A Dirty Carnival comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p resolution encoded using the
CJ Entertainment have done a pretty fine job bringing this to the format. The print is nigh on pristine, if I were to say there are one or two specks it would be a mistruth as I spotted the sum total of one. Grain is fine and delineation for the most part very good. In the bright light this transfer shines (apologies) but what is surprising is how well it holds up in the lower, more artificial lights. Rather than subsiding into murky depths, shadow detail remains reasonably high and the depth of the image doesn’t waver.
Unfortunately it appears some technical trickery has been utilised to maintain this depth as edge enhancement does crop up. It is far from the most obvious, but there are scenes where it becomes more apparent than others which somewhat detracts from the uniformly solid nature of the rest of the image. Further to this, blacks seem boosted and a couple of the softer shots indicate sharpening.
Thankfully the colour palette, though stylised by a bluey-green tint, stays steady and keeps proceedings naturalistic. An interior or two has a shade that indicates a touch of red push but other than minor instances the colour representation is top notch. It is a very pleasing picture but arguably may have reached that little bit higher were it not for a few eye-catching tweaks that crop up occasionally.
Point of note – for those with constant image height set-ups, the subtitles appear within the frame.
The sole audio option is a Korean DTS-HD Master Audio track
Fans of Oldboy will likely note the reminiscent quality of the music, orchestrated by Jo Yeong-wook who also scored the aforementioned film. Full of light strings and wistful accordions, this lossless track brings the richness of the musical playfulness to life adeptly. The higher frequencies don’t cut through the rest of the mix, instead being tapered well, and the accordion’s warm tone swells well from the fronts into a nicely wide soundstage.
The rear usage is tempered but effective, most notably coming into play when fists are flying but there are also some discreet effects which work, if perhaps being a little too obvious. The mix isn’t really overworked as numerous sound effects during battles appear replayed from stock sounds, knives in particular make really just one distinct noise during an early battle sequence.
The centre is almost perfect, barring one minor drop in clarity during a brief scene, it never misses a beat, with dialogue being distinct (though I cannot vouch strenuously so, not speaking Korean) and extremely natural in tone. The weaving together of the various channels is commendable and when the LFE does kick in it makes itself known. You can pick hairs here and there, but the truth is this stands as a strong audio mix that has good depth and remains organic sounding yet refined.
Point of note – there are a few subtitles errors, but they are likely well within the usual tolerances of Eastern cinema fans.
There is a wealth of extras, but unfortunately none carry with them English subtitles. There appear to be two commentary tracks, as well as a making of documentary (480p – 41:00), a featurette about violence and gangster mentality (480p – 39:41), deleted scenes (480p – 8:37) with optional director’s commentary, a shooting of the karaoke scenes (480p – 30:29), an action scenes making of (480p – 36:16), a trailer (1080p – 2:21), a music video (480p – 3:45), footage from a poster shoot (480p – 4:28) and finally clips from a press screening (480p – 2:40).
A Dirty Carnival is one of a continuing trend, a fine example of the growing wealth of talent within the shores of the Korean peninsular. Yu Ha has crafted a thriller that uses crime as a central pivot, but like all truly great gangster cinema, finds the greatest drama in the relationships of characters. With yet another memorable score from Jo Yeong-wook, the nostalgic strains juxtapose well against the brutality of greed and violence, the film resounds with poignancy and the implied tragedy of innocence lost.
The region free disc is a strong hitter, barring a couple of minor issues the picture and sound are both exactly what importers of foreign cinema demand. The extras are without subtitles, but when rated based on their sheer abundance this should prove a real treat to those able to comprehend them.
If you’ve yet to dip your toes into Korean cinema, treat yourself and absorb this. Perhaps formulaic in places, but the intelligence of its creator shines through and with A Dirty Carnival Yu Ha has placed his name firmly in the “one to watch” category.
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