Joint Security Area (Gongdong Gyeongbi Guyeok JSA) (2000)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Production Of JSA
Theatrical Trailer-Original and Japanese
Trailer-Eastern Eye Promo Reel
|Year Of Production||2000|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (78:49)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Chan-wook Park|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.20:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
To give anything more away would be unforgivable; the twists and revelations of this story are not mere plot developments. They mean something. So I’m not going to tell you what happens. But I am going to say that JSA is good, good, good, and you should most certainly see it. By turns tense, funny, sad, and beautiful, it is a remarkable accomplishment for first-time director Park Chan Wook. He manages to produce a technically virtuosic film, full of complex camera moves, digital enhancement, and gorgeous imagery, but never forgets to make his technique serve his story.
Park also coaxes some wonderful performances out of his cast. Lee Byung Hun and Song Kang Ho, as the Southern and Northern survivors respectively, are simply phenomenal. Lee gives a fine portrayal of a man shattered by guilt, while Song has a quiet certitude and grace to him that makes his occasional eruptions all the more astonishing. Smaller parts are scarcely less well played. Of the central figures, only Lee Yeong-ae, the Swiss investigator, is a little stiff – particularly in her English dialogue.
Joint Security Area broke box-office records in South Korea, inspiring praise and controversy in equal measure. Some of its content – such as a scene in which a character shouts North Korean slogans – would have been illegal in the South not so long ago; at one point, the producers’ offices were occupied by angry veterans. This is, in Korea at least, an Important Film. But it isn’t a Self-Important Film. And it works even if you haven’t the slightest idea about Korean history. In its concern for the terrible human toll of political conflict, JSA has a universal appeal that transcends linguistic and cultural barriers. Check it out.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.20:1, slightly varied from the theatrical ratio of 2.35:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.
The image is sharp and clear at all times. Shadow detail is excellent in the many low-light scenes, high-contrast scenes in the snowbound countryside look terrific, and there is no low-level noise.
Colours are vivid, varied, and clean. From golden fields to cold military offices to lurid amusement parks, every location is perfect of hue. I think that digital grading has been used to lend a heightened naturalism to the palette; or perhaps it’s just a Korean sensibility. Either way, me think colours pretty. There are no colour artefacts of any kind.
There are no MPEG artefacts, either, but there are occasional outbreaks of aliasing-induced shimmering: on the slotted doors at 26:00, the stairs at 39:13, and the blinds at 100:40. This problem also affects the whole closing credit sequence. The major film-to-video problem here, though, is that this transfer is interlaced. The interlacing is very noticeable during cuts, even if you’re not on the lookout for it. There are regular film artefacts, mainly small white flecks; the largest exception is a big greasy mark at 19:31. On the bright side, grain is neglible.
The subtitles are well placed and are very readable in SBS yellow. They’re also well written, although a comparison with the different, and much more awkward, subtitles given for scenes excerpted in the bonus materials suggests that some license was taken with the literal translations. There is a certain amount of English dialogue here, which is unfortunately not subtitled.
This is an RSDL disc with the layer change at 78:49, perfectly placed on a complete blackout between scenes.
There are two audio tracks: a default Korean track in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps, and a Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 track at 224 Kbps. I listened to the first track in full, and sampled the second briefly.
Dialogue was very clear indeed; emotions and tonal variations came across perfectly. There was no crackle or hiss, nor were there any noticeable difficulties with synchronisation.
Bang Jun Seok and Jo Yeong Wook composed the original score, which is used sparingly but with great effect. Sometimes very tense, it also amplifies the emotional content of the film; the piece that plays over the closing shot is simply beautiful. Older Korean pop and folk records are also heard as ambient music in certain key scenes on the border, with equally great effect. Sound quality is terrific for both, allowing for the deliberate but slight noisiness of the in-scene music.
The surrounds were used very aggressively in certain scenes, particularly the border shootout that is replayed in various versions throughout the film. Elsewhere, music and background noise are supported through the surrounds, and stealthy or surprising sounds too.
Subwoofers get plenty of signal out of this track; in addition to a score with plenty of bottom end to it, there’s a hefty barrage of booms and gunshots, and a few LFE rumbles to boot.
|Surround Channel Use|
Poor translation undermines what would otherwise be a fairly substantial set of extras.
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
The Region 0 version of this disc misses out on;
The Region 3 version of this disc misses out on;
The other releases beat the local one on image quality, since they’re not interlaced, and on audio quality if your system supports DTS. But the local disc also has more and better bonus materials than any but the Region 3 Special Edition. So? If you want the absolute best, track down the R3. If you just want the movie, the R0 release is probably your best bet. And if you can’t be bothered going to any particular trouble, the R4 disc will be more than satisfactory.
The video quality is mostly very good –which makes the imperfections all the more glaring.
The audio quality is very good indeed
The bonus materials are copious, but need better subtitling.
|DVD||Sony DVP-NS730P, using Component output|
|Display||Panasonic PT-AE500E projecting onto 100" screen. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-SR601 with DD-EX and DTS-ES|
|Speakers||Jensen SPX-7 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 centre and rear centre, Jensen SPX-4 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer|