Sympathy For Lady Vengeance Blu-ray Review
'Sympathy for Lady Vengeance' is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with MPEG-4 1080p coding.
Having owned and watched this movie on DVD (the Tartan release), I was very interested to see the improvements this 1080p transfer has made. Right away the amount of detail on show is very noticeable, right down to individual holes visible in some tofu which is offered to Geum-ja. With Chan-wook's wide selection of camera angles, from extreme close-ups to wide long-shots, there's a lot of eye candy on display and this transfer certainly does the movie justice. The colouration was another improved facet which immediately leapt off the screen. This is exemplified by the brilliant red of the Santas' outfits in the opening scenes. While the many filters which Chan-wook employs throughout the piece can mute the palette on occasion (colours are also intentional drained as the movie progresses), the majority of the presentation is well saturated, vibrant and incredibly naturalistic. Skin tonality is perfect, with the fuchsia glow of Geum-ja's eye shadow standing out against her sallow complexion. The contrast ratio is also very impressive, with some deep inky blacks and some crisp whites on show. Shadow detail is also spot on. Facial close-ups are a joy to behold, with pores, sweat and hair all standing out with sharp definition. I noticed zero compression artefacts from my normal viewing position and there's some healthy, but completely natural and unobtrusive, granular content in the majority of the scenes.
Overall this is a very cinematic presentation which has its moments of high definition excess. The majority of the scenes exuded a very pleasing depth and there were a few (but not many) occurrences of that sought after 3D pop factor. Bottom line is that this movie really looks very good indeed. The quality of the transfer really unveils a lot more detail and exposes many more nuances than I previously recall on DVD. This movie makes it barely into the nine rating and comes recommended.
The subtitles are large and never difficult to follow. There is the odd grammatical error here and there but nothing offputting.
'Sympathy for Lady Vengeance' comes packed with a 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio surround track.
While the transfer for the movie was most satisfactory, the audio presentation is somewhat lacking in comparison. Front separation is pleasing and creates a nice, wide soundstage with good directionality. Vocals are perfect, are never difficult to follow and hold strong even during moments of high treble. Surround activity, while present, is neither as prominent nor as active as I have heard on other BD releases. There are a couple of envelopment moments, such as the sound of footsteps from Geum-ja's neighbours, but they are too infrequent for my liking. The same can be said of the low frequency department (of which Geum-ja's gun is king) but these “flaws” are not a result of poor engineering but rather due the subdued nature of the source material. There are most definitely audible improvements when compared to the DVD release but the overall audio presentation is somewhat subdued, with the score taking care of most of the activity.
As is the case with Chan-wook's movies, the score is of utmost importance and features predominantly throughout. It also, as mentioned, is one of the more powerful facets on this release. Although largely classical, there are also acapella moments and harpsichord interludes at various junctures. Reflecting and highlighting many of the emotions which are portrayed on screen, the score is perfectly mixed, with some nice surround bleed and bass tonality.
There are some audio nice touches throughout, such as Geum-ja's voice emanating from all speakers during some segments, but overall I thought that a whole lot more could have been done on the audio front (especially considering the effort which Chan-wook has gone to with regards to the imagery). Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of nice touches which I had not previously noted on the DVD release, but the scope was there to include a lot more. I also found the bass a bit lacking but I suppose that due to the absence of high impact collisions or enormous explosions, the source material again is largely at fault here. Overall though, this is a very pleasing track and is well worth the upgrade from the compressed track previously available on the DVD release.
Once again I must disappointingly report that, while there are a wealth of extras included on this release, there are no English subtitles included. It's even more of a shame that the (presumably) highly interesting and informative commentary featuring Park Chan-wook, Min-sik and Young-ae is rendered useless (well at least to me) by this lack of subtitles. All of the extras are contained on a region free DVD and are a direct standard definition port from the Tartan release (with the omission of a couple of the commentary tracks). There's also a short introduction to the movie from Chan-wook but I obviously had no idea what he was saying! There was also a feature named “original sound” but this link merely played all of the deleted/extended scenes, so I'm not too sure if this feature is working correctly.
'Making of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance' (SD 10mins) - This feature takes a look at the making of the movie. There's plenty of backstage footage and some amusing outtakes. Chan-wook provides an almost diary style voice-over for the entire feature, which I'm sure offers insight into many aspects of the movie. Everyone most certainly appears to have enjoyed their experience working on this movie.
'Characters for Lady Vengeance' (SD 23mins) - This feature takes a look at the main characters from the movie including; Mr. Baek, Lee Geum-ja, The Prisoner (the ladies from the women's institute) and The Bereaved Family (the other “victims”). Each character, especially the two central characters, is explored in depth and their motivation is explained. Interviews with the cast and crew, as well as footage of Young-ae/Min-sik getting into character, are included.
'Style of Lady Vengeance: Interviews with Director and Staff' (SD) - This feature is broken up into five distinct segments; visualisation, costume and make up, production design, CGI effects and special art. Each segment lasts for approximately seven minutes. The various stylistic changes which Chan-wook includes in this movie, as well as in 'Oldboy', are explored. Production and set choices are also discussed, as well as three dimensional graphical representations of the sets and construction footage. Make-up (including some of the more graphic and surreal special effects) and costumes also get their own mini-features. The content appears interesting, features backstage/completed footage and there's plenty of involvement from cast and crew members.
'Lady Vengeance in Venezia' (SD 8mins) - This is footage from the Venezia film festival, where this movie was awarded the Young Lion Award for the best innovative feature. Interviews with the cast /director, as well as some interviews with fans/critics of the movie are included here.
TV Spots (SD 1min) - Three tv spots for the movie are included here for your viewing pleasure.
Trailers (SD) - Included here are a teaser trailer and a theatrical trailer for the main feature.
Alternate Scenes: Deleted and Long Takes (SD 14mins) - This is a collection of seven scenes from the movie, which are alternates to the ones included in the finished product. A lot of these are in unfinished, raw quality and, while interesting, don't add a whole lot in the way of character development or plot development (perhaps this is because I couldn't understand what was being said!). Most, however, are subtle variations to the scenes already included in the finished product and focus on the closing scenes in the warehouse.
'Sympathy for Lady Vengeance' was released in 2005 and is the final instalment of Park Chan-wook's vengeance trilogy. Charting the story of a beautiful young lady and how the decisions she made in her youth ruined her life forever, this is a movie about revenge. The plot is complex but ultimately rewarding and all of the acting on show is of the highest standard. Park Chan-wook once again uses his ample directorial skills to infuse a lot of innovative camera angles and other trickery to make almost every transition in the piece a pleasure to watch. While in lesser hands this may have appeared somewhat gimmicky, it in no way here detracts from the gravity or the impact of the entire presentation; it merely adds to the already enjoyable feature. This was one of the biggest box office draws in Korean cinema when it was released and has, in my opinion, matured with age. I am a massive fan of Park Chan-wook and I highly recommend this movie to anyone who has not seen it.
The video presentation comes up trumps and really is a huge leap from the previous DVD version. The movie certainly has translated well to BD and looks stunning for the majority. The audio presentation was a bit of a disappointment in comparison. While the classical score is perfectly represented, the lack of low frequency rumblage or really engrossing surround activity is a bit of a letdown. Don't get me wrong, the track is very good but the actual source material appears to be the limiting factor. While the extras portion is well packed, the lack of English subtitles will make them completely inaccessible to all but native Korean/Cantonese speakers. So, what we have here is a fabulous movie, which is made all the more tempting by a sterling transfer and very satisfactory audio presentation. Highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £22.93
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