Ip Man Blu-ray Review
PictureIp Man comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p image encoded using the AVC codec and framed in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.
The film is visually striking in many ways. There is a good degree of detail to be seen within the many textures that go towards giving the film a period feel. The myriad of polished surfaces and resplendent ornaments within Ip's home are well brought to life and genuinely look opulent in nature. For the most part, much of the opening act is spent within his residence or the pre-war splendour of Fo Shan, a sprawling main street that is littered with a host of colourful signs. The colours never truly spring from the screen here, as the artistic style, even at this early more vivid stage of proceedings, is still aimed squarely at creating a vintage look. This constitutes mainly basic hues that are broken up with a few bright primary colours.
The post invasion picture takes a starker turn, as the mood of the piece changes. Gone are the shiny surfaces and crisp shades, to be replaced by a blanket of grey and battle scarred buildings. In places this actually helps to emphasise the detail that is on display, as the exterior shot of a crumbling wall proves, all roughened plaster and thick daubs of paint. The main concern with the image is that of inconsistency. One moment we are watching a film with a perfectly cinematic fine layer of grain, and the next it appears almost overwhelming in its abundance. Similarly, the cinematography doesn't help matters as the interior scenes during the kung fu sequences with the Japanese are dark and uninspiring. What should have been striking only serves to highlight the problems with the image as black crush enters slightly and shadow detail is lessened. Couple this with what looks to be hints of edge enhancement and some blooming on whites and I'm afraid the result is less than stellar.
What has to be held in mind though is the origin of the film. Compared to many of its kin, this is still a strong offering in many ways. Some may bemoan the desaturated colour but this is entirely intentional and is, in my view, one of the better aspects of the image. The skin tones are good, with Ip's wife having a refined porcelain-like visage as a 30's beauty. One item to note is that of the subtitles which may deter those with constant image height set-ups as they display in the lower border. Overall, the inconsistency may put some off but when it looks good it really starts to shine, it is just unfortunate that it is all too often marred by several flies in the ointment.
SoundFor those who thought the option on some Blu-rays of a couple of lossless tracks was the dictionary definition of the phrase “spoilt for choice”, Ip Man bombards us with four; Cantonese LPCM 7.1, Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Cantonese TrueHD 7.1 and finally Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. Things are rounded off with a vanilla Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 track but I'm sure you'll understand why I didn't pay that much attention.
In truth 7.1 is perhaps a touch overkill as 5.1 would amply suffice. There isn't a grand amount of steerage or work for the rears to do during the main body of the film as for the most part much of the period between fights is spent focussing on Ip's family and thus is fairly quiet. Unfortunately dialogue is a mite subdued and the changing of lossless tracks doesn't alter this. It is still clear, it is just a little unsettling when the action breaks out to find the volume ramped up to the nth degree. At least when those sequences enter the fray the LFE channel earns its keep as the punches carry real weight and there is a pleasing snap and tautness to the strikes. It isn't exactly subtle and the “whoosh” effect that comes around occasionally when a character decides to attempt a particularly devilish leaping kick or suchlike can be downright bludgeoning in its attempts at dynamism.
There isn't much refinement that one would normally associate with a lossless track, but at least the battle sequences are anything but dull and lightweight.
ExtrasTrailer - 1:06
Self explanatory - the picture is squashed with a border to the left and right sides and the image quality is fairly low as well.
Making of - 18:37
Thankfully all the extras come with subtitles or written translation, thus we are able to tell what is going on. We hear a little about Yen, wing chun, Ip's son Ip Chun, the setting of Fo Shan and how Sammo Hung tailors the fighting to each character.
Pre production - 2:02
A montage to music of various shots of make up, costume, rehearsal etc.
Shooting diary - 3:27
As per the pre production feature only with the emphasis being on the actual filming of scenes.
More major sets as opposed to major scenes, this focuses on the building of the cotton mill (2:24), the main street in Fo Shan (2:01) and Ip's residence (2:04). It is remarkable to see the painstaking attention to detail that went into even minor items in these locations, most of which, props included, was made especially for the film, right down to the working mill that was previously derelict.
