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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

A Simple Life aka Tao jie [Blu-ray]

 

(Ann Hui, 2011)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Bona International Film Group

Video: Well Go USA

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:58:15.583

Disc Size: 22,186,263,060 bytes

Feature Size: 20,236,228,608 bytes

Video Bitrate: 18.98 Mbps

Chapters: 17

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February 26th, 2013

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio Chinese 2125 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2125 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio Chinese 384 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 384 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

• Trailer

Previews

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Roger (Andy Lau) is a successful movie producer. Ah Tao (Deanie Ip) has worked for Roger's family as a nanny and maid over the course of four generations. When Roger comes home to find Ah Tao's suffered a severe stroke and is unable to care for herself, he agrees to help her relocate to a nursing home.

He wants to help, but fears he'll fail her. She needs his kindness, but doesn't want to be a burden. As their roles reverse, he becomes her caregiver, and comes to understand how much she means to him.

One of 2012's most heralded and treasured films, with cameo appearances from film luminaries such as Sammo Hung and Tsui Hark, A SIMPLE LIFE has garnered multiple awards for Deanie Ip (Best Actress), Andy Lau (Best Actor), Susan Chan (Best Screenplay), and Ann Hui (Best Director). A SIMPLE LIFE has also won Best Feature Film in multiple festivals and made film critics' Top 10 lists all over the world.

 

 

The Film:

A man must care for a woman who has devoted her life to looking after him in this drama from filmmaker Ann Hui. Roger (Andy Lau) is a successful movie producer with a housekeeper, Ah Tao (Deanie Ip), who has worked for his family over the course of four generations. Ah Tao has been a nanny and maid for Roger's family for nearly all her adult life, and he looks upon her as a member of the family rather than an employee. When Roger comes home one day to discover Ah Tao has suffered a severe stroke, its' clear she's no longer up to the demands of her job, and he agrees to help her relocate to a nursing home. Roger, the only member of his family still living in Hong Kong, is eager to help, but he's unsure of just how much he's supposed to do for her and is afraid to seem neglectful; Ah Tao, on the other hand, doesn't want to be a burden to Roger, and their relationship goes through an awkward period as their roles reverse and he becomes her caregiver. Set against the backdrop of the Hong Kong film industry, Tao Jie (aka A Simple Life) features cameos appearances from such luminaries as Sammo Hung and Tsui Hark.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

If you’ve ever watched, say, a film by the Japanese master Ozu, and wondered why nobody makes understated family dramas delivering essential truths anymore – then this awards-laden Hong Kong production from veteran director Ann Hui is definitely for you. Based on the true story of the film’s producer Roger Lee and his servant, it’s essentially about how we define family bonds, following Roger (action star Andy Lau in a serious change of pace) and his elderly family maid Ah Tao (stalwart character actress Deannie Yip) after she suffers a stroke.

No, it doesn’t sound like the stuff of pulsating drama, but the film’s unhurried way of letting us surmise the rippling ramifications of this situation is very touching. Stoic Ah Tao has been working as an in-house maid for workaholic film industry bachelor Roger. She has cared for him since he was a baby, but for all the time she’s put in, does their relationship amount to anything more than master and servant? Moreover, as Roger begins to realise her place in his life (he’s professionally successful but emotionally a desert), we note the contrast between his relaxed demeanour with Ah Tao and stiffer relationship with his grande dame of a mother.

Lau’s astute performance is rather like the film as a whole – at first you think it’s underdone, but it’s actually cannily judged to favour genuine feeling over pushy sentimentality. As indeed is Deannie Yip’s marvellous central turn as a woman who yearns to belong but whose inveterate submissiveness is shaped by decades of deference and class difference. An exquisite and wise moment of celluloid portraiture.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

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

The brilliant A Simple Life gets a North American Blu-ray release from Well Go USA. It is modest but consistent and the image quality is more than acceptable.  This is only single-layered and can look a shade thin, colors are a bit subdued but there is depth and detail is abundant even if contrast can be at the lower end for the format. Skin tones seem true and there is no noise as nothing is overly dark. This Blu-ray provides a reasonable representation of the 1.85:1 aspect ratio film without being superlative in any one area. I appreciated the presentation.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

There are two audio options (both stated in the menu as being 'original') - a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround at 2125 kbps or a less robust and simpler Dolby 2.0 channel stereo. The lossless isn't totally devoid of separations but they are minimal - simple because the film never really tests this ability. The suitably meek score by Wing-fai Law benefits from the uncompressed transfer. There are poignant silences and the film is in Cantonese with optional English subtitles.  My Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A-locked.

 

Extras :

Unfortunately, no supplements aside from a trailer and some previews but the film certainly deserves much more. It's a shame that Criterion didn't nab this title for their catalogue because I'd love to her the critical discussions about this modern masterwork.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Every so often you come across a film that really speaks to you... in simple, honest terms that surely must be universal. A Simple Life is such a film and Ozu is an adept comparison. The Blu-ray isn't a barn-burner but it provides a consistent and rewarding presentation worthy of the film. We give it a very strong recommendation. 

Gary Tooze

February 1st, 2013

 


 

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 5000 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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