Matrimony

 

Matrimony

[aka: The Matrimony]

[original title: Xin zhong you gui]

Written by Yang Qianling & Zhang Jialu

Produced by Chen Kuo-fu

Directed by Teng Huatao

2007


Cast:

Rene Liu

Leon Lai

Fan Bing Bing

Xu Songzi

Zheng Yuzhi


Production Studio:

Theatrical: Huayi Brothers

Video: Palisades Tartan Asia Extreme


Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: BD-25

Feature Size: ca. 21.2 GB

Bit rate: moderate (20-30 Mbps)

Runtime: 91 minutes

Chapters: 12


Audio:

Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1

Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0


Subtitles: English


Extras:

• Cast & Crew Interviews (ca. 19 minutes)

• Teaser/Trailer


Presentation:

Locking Blu-ray Case: BRD x 1

SRP: $24.98

Street Date: July 26, 2011



Product Description:

About Palisades Tartan:

Palisades Tartan has emerged as one of the premier distributors of independent and arthouse cinema in North America and the UK and has been on the forefront of consumer trends. Straddling both continents, their film line- up boasts an impressive repertoire in the UK including the Ingmar Bergman library and Wong Kar Wai’s 2046 and IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. In North America, apart from many favorites such as Michael Winterbottom’s 9 SONGS and Carlos Reygadas’s SILENT LIGHT, the library is anchored by Park Chan-wook’s Cannes jury prize winner, OLDBOY, the film that famously introduced the Western World to the Asia Extreme brand.


Tartan Films was originally founded in 1984 in the UK and is credited with bringing Asian Extreme film to the West as well as some of the most compelling art house films of the last quarter century. In May 2008, Palisades Pictures acquired Tartan Films US library assets and two months later, acquired a majority of Tartan Films UK’s film library assets. The new company Palisades Tartan has operations both nationally and internationally. Palisades Tartan will continue to expand an already distinctive and provocative slate of films by focusing on quality film acquisitions, thus significantly increasing the size of their overall library in both territories. Palisades Pictures and its parent company Palisades Media Corp is a prestigious financier of print & advertising for the independent film market. Together with its affiliate, Palisades Media Asset Fund, Palisades has securitized and financed more than 550 films.


     


The Movie: 5

Synopsis (Asia Extreme:)

Set in a beautifully recreated 1930’s Shanghai, Junchu (Leon Lai) has fallen into a profound state of depression after witnessing his girlfriend’s tragic death on the day he was set to propose. Unable to forget Manli, and living in a tortured state of denial and guilt, Junchun’s domineering mother decides to marry him off to Sansan (Rene Liu), a beautiful young woman who she believes will lift her son’s spirits. [“spirits” - ha! - LN]The marriage starts off loveless and unconsummated, but Sansan is determined to win his love. One day the ghost of Manli, still pining for her former lover appears to Sansan. The two strike a deal; Manli will help the new bride, but only if she can temporarily enter Sansan’s body so that she can reconnect physically with her former lover one last time. The plan goes too well and as Junchu begins to fall in love with Sansan, Manli turns from friendly and helpful to jealous and vengeful.


     


Comment:

In this age of home video, even the average movie watcher may know too much for their own good.  Do we really want to see how much Matrimony borrows from two Hitchcock masterpieces: Rebecca and Vertigo, with more than a smattering of Star Trek’s “Return to Tomorrow” from the second season of the original TV series?  Knowledge of these borrowings make the new movie seem more disjointed than it might be otherwise, for there are some well crafted moments and heartfelt performances to go with them.  That said, I feel the filmmakers are guilty of that most pervasive of sins: too broad a target audience.  The movie is, by turns, a love triangle, a ghost story, a horror film, a thriller and, for a fairy tale epilogue that pretty much undoes the serious work of all that came before.


On a different note, Palisades Tartan seems a little confused about the title.  On the front cover and spine it reads: “Matrimony”, their press release and back cover credits specify “The Matrimony” - and while the latter agrees with the IMDB and the title card of the film itself, “The Matrimony” remains an awkward English construction.  “Matrimony” is more correct as well as having a better shot at the ghostly irony of the proceedings.


     


Image: 7/8

Rare for a Blu-ray these days, even more so for a movie of recent vintage (in this case, 2007), the picture has dozens of frames with dropouts ranging in size from noticeable specks to small lightning bolts.  One assumes that this is the source material that Palisades Tartan has to work with, for in all other respects the transfer is very good with no distracting artifacts or enhancements.  Color and contrast are excellent, with Manli’s red jacket holding up even in the darkest shadows.


Probably the greatest liability of  Blu-ray, in conjunction with the much reduced magnification of the image for home theatre, is that we sometimes see more than we want - the mechanics of how a scene is filmed, for example, when the desired outcome was only to see its effect.  A good example occurs at the start of Matrimony when poor Bing Bing gets whacked by a motor vehicle.  As her CG body is tossed through the air, we cannot but be aware of how poorly integrated this effect is with the live action.  Hardly the transfer’s fault.   Fortunately, the movie does not depend on CG to any great degree.


     


Audio & Music: 5/6

The good news is that we are presented with the original language dialogue.  We have the choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. I don’t know if the 5.1 is an afterthought, but it is a must in this case simply because of the abundance of surround and atmospheric cues.  Sadly, and for reasons I can’t get my mind around, there is no high definition track hose loss is especially missed in this case since there is so much going on at any number of layers, texturally and dynamically.


Alas, the balance between effects, music and dialogue is, in my opinion, wrongheaded from the start.  The audio effects often leap off the screen like the shower scene in Psycho.  There are certain horror/slasher films where this is expected, even desirable.  But Matrimony, which is a ghost story that at its core asks profound questions about the hold that the dead have on the living.  It works against its intentions to have such exaggerated effects and music cues.


     


Extras: 2

The bonus features consist of a number of trailers and several brief interviews, totaling about 19 minutes: the producer Chen Kuo-fu (whose comments are worth the entire package), writer Zhang Jialu, and stars Rene Liu, Leon Lai and Fan Bing Bing.  Director Teng Huatao  is conspicuously absent.  The interviews are presented in fair letterboxed standard definition, as is the theatrical trailer.  The high definition teaser has no credits save the single word “Matrimony” placed prophetically in the upper left corner.


The English-friendly subtitles are in an unobtrusive white font delicately outlined in black.  I like very much that the entire list of credits are displayed clearly in English next to the Chinese.  On the other hand, the menu has no chapter search (how very odd!)


     


Recommendation: 4

Numerous image dropouts and the absence of a high definition audio track places Palisades Tartan’s Matrimony out of the running as a demonstration quality disc.  Neither am I quite sure why this company sees Matrimony as an example of “Asia Extreme.”  It isn’t by a long shot - in any case the more subtle story is hampered by a hamfisted audio mix.  The love triangle story is a good one - up to a point and notwithstanding the abortive attempt to make 37 year old Rene Liu appear as a starry eyed adolescent in one extended flashback.  The movie should have ended a couple minutes before it did.


     



Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

July 21, 2011


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