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  Directed by
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  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.20:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • Korean: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Korean: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • 7 Teaser trailer
  • 5 Theatrical trailer
  • Featurette
  • Animated menus
  • Music video
  • Film highlights
  • Interactive film trivia
  • Jacket picture

Bichunmoo (Rental)

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 118 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Asian cinema is truly coming of age, finally emerging into the light after 500 years of darkness. Not to say it isn’t and hasn’t always been great; quite the opposite. In this Korean offering, there are more than just the elements of Western storytelling; there are also the traditional methods by which the Asians tell their stories. And, happily, the two marry quite well to create an overall production I’ve no doubt both cultures can enjoy.

In this recent film we are taken back to 14th century China as it labours under Mongol rule. Two childhood sweethearts, Jin-Ha and Sullie, grow up together, inseparable until, in their late teens, Sullie’s beauty catches the eye of a local warlord’s son. He wishes to marry her, but both Jin-Ha and Sullie are not going to let it happen. So, the warlord’s son attempts to dispatch him in honourable fashion by fighting to the death. Unfortunately, his father the warlord will not let his son be harmed and stacks the odds against Jin-Ha, who is shot full of arrows and falls to his death from a high cliff.

"A warrior’s love is as cold as it is beautiful…"

We learn that Jin-Ha is more than just the soulmate of Sullie; he is also guardian of the Bichun Secrets, an ancient means of power in which warriors can control the earth itself to aid them in battle. Jin-Ha is rescued and, after recuperating, ten years pass while he forms a powerful group known as the Ten Swordsmen whom none can best. The Warlord is still after the Bichun Secrets however and, under a different guise, Jin-Ha returns to find Sullie has married the warlord’s son and has borne him a son.

Sullie, long believing he was murdered, has trouble coming to terms with her feelings and grief after so long and soon there are yet other factors effecting Jin-Ha’s secret return. In kidnapping Sullie’s son Sung, Jin-Ha trains him in the Bichun Secrets so he might carry them on. Fate seems destined to always keep Sullie and Jin-Ha apart, yet their feelings have returned stronger than ever, and can only cause further unrest between their two families.

Then there’s plenty more to keep you interested, believe me. That’s possibly this incredibly beautiful film’s only weakness though; the storyline is vastly complex with many subplots always on the boil. This isn’t aided by the indistinct passage of time either, however for those willing to stick it out there are many rewards for attention. Naturally, a film of this epic scope will inevitably be compared to the Asian film cornerstone of recent years, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and here that is justified – at least to a certain degree. The narrative complexity far outweighs Crouching Tiger, yet the base story is very similar in the deep and forever unattainable love between two heroic warriors. And, of course, there is the Shakespearean comparison to Romeo and Juliet too, though to me it just proves that unrequited love is universal and all cultures can spring up myths and legends about this most unjust of all life’s hurts.

Bichunmoo is a very beautiful and bittersweet tale of unrequited love in a violent age. It is magnificently shot with exquisite costuming and dynamic action scenes easily equal to anything in Crouching Tiger. Again the only difficulty an audience may find is in the complexity of the story and multiple supporting characters whose alliances are never entirely clear. However, I wouldn’t let that prevent you from seeing what is a truly remarkable film and one of heartbreaking poignancy. Bichunmoo delivers for anyone wanting to peel the layers and look deeper to experience that which Crouching Tiger made us feel the first time we saw it. A sense of awe and of wonder and of the deep, deep ache left when love goes unfulfilled.

Bichunmoo is truly beautiful.

  Video
Contract

Well, as noted, the camerawork and cinematography of this film is striking. In what looks like a 2.20:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement, the wide, wide vistas of China are captured like art. Every shot endeavours to be extraordinary and the film is visually stunning due to these obviously ornate production values. The colours are even and flesh tones good. Surprisingly there are occasional film artefacts, which is disappointing, but thankfully there isn’t anything really disruptive. Shadow detail is good and blacks are true, though they are occasionally murky or solid. Our old Asian film stand-by of scarlet blood is here in gouts and classic spurting fashion so notably stolen lately by one Quentin Tarantino. There are also some almost experimental camera moves that leave it hard to decide if they work well or not. I guess this is for the individual, but I didn’t feel any camera move or wire-fu or CG addition didn’t belong; in fact, some of the CG stuff is truly poetic and almost like a living Asian painting. Very, very impressive overall.

  Audio
Contract

It’s in Korean, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying this Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. There’s also a stereo mix for the surround-free set, and both of these are very nice, though, of course, the constant surrounds of the 5.1 must beat the stereo. Jungle noises, forest noises, city noise, action sounds, group fights and individual characters all get their turn in the surrounds and this vastly improves an already brilliant film.

The music is also a rare conundrum, taking elements from today’s instrumentation right back to the deeply traditional. It covers just about any field of musical score you could care to name from video game metal to classical pipes to epic, sweeping orchestral to just-short (thankfully) Asian sentimental. It’s an incredible score from Kim Seong-Jun and one well worthy of the title ‘epic’. Amazingly blended.

  Extras
Contract

Yes, there’s a swag here for the interested or the curious. Our first is in the Open the Eye feature. This is an interactive series of short featurettes that we can click on during the film to investigate something further. It works in much the same way a video commentary does, but without the annoying voiceovers.

Next, something that this is the very first time I’ve ever seen on a disc, and consequently the first time I’ve put it in that little ‘extras’ area over there on the left of your screen. Film highlights they are, and they run for 2:07. It’s essentially a very compact version of all the best parts of the film that is essentially a trailer of sorts.

CG Clips couldn’t really be anything else. These are various behind the scenes pre-rendered special effects shots without commentary that run for 9:59 and feature some score music over the top. Interesting to see how many of what looked real enough were actually effects shots.

A music video for one of the film’s musical pieces runs in 1.78:1 with 16:9 for 4:58 and this is nice, but probably a once-off viewing. Then comes the spoiler-laden trailer for 2:07 followed by the Eastern Eye trailers. The first is the 2:20 Eastern Eye Montage that holds short teasers for eight films, with full trailers for Princess Blade, Infernal Affairs, Volcano High and The Grudge following.

And, for those fans of wallpaper on their TVs, there’s a nice jacket picture as well.

  Overall  
Contract

Bichunmoo looked great in the trailers and looks even better in the film itself. There’s a decent storyline and while it does get a little complicated, it’s worth hanging in for. Performances are perfect and the film’s exquisite beauty makes the overall presentation one of major appeal. If you loved Crouching Tiger, as most of us did, this is a very similar, slightly more adult realisation of a similar theme. Fans of Asian cinema and kick arse fighting sequences should look no further than here either, as there are more than enough one-man-on-20 fight scenes to keep anyone gasping for air.

Bichunmoo is Asian cinema meeting us Westerners halfway and it is among those films lighting the way for no doubt an army of like films to come. I recommend that you don’t miss this film. It is simply and wholly beautiful.


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      And I quote...
    "Two houses; both alike in dignity…"
    - Jules Faber
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