NOTE: Please be aware that this DVD is an import from Hong Kong and is coded for Region 3 DVD players. In order to view this DVD, you'll have to have either a Region 3 coded or Region Free DVD player. [Recommended Region Free Players] It will not play in standard Region 1 North American DVD players.
Former John Woo assistant Peter Chan has been producing and directing films in Hong Kong for a while now, but 2005's Perhaps Love is an important stepping stone in his career in that it's the first of his films to be submitted for Oscar consideration. How does it hold up? Well, it's a mixed bag. Let's start at the beginning…
Jacky Cheung plays a Hong Kong filmmaker named Nie Wen who is nervous as can be. His latest movie, which revolves around a love affair that develops between some circus performers, is his big shot at hitting the mainstream and it could make or break him in the film industry. Lin Jian-dong (Takashi Kaneshiro) is cast as the leading man, and he's cast opposite his ex-flame, the cold and distant Sun Na (Xun Zhou) as the female lead. Though Sun seems to have conveniently buried her memories of her past with Lin deep inside her mind never to be seen again, he's got the inkling to rekindle what they once had and this proves to be a problem for Nie Wen, who has feelings of his own for the pretty young actress, despite her cold exterior.
As the story of Nie Wen's film plays out on the set, things begin to follow a similar course behind the camera as a love triangle of sorts develops between the director and the two stars of his film. Xun and Lin's past comes back to haunt them both and as such, a strong shift occurs in Sun's personality and her coldness begins to slowly but surely warm, whether she wants it to or not.
First things first, Perhaps Love is an amazing looking film. It is difficult to describe just how fantastic looking the visuals are for this film as it is pretty much picture perfect from start to finish. The cinematography from Peter Pau and Christopher Doyle is lush, romantic and completely evocative of all the emotion that Chan attempts to summon up for his story and it's very easy to simply forget about what the characters are up to and just lose yourself in how rich the imagery is. The sets are elegant and even decadent looking in spots and the camera work manages to capture every last detail of it all. The movie has been earning a lot of comparisons to both Chicago and Moulin Rouge and it easily looks just as good if not better than both of those productions. High praise? Indeed, but it is completely warranted - Perhaps Love does look perfect.
Unfortunately, as we all know, pretty pictures are not always enough to sustain a two hour movie. The film within a film motif when combined with the inordinate amount of flashback scenes makes things a little disjointed during the first half of the film and while the musical numbers that take place are admittedly impressive, they're in turn justified by the plot which kind of takes away from the mystique of it all. Having to explain why the characters are breaking into song rather than just allowing the audience to accept the fact that they are, you're pulled out of the moment and the fantasy of it all, quite frankly, is too grounded in reality for its own good. Structurally, the film is at odds with what it wants to be and that hurts the movie in the long run.
The performances are pretty decent all around, with Jacky Cheung, more recognizable to western audiences from his action movies like High Risk, proving he can play a romantic part quite well. Kaneshiro is also quite good in a part far removed from The Returner or even House Of Flying Daggers. Xun Zhou does well playing the colder side of her character and is certainly pretty to look at but becomes less convincing as her Sun Na warms up. It's a shame then, with three good actors making the most out of the material, that the love triangle isn't all that convincing. Sun Na's cold exterior makes her hard to relate to and hard to want and therefore it's difficult to understand, aside from her physical beauty, why the two men are so hung up on her.
In the end, we're left with a mediocre story that is made to appear better than it really is thanks to the absolutely perfect sense of visual style that Chan and company have created for the film and from three decent lead performances. The musical set pieces deliver the goods and the flamboyant and enveloping look of the movie is easy to become overwhelmed by, but when the core of the film is uninvolving, it's hard to enjoy the movie on an emotional level. Perhaps Love is a treat for the eyes and the ears, but it won't likely affect your heart or your mind.
The anamorphic 1.85.1 transfer looks very, very nice on this DVD release. Blacks are solid, colors are very well defined and flesh tones look lifelike and natural. Compression artifacts and edge enhancement are almost non-existent and there isn't a whole lot to complain about. There's plenty of both foreground and background detail present in the image from start to finish and color reproduction is drop dead gorgeous. There's a tiny hint of aliasing present in a few scenes as well as some saw tooth artifacts in a couple of spots where the reds move quickly but other than that there aren't really any digital transfer issues worth noting aside from some very slight edge enhancement here and there. Print damage is pretty much non-existent and while there is some fine film grain in one or two spots, that's okay as it isn't ever once overpowering or distracting in the least. Perhaps Love looks fantastic on DVD.
Surround sound options are available in a Mandarin language Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a DTS 5.1 mix. The DTS mix is great – very active and properly balanced demonstrating distinct channel separation, crystal clear dialogue, and great use of the rear channels for sound effects and background music. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix has slightly less LFE in it, but is also quite solid and the score sounds fantastic regardless of which option you choose. This is a very, very layered mix used in this film, and this DVD does a very good job of exposing everything that's hiding in the background with crystal clear audio. Optional subtitles are available in Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and in English. Clarity is great both tracks, and the DTS mix sounds exceptionally good, particularly when the soundtrack kicks in or when musical scenes take place. Music swells up around you and behind you as the movie plays out and everything is handled very well in terms of what is placed where and in short, both mixes are top notch.
While Mega Star has loaded up the disc with some interesting supplements, sadly not a single one of them comes with an English subtitle option, making them difficult to appreciate unless you speak Chinese. Regardless, here's a rough idea of what you'll find in the extra features, all of which are contained on the second disc in this two disc set:
The Making Of Perhaps Love is an extensive hour long look at the genesis of the film and how it was made through the eyes of those who were on set and involved in the production. Most of the key cast and crew members are interviewed and there's some interesting behind the scenes footage in here as well.
The B-Roll option plays back a series of outtakes from the movie that didn't make it into the final cut of the film for whatever reason, and the Men Are Born Jealous and You Do Love Me appear to be nothing more than the musical numbers that appeared in the film appearing here again out of context. There are also two bonus Bollywood Dancer clips that you can play separately or all at once.
Special note should be made of the packaging for this release, which is quite nice. Inside the golden colored slipcase is a hefty book which contains twenty-six pages of full color photographs from the film and its production. What little text there is appears here in Chinese, but the production values for the publication are very nice and it's certainly pretty to look at.
If over the top musicals and melodramatic romance are your thing, then this two disc special edition of Perhaps Love should be right up your alley. It looks and sounds fantastic and while the extras aren't subtitled, the overall package is very nice. Not really falling into the target demographic for the film, this reviewer had trouble getting into it but anyone should be able to at least appreciate the visuals – that being said, the curious might want to rent it first (though being an import title, that could be tricky).
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.