Four stories, four graphically violent ends, one story
A Touch of Sin Blu-ray Review
A Touch of Sin, is about violence and what can drive people to commit such heinous actsHowever, when director Jia Zhangke is at the helm, you know that there is more to it than that. Indeed the whole film is veiled in allegory (some might argue not so veiled) about how the vast economic boom that has hit China in the last few years has divided the country and how the disparity between rich and poor becomes ever more gaping. And so, Zhangke takes four tales and forges a look at desperation and despair where the only outcome is violence.The four acts have little or no linking between them; this means that each ‘chapter’ is separate and distinct, creating a disjointed flow to the piece. Perhaps some integration between the plots might have allowed an easier transition, because it is quite jarring, especially considering each act ends so abruptly. Also the film doesn’t build to any climax, each ‘chapter’ has its own; the final vignette which tries valiantly to tie everything together comes off as a bit of a damp squib; though I did like the final shot which makes you look at yourself.
There is no denying Zhangke’s talent; his trademark style is all over this picture. But what sets this picture apart from his earlier films is his attempt at genre output, i.e. the violence. It starts off like a modern-day western, with hints of Tarantino-esque bloodletting. But in trying to meld styles something gets lost; the drawn-out establishing scenes do not contain quite enough backstory to justify the characters actions preferring to establishing the depressing mood, thus the film’s pacing tends to drag; then bang – a graphic violent act. One could argue that is the point, a shocking wake up call to make you sit up and take notice, but for a modern audience outside of the ‘critic’s’ (or Cannes) circle, many might find that it simply takes too long to say what it wants – then repeats it. So, whilst there is much to commend, there are the flaws to consider. Personally, the highs outweigh the lows and any film that has you wincing at the violence ought to be given a fair trial.
A Touch of Sin Blu-ray Picture Quality
The disc presents a theatrically correct 2.35:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is Region free.
Shot digitally but using anamorphic lenses the picture, for the most part, is stunning showing off resolute detail, excepting, in places, the deformation caused by the anamorphic process which can tend to soften the image, particularly towards the extremes. Skin texture and clothing weaves are excellently represented, middle and distance look exceptional, check out the rocky roads and landscapes of the first ‘chapter’ or the highways and tenement blocks of the last – even the very far distance holds edges, check out the construction on the buildings; the cranes even have definition.
The picture is stunning showing off resolute detail
Colour is very natural and the primaries come across very well, reds and blues especially, though green is no slouch either, it’s just the picture doesn’t showcase them quite so much. Flesh tones are fine throughout and there is no hint of wash or bleed.
Brightness and contrast are set very well indeed, the blacks add some decent depth and punch to the image and even hide some shadow detail when required. We never spotted any crushing or clipping.
Digitally there were no compression problems, nor any edge enhancement. Jaggies and judder are not present, though there was some very slight banding occasionally seen.
On the whole this is a fantastic picture only just shy of reference.
A Touch of Sin Blu-ray Sound QualityJust the one track to choose from: English dts-HD Master Audio – don’t panic that’s what it is listed as, it is the original language, Mandarin/Cantonese with a wee bit of English in there, all subtitled. Surprisingly immersive – right from the off, with the motorbike engine, gun shots and explosion, you get a feel for the experience with effects representing echo, reverb and other natural sounds to give a very all rounded natural effect.
The mix is set to give priority to the vocals which are very natural sounding, dominate the frontal array, but have directionality when needed (various conversations, or the stage plays, or crowd scenes testify) so they never get swamped by some of the louder elements of the track. Effects are myriad with street noises, traffic and weather etc. making full use of the surround speakers to really add ambience to the sound stage. Bass is well handled and LF effects, though limited really add a strong punch to the low end, adding much to the shock value of the visuals when needed.
The subtitles are a small (a bit too small perhaps?) white font at the bottom third of the picture (not in the black bars) and hang around for enough time to read them without issue, are grammatically correct although are a bit ‘literal’ in their translation – i.e. technically correct it’s just not quite how people speak.
Surprisingly immersive – right from the off
A Touch of Sin Blu-ray Extra Content
Is A Touch of Sin Blu-ray Worth BuyingAward winning director Jia Zhangke takes a look at violence in his latest film A Touch of Sin. But more than that, he examines the social political climate of the upheaval in China’s economic rise to power through the eyes of four individuals in different areas (geographically) and social areas by their reactions to their individual situations and stations in life.
The common theme being the desperation felt at the growing disparity between the rich and the poor, and whose only outlook appears to be a violent confrontation hailed by the director in spectacularly graphic fashion at the end of each of his four tales. The very slow deliberate pacing might not be to everybodies taste, and the violent climatic scenes will have an equally divisive reaction. It has been lauded by many critics and has won at Cannes, but for an everyday audience it might struggle to find its feet for the very reasons listed above.
It has been lauded by critics and won at Cannes, but for an everyday audience it might struggle
As a Blu-ray Arrow have released a slightly disappointing set; whilst the picture, being bright clear, colourful and bold, is near reference and the sound, being vibrant and very immersive, is also near reference, the lack of any extra features means that it’s simply a barebones disc. With luck it will find a home as personally any film that has you wincing at the violence ought to be given a fair trial.
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