kind of Tubular Bells/Tangerine Dream quality about it, only more subtle.


Operations: 2
If you've seen Korean printing on videos, you may have noticed their penchant for small fonts. Their printed characters look especially handsome as pure graphics. I wish I could say that this tendency is manifest on the menus for the Blu-ray, but I'm not sure I could make out what is going on even if I knew the language. We are talking really small dark red writing that does not make for easy reading. In any case there are no English menu subtitles for the special features, of which there are quite a few, some of which require a click into a second window (and with all room in the frame, why would they do that!). And since they features aren't subtitled either I hope I'll be excused for not reporting on them.



A final note as to the packaging: The Book-type cases I've seen from any number of studios ought to set a standard for single disc presentations, and this one is no exception: gorgeous. But the effect is undone by the absurd slipcase that opens at both ends and doesn't fit snuggly in the bargain. I'd be tempted to discard altogether if it weren't for its having information not on the book.


Extras: 7
The extra features, all in SD, aren't subtitled nor are the menu titles, but I believe these are the same ones that appear on the second disc of CJ's Special Edition DVD. I'm sure I will be properly tasked if I am wrong.



Bottom line: 9
Memories of Murder is an outstanding drama that mixes black comedy, everyday rural life, horrific shots of rotting corpses, an out of control homicide investigation, political upheaval, into an intense psychological thriller. Bong eschews the usual Hollywood trappings of investigatory procedures and tension building so that events and resolutions catch us off guard. If you are considering an upgrade, the Blu-ray is demo material for both image and audio. My only complaint is that the extensive extra features are not subtitled.

Leonard Norwitz
January 14th, 2010





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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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