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A Brighter Summer Day aka "Gu ling jie shao nian sha ren shi jian" [Blu-ray]
(Edward Yang, 1991)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Jane Balfour Films
Video: Criterion Collection Spine #804
Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 47,549,271,862 bytes
Feature Size: 47,318,353,920 bytes
Video Bitrate: 22.85 Mbps
Case: Transparent Blu-ray case
Release date: March 22nd, 2016
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio Mandarin 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
• New audio commentary featuring critic Tony Rayns
New interview with actor Chen Chang (11:17)
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.
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
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
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.
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.
March 1st, 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.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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