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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

A Touch of Sin aka Tian zhu ding [Blu-ray]


(Zhangke Jia, 2013)


Released from Arrow Films, in the UK, on Region FREE Blu-ray:


Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Xstream Pictures

Video: Kino Lorber



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:09:55.996

Disc Size: 41,035,091,892 bytes

Feature Size: 38,687,784,960 bytes

Video Bitrate: 33.91 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: April 8th, 2014



Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio Chinese 3760 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3760 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English, none



• 4 Trailers (for A Touch of Sin - 2:02)





Description: A brilliant exploration of violence and corruption in contemporary China; (Jon Frosch, The Atlantic), A TOUCH OF SIN was inspired by four shocking (and true) events that forced the world's fastest growing economy into a period of self-examination.
Written and directed by master filmmaker Jia Zhangke (The World, Still Life) ;one of the best and most important directors in the world; (Richard Brody, The New Yorker), this daring, poetic and grand-scale film focuses on four characters, each living in different provinces, who are driven to violent ends.

An angry miner, enraged by widespread corruption in his village, decides to take justice into his own hands. A rootless migrant discovers the infinite possibilities of owning a firearm. A young receptionist, who dates a married man and works at a local sauna, is pushed beyond her limits by an abusive client. And a young factory worker goes from one discouraging job to the next, only to face increasingly degrading circumstances.


The recipient of the Best Screenplay award at the 66th annual Cannes Film Festival, writer/director Jia Zhang Ke's four-part drama explores the corrosive effects of violence in contemporary China through the eyes of a disgruntled miner, a migrant worker returning home for the New Year, a receptionist who was assaulted by a wealthy client, and a frustrated factory.



The Film:

For most viewers, though, the subtleties in Jia’s bob-and-weave narrative will take second place to the blood and gore he puts up on the screen. People are mad as hell in this film, and the protagonists in each of its four sub-sets – a miner, a migrant worker, a receptionist at a spa, a factory worker – are driven, by either despair or existential recklessness, to commit acts of destruction against others and themselves.

If the broad strokes of the four stories seem familiar, it’s because they are: Jia has unabashedly torn his narrative from headline-making stories of the past five or six years, imbuing A Touch of Sin’s artful condemnation of the soulless Chinese state capitalism with a topicality that’s both sobering and bracing.

While rife with references to Chinese street opera and martial-arts cinema, A Touch of Sin also feels very American, like a Cormac McCarthy novel (think Blood Meridian and The Road), Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, the Springsteen of Darkness on the Edge of Town; similarly, the tableaus lensed by ace cinematographer Yu Lik-Wai evoke the tensions of the personal and the impersonal you find in the photographs of Jeff Wall, Joel Sternfeld and Edward Burtynsky.

Excerpt from Globe and Mail located HERE

A blistering fictionalized tale straight out of China, “A Touch of Sin” is at once monumental and human scale. A story of lives rocked by violence, it has the urgency of a screaming headline but one inscribed with visual lyricism, emotional weight and a belief in individual rights. You can feel the conviction of its director, Jia Zhang-ke — one of the few filmmakers of any nationality who weighs the impact of social and political shifts on people — in every shot. In “A Touch of Sin,” the world isn’t an amorphous backdrop, pretty scenery for private dramas, it is a stage on which men and women struggle to fulfill basic moral obligations, including recognizing one another’s humanity.

Excerpt from Manohla Dargis at the NY Times located HERE

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

A Touch of Sin arrives on Blu-ray from Kino. The film was shot on HD (Arri Alexa) and it shows a bit of softness in-motion - as this production format frequently does. The more-than 2-hour film is housed on a dual-layered disc with a very high bitrate. Generally the image is excellent - colors are extremely vibrant and detail impressively tight. It shows the strong visual benefits of this versatile format. The aspect ratio is 2.4:1. Contrast exhibits healthy black levels. Daylight scenes are more impressive but there is no flaring or noise in the darker scenes. This Blu-ray frequently showcases depth and a pristinely clean and dynamic 1080P video presentation.
















Audio :

A very strong audio transfer is provided - we get a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround at a healthy 3760 kbps. The film has a lot of aggression and some gunplay but the lossless rendering easily handles exporting powerful depth and a few subtle separations. The score is by Giong Lim (Millennium Mambo, Goodbye South, Goodbye, 24 City) and definitely seems to benefit from the uncompressed track. I could fin no faults at all and the sound was frequently crisp with buoyant range and depth. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked disc.


Extras :

Only some trailers - including one for A Touch of Sin. Certainly the film deserves some discussion.



Let's just say that A Touch of Sin is not a very relaxing film. There is class-structure tension even in the calmer scenes. The violence has an uncomfortable intensity. It narrative leans to that of a crime drama. Overall, this is a very strong film. It is very much unlike the director's more poetic efforts instead sharing focus with political and personal discontent. I will watch this again and in my first viewing seemed close to a masterpiece. The bare-bones Kino Blu-ray offers a strong a/v presentation. Despite the lack of extras - the film is so powerful we encourage a viewing and recommend. 

Gary Tooze

March 27th, 2014

Released from Arrow Films, in the UK, on Region FREE Blu-ray:


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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