Interviews with Director and cast
Wilson Yip - 23:12
Sammo Hung - 8:03
Donnie Yen - 22:09
Simon Yam - 2:53
Hiroyuki Ikeuchi - 7:45
Lam Ka-tung - 8:56
Fan Sui-wong - 4:49
A fine set of interviews, that covers just about everything of note or interest. The majority of the time is spent with the director and the leading man, which is as it should be, but it is nice to see the peripheral actors allowed to give further insight into their characters.
Ip Chun - Director - Sammo - 3:27
Essentially various small clips of the aforementioned three amalgamated into a single bite sized package.
Deleted scenes - 4:45
Although this feature is short in nature, the five scenes that were omitted form the final piece make for very interesting viewing. They would have counted as some of the more dramatic and downright cinematic moments of the film. We see Ip's carefree side in a glorious shot of him riding a bicycle, carefree alongside bright fields. Then comes an establishing shot of Ip as a duelling kung fu master, carrying his baby son to the location only for the camera to shift focus from the battle to the infant's face. The next deletion is perhaps the only one which might have simply been considered extraneous as it simply fleshes out the treachery of one of Ip's enemies, informing the Japanese of his location. The final two scenes make for a much darker ending as we witness the mobbing of the translator at the final and the lonely figure of General Miura alone in a room committing seppuku. The last shot is particularly shocking and one can only assume would have shifted the emphasis away from the central figure too much and strayed a little too far into darker realms of bloodshed.
Self explanatory. It is artistically made to look like an actual photograph laying amongst others but unfortunately the colour in the shots is off.
About the movie
These are three text based looks at aspects of the film; the history of wing chun, master Ip Man, starring and director's profiles (Yen, Hung and Yip). Thankfully there are English translations for those unable to read Chinese.
As with any set of extras, the offerings are mixed to a certain degree. What truly saves this package is the inclusion of the deleted scenes which, though brief, could easily have made a significant dramatic impact if they were included in the final piece. The interviews with the star and director are far more in depth than others of the like and cover a range of topics with regards the film. As such, this is a fairly strong batch of extra features that delve behind the motivations of those involved as well as the logistics of making the movie.
VerdictIp Man as a film is arguably one of the more sedentary of the recent plethora that have since found themselves a market in the West. You won't see men flying through the air or feats of superhuman strength. It is grounded and real to the extent that any kung fu film ever can be. There is no doubt liberal licence taken with the subject material and one wonders how much truth there really is in such characters as General Muira and the like but that is beside the point. Many biopics have ignored facts or at least omitted that which might sully a purer story in favour of pushing forward a carefully manicured version of events. Whichever way, the legend of one of wing chun's profoundest masters is far greater than any one film as I'm sure Wong Kar Wai's proposed take on the man's life will prove. As a minor glimpse and one director's particular take on the events of his life, this stands as a solid outing. Kung fu action is ably handled by Sammo Hung and Yen puts in his most restrained of performances, fighting the urge to over act that has been the blight on some of his films.
The Blu-ray presentation with regards audio and visual is perfunctory in many ways. It is far from being bad but it also doesn't genuinely push for greatness, rather finding a middle ground with enough pleasant touches to allow for the enjoyment of the film, but with a few niggling annoyances thrown into the mix. The extras raise this package though to one that will prove of greater interest. The interviews are lengthy and apportion time correctly to those figures of central importance to the production. The deleted scenes, though brief in run time, unfinished and low in picture quality, are some of the better I've seen, having real impact and not appearing in any way to be merely throwaway moments. Their inclusion would have altered the mood and direction of the narrative in places and thus are a real eye opener.
Overall a Blu-ray for kung fu fans such as myself, who have perhaps become acclimatised to a more basic level of image and sound quality over the years and instead look primarily for first rate choreography and a cracking story - something Ip Man certainly delivers.
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