DVD releases this week give Region 1 readers an opportunity to catch up with two recent festival favorites as well as check out two classics by Zhang Yimou that star Gong Li.
Korean film from late in 2004 about soliders investigating a mystery with unexpected results received some festival exposure in 2005 and is said to be a psychological thriller with some unique twists. This one I’m eager to see. From the Asia Extreme line at Tartan Video.
I saw Jia Zhangke’s Unknown Pleasures several years ago and it was a film easier to admire than to love. The World takes place in a theme park, and when I was in Chicago this past summer I read Jonathan Rosenbaum’s ecstatic reviews in the Reader…and still didn’t make it to the Saturday afternoon screening he introduced. Shame on me. For those specially interested in the spare, sparse side of Chinese storytelling, it sounds like a “can’t miss.” For the rest of us, it sounds like an opportunity to expand our horizons. From Zeitgeist Films, the disk includes a video interview with none other than Jonathan Rosenbaum.
An early review at DVD Beaver is highly critical of the new Razor release of Ju Dou, so buyer beware of both of these titles.
Gong Li plays the young bride of an older factory owner. She eventually takes up with a younger man, and their resulting offspring creates further divisions. Banned in China upon release. Directed by Zhang Yimou.
Raise the Red Lantern
Gong Li plays a rural woman who is drafted into becoming the the newest wife of a powerful man. The competition between the wives is fierce, with a red lantern hung to indicate where “the master” will spend the night, and thus which wife is favored that night. Gorgeous to look at, with characters who sneak up on you with a surprising force of emotion. Directed by Zhang Yimou.