'Election' is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with MPEG 4 AVC 1080p coding.
As this is quite a dark movie, proceedings can be a little difficult to follow at times, especially during the dimly lit, smoky interior scenes. Shadow detail is acceptable for the most part but at times can seem to lose clarity. During the exterior, well lit scenes the presentation takes on a new life and can demonstrate depth and fine detail. The colour palette seems intentionally restricted, with the majority of colouring sticking to more dour tones. There were a couple of exceptions, such as the deep reds of the monks clothing during the ceremony of Wo Shing. Definition is acceptable with background objects, such as the meats hanging in a butcher's window, clearly visible. Clothing detail can be impressive at times such as the almost perfect greyscale of one of the “Uncles” suits. Most of the scenes do exhibit grain to varying degrees and there are a couple of speckles of print damage but these are never overly distracting.
For the majority of the presentation the picture quality is above par but its lack of clarity/sharpness prevents the image from attaining true depth at various points. There were also some strange out of focus shots which seemed to appear very infrequently; I'm putting this one down to artistic discretion or my poor eyesight! What is inexcusable is the almost DVD quality of a small smattering of the scenes but these thankfully were very infrequent.
'Election' comes packed with an impressive dts HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track.
This mix produces some nice front separation and generally makes active use of all available speakers. Ambient effects almost continuously seep from the surround channels such as the chanting of the monks in the opening scenes of the movie. Ceiling fans are audible whirring in the background and the heavy breathing from the obese Uncle Teng can clearly be heard whistling through his nostrils. All of the “action” sound effects, such as the impact of wood/steel on flesh, are realistically rendered with an accompanying meaty thud. Dialogue is always clear and easy to follow, never getting lost amongst the score or other effects. There are also some very simplistic sound effects thrown into the mix at various points which add tension to some of the scenes; basic but effective. The highlight for me was Kun munching down on a ceramic spoon, the accompanying audio of which would give 'American History X' a run for its money.
One of the most unexpected surprises on this release was the magnificent score by Tayu Lo. The largely guitar based pieces are superb and can really add intensity to some of the action scenes, with the punchy bass of pounding skin drums accompanying the treble heavy guitars. Tayu Lo's innovative score also adds a maraca type staccato which sounds like a rattlesnake approaching, with gentle guitar interjection which tails off with the clash of Chinese cymbals. The score really is a pleasure to listen to and sounds superb on this uncompressed mix, making full use of all channels.
Overall this is an impressive mix that is bolstered by an impressive score.
'Election' boasts a fine collection of extras, all of which contain English subtitles. Although all the extras are lifted wholesale from the Special Edition DVD release and are in standard definition, it's a pretty good package none the less (especially when compared to other Asian BD releases). The only thing that I found to be lacking was a director's commentary track but I suppose you can't have everything.
Interview with Johnnie To (29mins) In this lengthy interview To covers all aspects of making 'Election' including where he got his information on the triads and dissection of his favourite scenes. This discussion with To is highly informative and comprehensive, providing insight into this revolutionary director's motivation and techniques.
Interview with Simon Yam (6mins) In this interview Simon Yam speaks about his collaboration with Johnnie To. Yam praises To for his ability to get the most from his actors and his unique techniques. He also comments on Lok and compares him to the character he played in 'PTU'. His input into character development and his favourite scene from the movie are also discussed. Appearing intelligent and informed, Yam answers all questions completely while providing expansion on many of the topics covered.
Interview with Tian-lin Wang (7mins) - Wang speaks on his Oscar nomination, his long standing relationship with To, his lengthy career in the film industry and his favourite movie.
Interview with Tony Leung Ka Fai (15mins) - Leung comments on his collaborations with To, the creative freedom he has working with this great director and also draws comparison between his previous characters and Big D. He also provides commentary on some of his scenes from 'Election' and on his experiences as an actor.
Making Of (7mins) - This short feature gives a brief introduction to 'Election' with additional interview segments featuring the cast and some b-roll/completed footage from the movie itself.
“Election at the Cannes Film Festival” (1min) - A montage of stills from Cannes set to delightful music!
Trailers - Two trailers for the feature presentation.
TV Spots - TV spots for the movie.
Photo Gallery (1min) - A collection of stills from the movie set to music.
'Election' was released in 2005 by revelatory Hong Kong director, Johnnie To. It's the first instalment of a two part movie based on the inner workings of a prominent Hong Kong triad organisation. To has assemble a stellar cast which includes Simon Yam, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Louis Koo and Nick Cheung; all fine actors at the top of their game. While this movie focuses on the inner mechanics of a criminal organisation and the tradition/ceremony which the triads are steeped in, it just isn't as engaging as say 'Goodfellas', which focuses on similar themes (i.e. the inner workings of a criminal organisation). The whole production is executed flawlessly with strong performances from the majority of the cast but ultimately it's the slow pace and lack of action content which makes 'Election' a slightly disappointing experience. This movie is an enjoyable affair but I suppose I was expecting a classic, so here's hoping that the sequel will make up for the shortfalls of the first installment of To's triad epic.
The video presentation is somewhat of a mixed bag. It demonstrates good depth and clarity for the majority but it can suffer from a flatness of image and loss of detail during some of the darker scenes. The surround track sounds excellent and has been clearly well mixed. The highlight being the score from Tayu Lo, which sits perfectly in the mix, coming to the forefront to inject pace when required. The extras package, although lifted wholesale from the DVD Special Edition release, is none the less comprehensive and contains some insightful interviews from the cast and To. This release is a must for all Johnnie To fans and possibly his most mature production to date.
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