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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Bride With White Hair
The Bride With White Hair
Tai Seng
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matt Langdon | posted July 31, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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P R I N T
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The Movie:
The Bride with White Hair is one of the most successful Hong Kong films of the 1990's mainly because it is a storybook fantasy that successfully combines an erotic love story with high-flying kung fu action. Plus, the film has a fabulously dynamic look and is well paced.

The story is set in ancient China and deals with two lovers who are caught in the crossfire of warring clans. The radiant Brigitte Lin Ching Hsia is the beautiful bride -- who has no name but is called 'the wolf woman' -- of an evil clan that is determined to bring down the better established and respected clans. The equally handsome Leslie Cheung is Cho Yi-Hang the soon-to-be anointed leader of his family's clan (named - believe it or not - the Wu Tang Clan!).

The two meet briefly as children but -- years later -- become part of a war that they want nothing to do with. Their talented fighting ability, though, cannot be denied and they end up fighting against one another until they realize that their passions are driven more by there curious attraction and love for each other than it is by the built in rivalry of their clans.

The evil clan is lead by a malicious Siamese brother and sister (joined at the back) who are determined to bring down the Wu Tang clan. They know that the wolf woman is the only one to do it but she has fallen in love with Cho Yi-Hang so they scheme to pay back her disrespectful actions by killing everyone in Cho's family.

What ensue are intensely operatic and stylized violence scenes, a couple of sensual love scenes, surreal pagan rituals, a lot of hate, despair and blood. In short, all the elements that make great cinema.

Video:
The film boasts a lavish production design, lush cinematography, crisp analytical editing and a fantastic element that Hong Kong films seem to specialize at so well. Director Ronny Yu and cinematographer Peter Pau (who shot Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) use a lot of eschewed angles (or what's referred to as Dutch angles) and shot most of the action sequences at various camera speeds. Director Yu used a lot of step printing, a technique that is less expensive than CGI work and gives the film a dynamic and at times animated look. Because of this the film looks amazing on the big screen. The DVD is presented in all its glory in the original 2.35 to 1 aspect ratio. However the DVD transfer looks to be from a oft used print because even though the colors are strong and the picture quality is sharp there are many white splotches and a good number of scratches at the reel changes, which is about every 20 minutes or so. There is also a bit of compression artifact on shots of wet surface backgrounds that are the sharply lit. Overall, it is one of the better transfers for a Hong Kong film -- many of which have poor print conditions.

Audio:
The movie has an amazing sound design with a powerful score and the Mandarin audio track is presented in Dolby Digital surround sound. Occasionally, the sound is muffled and it isn't as sharp as it could be but the surround sound adds good enough depth that if you turn it up rather high it sounds all right. Also available is an audio tracks are English and Cantonese both in mono and a commentary track by director Ronny Yu.

Extras:
The commentary track by Ronny Yu is pretty good when he talks. He starts out talking a lot in the first 20 minutes but then he seems to run out of things to say. When he does talk he tends to repeat himself a lot. Mainly he notes how he wanted the film to have a different look than any period film ever shot. He also mentions a few times how the film's relatively small budget was both a hinderance and a blessing since it forced him and his crew to be inventive.

There is a 10 minute Making of Special that is really a promotional piece in which interviews with Leslie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, Ronny Yu and a couple producers are spliced in with some behind-the-scenes footage and shots from the film. There are five trailers from other Hong Kong movies including The Bride with White Hair. The film is 93 minutes long and there are 23 chapters. The subtitles are white and larger than on the VHS prints currently circulating.

It should be noted that when the movie is playing and you press the menu button you will get a menu that lists the first six chapters. It's some weird glitch but you can still get to the main menu. You have to highlight the first chapter and then tap the left arrow.

Overall:
The Bride with White Hair is a notch higher in production value and acting than many Hong Kong films of the past 20 years and its dynamic look alone - which surpasses any Hollywood fantasy I can think of - makes it worth a look. The DVD basically does it justice. The sound could be stronger and the print could be better but it still looks and sounds good enough for any decent home system.

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