Lust, Caution Blu-ray Review
PictureLust, Caution saunters onto this Korean release Blu-ray with a 1080p image encoded utilising the AVC codec and framed within a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
The period feel of the film is perfectly captured here, as a healthy layer of grain is spread across proceedings. It never becomes distracting though, rather it adds to the atmosphere of a bygone time by giving a fine texture to the visuals. The colour palette can change dependent on the situation. One moment we are seeing a downtrodden Wong, settling back into a humdrum existence and the greyness and saturation of the colours strikes the right artistic chords of war time poverty and broken ideals. This sense of watching a washed out picture is soon dispelled though as the bright lipstick, painted nails, shining earrings and brooches of the scenes where she is donning her new mantle are powerful and vibrant. The finery of exquisite clothing bedecking the females of the mah jong circle spring to life as if they were in a separate movie or existence, which in essence they are. Everything with regards the colours used has been expertly tailored to capture the correct feel and heighten the atmosphere and juxtaposition between personas.
Detail is strong throughout, as the textures of the fantastic wardrobe worn by the characters attests to. The patterns of the luxurious dresses are intricate and show no signs of colour bleed in their bright complexity. Similarly, the crisp delineation of a checked or lined shirt is always clear and well defined. The multitude of understated designs seen on both male and female characters creates the perfect test for this disc. Once more plain clothing becomes the chosen attire, the block colours are also handled extremely well, with no signs of loss of detail within the blanket shades and good gradation is seen in the varying light sources.
Overall this is about as good as I can imagine this is likely to look. The detail, grain and colouring all combine adeptly to give us an end result of a period atmosphere that can vacillate between the greyness of a resistance hideout to a resplendent room covered in richly polished wood. A splendid display.
SoundSound options give us the choice of either PCM 7.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 or plain Dolby Digital 6.1 (all in Mandarin). For the purposes of this review I concentrated on the DTS-HD Master Audio track.
Like the image, the prime focus here seems to be on creating the correct atmosphere rather than bombarding us with unnecessary noise. As such, the score becomes a feature of prime importance. Pleasingly it is managed impeccably, shifting subtly in the background and creating a sense of unease when the tension mounts, yet also fluttering by when called to do so. The sound stage across the fronts seems particularly wide, with the music expanding into the room with great ease. The high frequencies within are crisp and taut and once instruments are presented during a scene, the track captures the reverberation of the strings in a manner that fills the ears without raising the volume beyond the rest of the mix.
Dialogue is similarly well handled, with clarity of speech never appearing to waver, though as usual I'll add the caveat of not being able to speak any Chinese dialects, so I won't go overboard with this praise. What I can say is that it never seemed to become muddy or fall behind or push in front of the rest of the mix, instead staying well integrated within. The rears also push towards the task of cohesion extremely well, as the myriad of sounds accompanying the urban scenes are layered finely. This is not a track that calls for great steerage, but the rattle of cable cars and the footsteps of passers by and the like are interwoven admirably.
The few instances when bass becomes a noticeable feature are when the score calls for the requisite rhythmic beat that resembles a pulse and when thunder rumbles in the background of a stormy scene. Neither pushes to the point of shaking the viewer, instead holds just enough weight to make us aware of its presence. This is a mix that is intent on finding balance and recreates the sounds contained capably. It may not seem like demo material in terms of thrilling the audience, but it has a finesse and atmosphere that few can match.
Presented in 480p, this contains two mini trailers, a Korean version (00:33) and a Hong Kong version (00:19), both of which are over in a flash and don't differ wildly.
Like the TV spots, this has several iterations of essentially the same footage, all shown in 480p. They include the Korean version (1:49), the international version (1:43) and the Asian version (1:42).
Photo and poster gallery
A sequence of still shots that are placed against a decorative background of a sepia tinted street scene. Unlike many similar features, this doesn't include a back and forward button for skipping through the pictures, rather using a slideshow mechanic that slowly enlarges each image and then dissolves into the next. The image quality is good but the fact that each shot only lasts for approximately four seconds detracts somewhat from the effect. The score that accompanies it is pleasing though and gives the feature a nice finish.
Tiles of deception, lust affections - 480p - 17:01
Basically a behind-the-scenes that delves into many aspects of the production. Topics covered range from the casting process to the importance of mah jong and many things in between. It is particularly nice to hear from Lee as he attempts to convey the importance of the project in reflecting China's past to its current younger generation. Talking heads range from cinematographer and writer to stars such as Tony Leung and Wei Tang. The feature is in English but due to some of the thick accents involved many may find included subtitles a blessing.
The majority of the extras feel distinctly like filler material but the final featurette prevents this set from being a truly poor showing as it has some interesting insights and thoughtful musings.
VerdictLust, Caution for the most part is a resounding success on Blu-ray. The story of the film itself is gripping and contemplative and fits in perfectly with Lee's oeuvre of depicting fractured personalities and bottled emotions. Both acting and direction are of the highest standard and the script leaves many blanks and interesting dilemmas up to the imaginations of the viewer.
The disc itself portrays this intriguingly noir narrative with aplomb. The visuals capture the period feel to a tee and bathe us in glorious detail with colours that spring farther from the screen than they have done on standard definition discs. The audio compares favourably to this high target by giving us a masterful mix that is full of subtle touches and clarity. The minor stumble for this Blu-ray is that of the extras. A film of this calibre deserves far more attention when it comes to such things, but as with many recent productions, time tends to draw out more material from the archives and retrospectives so we can't complain too much.
The result is a disc that hits its marks in all the key areas. A story that is powerful demands a suitable display from its picture and sound - thankfully, Lust, Caution gets exactly what it deserves.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £28.51
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