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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Farewell My Concubine aka "Ba wang bie ji" [Blu-ray]

 

(Kaige Chen, 1993)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Beijing Film Studio

Video: BFI

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 2:51:14.375

Disc Size: 46,100,185,001 bytes

Feature Size: 42,122,348,544 bytes

Video Bitrate: 28.98 Mbps

Chapters: 18

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: March 21st, 2016

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio Mandarin 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

The Making of Farwell My Concubine (23:34)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Farewell my Concubine, the only Chinese language film to ever win the Cannes Palme d'Or, is one of the central works of the Fifth Generation movement, a movement which finally brought Chinese film directors to world attention.

An adaptation of the novel by Lilian Lee, the film explores the effect of China's political turmoil during the mid-20th century on the lives of individuals, families and groups. Spanning 53 years, the film is two films at once, a tale of the friendship of two men against the historical backdrop of a country in upheaval. The central characters, Dieyi and Xiaolou, are two apprentices in the Peking Opera, the film examines how their lives are affected by major political changes such as the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s and the victory of the communists in 1949 - alongside the story of a woman who comes between them.

The multi award-winning film regularly tops film polls and is regarded as a modern day epic.

 

 

The Film:

Until Farewell, My Concubine (Ba Wang Bie Ji), not many people were aware that most members of the Peking Opera were originally orphans or illegitimate castaways with nowhere else to turn. Such is the case of the film's protagonists, Duan Xiaolou (Zhang Fengyi) and Cheng Dieyi (Leslie Cheung), two homeless outcasts, trained from childhood in the grueling rigors of the Opera by master Lu Qui. The film traces the 52-year friendship between Xiaolou and Dieyi, a friendship pockmarked with fiery conflicts and tender reconciliations. Though the delicate Dieyi specializes in female roles and the gutsy Xiaolou plays noble warriors, theirs is an essentially heterosexual relationship; still, when Xiaolou takes upon himself a prostitute bride (the magnificent Gong Li), Dieyi is as petty and jealous as an outcast mistress. Farewell, My Concubine holds the viewer in thrall from start to finish; as such, it is thoroughly deserving of its many international film awards and nominations. Surprisingly, this worldwide success was something of a flop in its home country of China; perhaps it hit too close to home for those viewers who'd lived through the same years so painstakingly recreated in the film.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Hitherto, Chen Kaige's films have specialised in poetic, allusive allegory: in King of the Children and Life on a String, especially, socio-political content was conveyed by elliptical narratives and vivid but often enigmatic images. Here, however, Chen adopts a direct and less personal approach to his country's troubled history as he charts the similarly troubled relationship, from 1925 to 1977, of two Peking Opera actors. Their boyhood friendship arises in protective reaction to the disciplines of the Academy; but by the time they've become stars, Dieyi (Cheung) has fallen for his friend Xiaolou (Zhang Fengyi), mirroring the on-stage devotion of the concubine he plays for Xiaolou's King of Chu. Inevitably, he is distraught when Xiaolou marries a prostitute, Juxian (Gong Li), who is more than a match for Dieyi's jealous hysteria; but the trio are also caught up in bigger events so that over the decades their mutual suspicion, deceits, divided loyalties, betrayals and acts of desperate support for one another chime with the mood of China itself. Appropriately operatic, Chen's visually spectacular epic is sumptuous in every respect. Intelligent, enthralling, rhapsodic.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

 

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

Farewell My Concubine gets a 1080P transfer to Blu-ray from BFI.  It's solidly in dual-layered territory and has a strong bitrate for the almost 3-hour feature (this is the 171-minute director's cut - NOT the, 16-minute shorter, US theatrical). It can tend to look at bit think in the beginning but settles down  to a pleasing HD presentation. Colors are tight and there is no noise in the darker sequences. The 1080P supports reasonable contrast and some minor depth in the 1.85:1 frame.  It's pristinely clean looking fairly film-like. This Blu-ray is competently transferred.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

BFI use a linear PCM 2.0 channel at 2304 kbps (24-bit) in original Mandarin. Effects consist of the beatings but the traditional-leaning music by Jiping Zhao (The King of Masks, and many Zhang Yimou films; To Live, The Story of Qiu Ju, Raise the Red Lantern, Ju Dou etc.) sounds crisp and delightful.  There are optional English subtitles (via remote) and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

NOTE: The Opera Scenes are subtitled:

 

 

 

Extras :

The only extra is a 24-minute documentary; The Making of Farwell My Concubine which details much of the production evolution. It has Gong Li, Kaige Chen and others (in Mandarin with English subtitles.) NOTE: There will be no liner notes booklet for this release.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Farewell My Concubine is epic masterpiece - frequently jaw-dropping - identifying some important social issues. It's a fascinating film with great performances - a real open door to a culture/period that we don't see enough of. The BFI Blu-ray provides a solid 1080P presentation. As frequently happens, the film impacted me on a significantly higher level on BD. Absolutely recommended! 

Gary Tooze

February 29th, 2016


 

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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