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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

A Brighter Summer Day aka "Gu ling jie shao nian sha ren shi jian" [Blu-ray]

 

(Edward Yang, 1991)

 

 

Coming to Blu-ray in the UK, from Criterion, on July 3rd, 2017:

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Jane Balfour Films

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #804

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 3:56:37.183

Disc Size: 47,549,271,862 bytes

Feature Size: 47,318,353,920 bytes

Video Bitrate: 22.85 Mbps

Chapters: 46

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: March 22nd, 2016

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio Mandarin 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:
New audio commentary featuring critic Tony Rayns
Blu-ray 2

New interview with actor Chen Chang (11:17)
Our Time, Our Story, a 113-minute documentary from 2002 about the New Taiwan Cinema movement, featuring interviews with Yang and filmmakers Hou Hsiao-hsien, Sylvia Chang, and Tsai Ming-liang, among others (1:53:31)
Videotaped performance of director Edward Yang’s 1992 play Likely Consequence (45:20)
PLUS: An essay by critic Godfrey Cheshire and a 1991 director’s statement by Yang

 

Bitrate:

 

 

 

Description: Among the most praised and sought-after titles in all contemporary film, this singular masterpiece of Taiwanese cinema, directed by Edward Yang, finally comes to home video in the United States. Set in the early sixties in Taiwan, A Brighter Summer Day is based on the true story of a crime that rocked the nation. A film of both sprawling scope and tender intimacy, this novelistic, patiently observed epic centers on the gradual, inexorable fall of a young teenager (Chen Chang, in his first role) from innocence to juvenile delinquency, and is set against a simmering backdrop of restless youth, rock and roll, and political turmoil.

 

 

The Film:

Edward Yang's fifth picture is a novelistic exploration of the meanings and contradictions of Taiwanese cultural identity. Set in 1960, and based on a true incident weighing heavily on Yang's own youth, the film -- which, in its unedited form, clocks in at just under four hours -- primarily focuses on the life of S'ir, a high school student whose civil servant father was among the millions of Chinese mainlanders who fled to Taipei in the wake of 1949's civil uprisings. In the picture's opening scenes, it is revealed that S'ir is teetering on the brink of academic expulsion; like so many of the film's characters, he is clearly yearning for a stronger sense of belonging, and as a result joins a youth gang, much to the detriment of his life at home and at school. In time, he falls for Ming, a flirtatious girl with domestic troubles of her own; this ill-fated couple's circle of friends also includes Honey, an exiled gang leader, Si'r's best friend Xiao Ma, and Cat, a younger boy obsessed with Elvis Presley. (The lyrics to Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?," phonetically transcribed by Si'r's older sister, lend the film its title.)

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

American pop music is a tendril from the outside world that has penetrated this claustrophobic, hectic island, and it expresses the universal longings and the specific frustrations that dominate the lives of Mr. Yang’s characters. The film, at bottom a true crime story about a murder, seethes with the spirit of confused, ardent rebellion that you also find in Hollywood movies from the 1950s and early ’60s, like “East of Eden” or “Rebel Without a Cause.” Focused mainly on the restlessness of a group of young men, “A Brighter Summer Day” also belongs to a tradition that stretches from “I Vitelloni” to “Mean Streets” and beyond.

But this film, completed in 1991 and only now receiving a proper American release (thanks to restoration efforts by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation and the adventurous programming of the Film Society of Lincoln Center), is much more than the sum of its references and associations. Colored by Mr. Yang’s memories of the world he grew up in, it is one of those movies that, by slow accretion of detail and bold dramatic vision, disclose the structure and feeling of an entire world.

Mr. Yang, who died in 2007 at the age of 59, is best known in the United States for “Yi Yi,” his brilliant, inexhaustibly insightful chronicle of family life in modern Taipei. Of his half-dozen other features (all of which were part of Lincoln Center’s recent retrospective, “A Rational Mind”), “A Brighter Summer Day” is, by critical consensus, the masterpiece.

Excerpt from NYTimes located HERE

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

A Brighter Summer Day is almost 4-hours in length and is housed on a lone dual-layered Blu-ray shared only with the Rayns' commentary. A second, dual-layered, Blu-ray has the extras. This Criterion release is cited as a "New 4K digital restoration".  Being such a stringent artist, Yang's films are often not commercially distributed and are difficult to see - so I was interested in the video quality. This 'scarcity' is another reason that this release is such a revelation for cinema fans. The 4K-restored, 1080P, visuals are solid looking clean, textured - and an impressive representation of a theatrical presentation - and that is all we can ask. The captures below should give you a fair idea of the appearance. It looks very pleasing in-motion with no major flaws.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Typically flat, linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps (24-bit) - that exports the Mandarin (Min Nan and Shanghainese) dialogue consistently and clearly - audible without issue. There is no score per-se but a few scenes of 'live' music (see images above). There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.

 

Extras :

As stated, the first Blu-ray has the Tony Rayns commentary. It is as professional and informative as you may have anticipated. He fills the full 4 hours with extensive detail and information on every facet of the production; Yang, the themes, the structure, politics, US culture and more. It is not only worth the time invested but a re-listen could easily be in order - there is so much here to digest.


On the second
Blu-ray disc we get a new, 11-minute, interview with actor Chen Chang who was only a teenager when he got the role in A Brighter Summer Day. He would go on to be a major star, appearing in such films as Happy Together, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon; and The Grandmaster. In this interview, conducted by Criterion in 2014, Chang discusses his breakthrough debut. The big supplement is the, almost 2-hour, Our Time, Our Story documentary from 2002 about the New Taiwan Cinema movement in the 80s and 90s, featuring interviews with Yang and filmmakers Hou Hsiao-hsien, Sylvia Chang, and Tsai Ming-liang, among others. There is a poor quality videotaped performance of director Edward Yang’s 1992 play Likely Consequence. This satire that showcases Yang's talent for working with young actors and his penchant for social critique runs 3/4 of an hour but even the subtitles are hard to decipher (see sample HERE). There is a liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Godfrey Cheshire and a 1991 director’s statement by Yang.

 

Blu-ray 1

 

 

Blu-ray 2

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
A Brighter Summer Day is... essential. Yang examines the conflict between modern and traditional in his films, and frequently uses long takes and/or limited editing. Details are often obscured by alternate activity in the frame - and this seems intentional - where you may come to view the key elements only through patient observation. You must find it yourself - being the single best way to become 'aware'. There is so much value here - a film you can rewatch your entire life - and the education and discussion of the Rayns' commentary augments that merit. This Blu-ray package gets our strongest recommendation. If you are only going to buy only one Blu-ray this year - make it this one.

Gary Tooze

March 1st, 2016

 

Coming to Blu-ray in the UK, from Criterion, on July 3rd, 2017:


 

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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