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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Secret Sunshine aka Miryang [Blu-ray]

 

(Lee Chang-dong, 2007)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: CJ Entertainment

Video: Criterion Collection Spine # 576

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 2:22:34.587

Disc Size: 44,658,797,713 bytes

Feature Size: 39,450,255,360 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.94 Mbps

Chapters: 31

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: August 23rd, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio Korean 3045 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3045 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

• New video interview with Lee (24:33)
• On the Set of “Secret Sunshine,” a behind-the-scenes video piece featuring interviews with actors Jeon Do-yeon and Song Kang-ho (6:46)
• U.S. theatrical trailer (1:12)
• 20-page Liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film critic Dennis Lim

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: A master of intensely emotional human dramas, director Lee Chang-dong is a luminary of contemporary Korean cinema, and his place on the international stage was cemented by this stirring and unpredictable work examining grief and deliverance. An effortless mix of lightness and uncompromising darkness, Secret Sunshine (Miryang) stars Cannes best actress winner Jeon Do-yeon as a widowed piano teacher who moves with her young son from Seoul to her late husband’s provincial hometown for a fresh start. Quietly expressive, supple filmmaking and sublime, subtle performances distinguish this remarkable portrayal of the search for grace amid tragedy.

 

 

The Film:

Secret Sunshine, while being no exception to this model, differs from its predecessors by burying its fomenting despair within a more mundane narrative; gone is Peppermint Candy's backward chronology and Oasis's digressive flights of fancy. Instead there's Jeon as Shin-ae, a single mother moving into the conservative hometown of her deceased husband, seeking to start a new life with her young son and a modest living as a piano teacher. Her awkward streak becomes apparent when she makes pleasantries with a local shopkeeper only to bluntly criticize the shop's drab decor. Instances of petty improprieties only accumulate, building a sense of peripheral menace all the more unnerving for being unattached to any overt foreshadowing of things to come. This is possibly the best hour of filmmaking in Lee's career to date.

Excerpt from Slant Magazine located HERE

Secret Sunshine” — a 2007 film by Lee Chang-dong now making a tardy but welcome American debut — takes place in a South Korean town called Miryang, described by one of its residents as “just like every other place.” This is true enough, and Mr. Lee is certainly attentive to the routines and rhythms of everyday life. But there is nothing ordinary about this movie, or about the story it tells.

On its surface the transparent and horrifying tale of a mother’s grief, “Secret Sunshine” has the kind of emotional depth and thematic complexity that rewards repeat viewings. Mr. Lee, a distinguished novelist before he turned to filmmaking (he has also served as South Korea’s minister of culture and tourism), composes the cinematic equivalent of prose that is clear, elegant and lyrical. The experience of watching his films is not always pleasant: more than a few scenes in “Secret Sunshine” (and in the more recent, equally amazing “Poetry,” a highlight of this year’s New York Film Festival) are excruciating in their raw depiction of souls in torment. And yet his quiet and exacting humaneness infuses even the most dreadful moments with an intimation of grace.

Excerpt from A.O.Scott at the NY Times located HERE

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

Criterion's Blu-ray transfer of Secret Sunshine appears flawless.  Colors are bright, detail strong and contrast at impressive levels on this dual-layered hi-def disc. Luiz reviewed the LE Korean DVD from 2007 HERE but this appears to be vastly superior on most visual fronts*. This 1080P image is clean and smooth with pristine sharpness.  I can't really identify a deficiency. This Blu-ray probably looks as close to the film experience as we are ever likely to get and it advances over SD in all the expected areas. It is a beautiful looking film brought to the new format via a competent un-manipulated transfer.

 

* I would have compared it but had forgotten about Luiz's SD-DVD review till this Blu-ray was 90% complete.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 5.1 track at 3045 kbps handles the relatively passive track with ease. There are some subtle separations that establish a sense of realism but overall this is front driven with no extravagant effects utilized to promote range or depth. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

Supplements include a new 24-minute video interview with director Lee, a brief 7-minute On the Set of “Secret Sunshine” behind-the-scenes video piece featuring interviews with actors Jeon Do-yeon and Song Kang-ho and the U.S. theatrical trailer - all in HD. Included is a 20-page Liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film critic Dennis Lim.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I can remember Lee's exhausting Peppermint Candy like it was yesterday. It was such an overwhelming film experience for me - and the more subtle Secret Sunshine has the same level of expression - being forcefully impacting at a gut level. Criterion's gorgeous Blu-ray is the absolute best way to see it outside a theater and in the comfort of your own Home Theater. This is a film I would strongly recommend to those both unfamiliar or having had exposure to the director's other work. An important film to bring to Blu-ray and a must-have for world cinema fans. 

Gary Tooze

August 15th, 2011


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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