Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Open Eye - Access Footage During The Feature
Trailer-Eastern Eye Montage, Princess Blade, Infernal Affairs
Trailer-Volcano High, The Grudge
|Year Of Production||2000|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (38:07)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Young-jun Kim|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.93:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||Unknown||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
I am really starting to get a taste for these Korean films. After picking and reviewing Tube on the off chance that it would be a good film (and it was), along came this Korean historical epic incorporating martial arts, swordplay, romance and mysticism. After begging another reviewer (thanks SeanB!) to let me have the disc, I am very glad that I did.
Bichunmoo (literally, I am led to believe, 'Dances with Swords') could loosely be bracketed, from a genre perspective, with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, one of my favourite films of recent years. The films have a number of similarities but retain their individual nature. The similarities between them have not escaped the local distributor as the one critic quote on the cover references Crouching Tiger. Both films are set hundreds of years ago in China and feature heroes with amazing prowess with swords, unrequited love and some amazing martial arts action. I would not accuse Bichunmoo of copying Crouching Tiger in any way, despite being the later film. Major differences include the hero in this film is Korean, he is not famous and renowned (more of an outlaw), the politics of the time play a larger part in this film whereas the challenges faced are more personal in Crouching Tiger and, unfortunately, the plot here is more confusing for a Western audience. Also Crouching Tiger is based on a series of novels and this film is based on a series of Mangas which were very popular in Korea during the 1980s.
The story involves a young Coryu (Korean) swordsman, Jin-ha (Hyeon-jun Shin) who has grown up with a man he knows as his uncle, living in the woods. He rescues a young girl, Sullie (the radiant Hee-seon Kim) from a wolf that is pursuing her and falls in love with her. Her father is an important Mongol general and her mother one of his concubines. When her mother dies, the father decides that she is to marry a local Han warlord's son, Namgung (Jin-yeong Jeong). She initially refuses him. At the same time, he meets Jin-ha and likes him. Once Jin-ha & Namgung realise they both love the same woman, Jin-ha runs away with Sullie only to be captured. Jin-ha and Namgung fight and via the treachery of Sullie's father, Jin-ha is seemingly killed. Sullie agrees to marry Namgung since her lover is dead, however ten years later he returns, to seek his revenge and Sullie. Just in case you are concerned that I have given the plot away, there is much more to it than this and the box gives away at least this much.
This is a stylish, beautiful production with incredible sets, costumes, scenery and fast-paced action. It is certainly not just one for martial arts fans because despite the gore, there is much to enjoy for most audiences. My wife, for example, does not like most martial arts films but greatly enjoyed this. Another film which I was reminded of when watching this is The Brotherhood of the Wolf, for its great combination of thriller, martial arts, romance and slightly mystical action.
I have read that the reason the plot is a bit confusing is that the film was originally much longer but the producers demanded a run time of under two hours. This is a great shame as I feel that this film could have benefited for a longer run time without being boring. Another possible criticism is that the approach sometimes borders on melodrama, and perhaps goes over the top with some of the drama involved in the relationships. Despite this being true, I think it suits the style of the film and is not really out of place, however, it may turn off some hard-core martial arts fans. However, they will love the action scenes.
If you enjoyed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and are prepared to extend your horizons further in this area, Bichunmoo is certainly worth your time and money.
The video quality is generally excellent, however there are some issues.
The feature is presented in a 1.93:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is probably close to the original aspect ratio. Other DVD editions available in other regions range from 1.77:1 to 1.85:1. I do not have any information as to the original theatrical ratio. As all of the ratios mentioned are reasonably close, I do not consider this to be a major issue.
The picture was brilliantly clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. The shadow detail was excellent, and the night fight scenes included great levels of detail. Where there are close-ups of the actors, the backgrounds tend to be out-of-focus, however, it seems to me that this is a stylistic choice rather than a transfer issue.
The colour was excellent throughout with all colours being well saturated and free from colour bleeding. The costumes and buildings were very rich in colour befitting the era in which this movie is set.
I noticed two specific artefacts. At 1:49 the sky is afflicted with macro-blocking. It occurs once and is not seen again. On three specific occasions during the film there is a strange artefact where the screen seems to distort. It is quite difficult to describe but it occurs very briefly at 9:51, 9:57, 28:36 and 47:53. It almost looks like someone fiddles with the focus on the camera and then puts it back where it was. There are also very occasional black specks.
There are subtitles in English which I watched for the duration of the film because I do not speak Korean. They were in excellent English, were clear and easy to read in yellow. At one point an explanatory note in white pops up to explain the meaning of a word in the subtitles. This was helpful.
The layer change occurs at 38:07 and is well placed at the end of a scene.
The audio quality is excellent.
This DVD contains two audio options, a Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s, and a Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s. The 5.1 track is very well done.
Dialogue was clear and easy to understand except for the fact that it was in Korean.
The score of this film is an interesting mixture of classical Asian music and more modern styles. This mix works well and is used sensibly according to the scene at hand.
The surround speakers are used regularly during the 5.1 track, adding sound effects from various angles and adding atmosphere.
The subwoofer was used especially for the score but there was not a lot of specific LFE which is not surprising considering the nature of the film.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu is great and includes music, motion and scenes from the film. Obviously there are sound, subtitle and scene select options.
This function allows you to access behind the scenes footage of a particular scene while the movie is playing. As you are watching, the Eastern Eye logo appears in the top right hand corner of the screen and if you hit enter, the footage for that scene will play. Once it completes you are returned to the point you left the film at. The footage totals about 20 minutes (it is impossible to give an exact running time as you do not get time counters during this footage). Unfortunately, the first two or three of these are fairly uninteresting, but don't give up on it as the later ones are much better, especially some of the wire work and the watery death sequence. There are nine sets of footage in total. They would have benefited from a voice-over telling you what you were looking at. They are presented in 4x3.
This seems to be a Korean thing as the disc for Tube included this as well. It is what it says - a highlight reel from the film with music. Presented in 4x3.
This shows how the various scenes which included CGI were developed from storyboard, through green screen work to the final composite. Again a voiceover would have been helpful but only music is included. Presented in 16x9 enhanced.
Five minutes of scenes from the film with Korean pop music. Not my cup of tea. 16x9 enhanced.
Good quality trailer which makes you want to see the film. 16x9 enhanced.
Collection of trailers for Eastern Eye in general, Princess Blade, Infernal Affairs, Volcano High & The Grudge. The first three are martial arts/action films, the last is a horror film.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
There are many different versions of this movie available globally, from many different distributors. The two other best ones available are:
Region 2 - Premier Asia version (Hong Kong Legends sub label) - This includes (in addition to what's on Region 4 version)
Region 3 - Spectrum version - This includes (in addition to what's on Region 4 version);
Based upon the above, the Region 2 Premier Asia version seems to be the pick for English speaking audiences, especially if you don't like subtitles. The version available in Region 1 is actually a Region 0 disc but does include the DTS track and a making of documentary.
The video quality is excellent with some minor issues.
The audio quality is excellent.
The disc has a good selection of extras however more are available on other versions.
|DVD||Toshiba 1200, using Component output|
|Display||Sony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Bose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)|