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Princess Aurora Limited Edition DTS
NOTE: Please be aware that this DVD is a Korean import 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.
In Princess Aurora the pretty and 'gentle' looking Eom Jeong-Hwa plays Jung Soon-Jung, a woman who makes quite a first impression on the audience. When she walks into the bathroom and sees a woman abusing her step-daughter, she scurries the girl away and then does the woman in with an fork to the head in a bloody and brutal murder that effectively sets the tone for the revenge drama to come.
The cops are called in to investigate and they seem a little stumped, at least, all of them do save for one man, Pastor (Oh Jung-Kwan), who has earned his nickname thanks to his strong devotion to Christianity and his aspirations of joining the priesthood and leaving detective work long behind him. As the movie goes on, more murders occur and while at first they don't seem to be at all connected, soon the cops realize that the killer has left a strange calling card at each crime scene – a sticker featuring the image of a cartoon character called Princess Aurora.
Without heading into spoiler territory, let it suffice to say that (and this is obvious from the beginning) Jung Soon-Jung is on a mission of vengeance, her daughter was the victim of a horrible crime and she wants to make those responsible for it, no matter how indirectly that responsibility might seem, pay in the harshest way that she can. There's a connection between her and Pastor, they once had a life together, and, well, I've said enough. Let's leave it at that as telling you anymore would be a grave disservice to the excellent film that South Korean actress turned director Bang Eun-Jin has crafted with Princess Aurora.
This film has been getting a lot of comparisons to Chan Wook-Park's excellent Sympathy For Lady Vengeance and while both movies definitely play around with some of the same themes and ideas (and in that regard, the comparisons are definitely warranted), the execution of both films is quite different. Sympathy For Lady Vengeance is highly stylized and at times borders on surrealist and it also keeps you guessing as to who was responsible for the crimes whereas Princess Aurora isn't nearly as flashy and it lays out its story in a much more matter-of-fact manner. As such, it's easier to follow and while it is more simplistic it is still very much a unique movie that stands on its own very well.
Although the movie is more straight forward visually than other films of its ilk, it still looks very good. The cold cinematography used in a few key scenes makes the effect quite chilling and there are some very clever camera angles used to accentuate a few of the kill scenes, the first one in particular. The framing and compositions are carefully thought out and the fit the narrative very well – everything works, it feels like it belongs and the tone of the story really does match the look of the film. While the narrative isn't hard to follow at all and it does lay its cards on the table pretty early on, there are still a few interesting twists in the last third of the film. While attentive viewers will catch on to where it's all heading, the story really couldn't have ended any other way and again, in terms of tone and atmosphere, once again it all works.
The best part of the film, however, is the lead performance from Eom Jeong-Hwa. At one point in the film, Pastor describes her as gentle looking and that's pretty much a dead on description. She's sexy enough that you can understand how she'd be able to use her looks to lure one of her victims in a later murder scene. She's pretty and smart looking but soft and motherly in others scenes. She was definitely the right choice for the part and her performance here is excellent as she shows formidable range, handling all the anger and sadness required from the story very, very well.
The anamorphic 2.35.1 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 and look for some mild shimmering on car grills, 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. Princess Aurora looks excellent on this DVD.
Surround sound options are available in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a DTS 5.1 mix. The DTS mix is great – it's 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. Optional subtitles are available in Korean and in English and sadly, there are some strange formatting errors in the English subs – sometimes words appear with brackets around them, and question marks appear in odd spots. That being said, you're still able to follow the movie easily enough and the errors aren't constant, but they're there enough that it should be noted. Clarity is great on both tracks, and the DTS mix sounds exceptionally good, particularly when the soundtrack kicks in or when the more action-oriented scenes take place.
This two disc set spreads the extra features across both discs, with the bulk of them found on the second disc. Unfortunately, as is the norm with Korean DVD releases, although the feature has English subtitles the extra features do not. With that in mind, considering that this reviewer speaks not a word of Korean, this section will be brief…
Aside from some slick animated menus, an audio set up menu and chapter selection, the supplements on the first disc are limited to two commentary tracks. The first track features director Bang Eun-Jin who is joined by three of the actors from the film – Eom Jung-Hwa, Moon Sung-Geun and Kwon Oh-Joon. The second commentary track features Bang Eun-Jin again, though this time he's joined by production designer Nam Jong-Woo, director of photography Choi Young-Hwan and art director Jeon Soo-Ah. It's a shame that these tracks aren't subtitled as they both sound like they're quite active with a lot of dialogue and some intense sounding discussions.
The second disc starts off with a thirty-five minute long Making Of Princess Aurora documentary that features interviews with the director and a few of the cast members spliced in with some interesting behind the scenes footage shot while the movie was being made. Despite the lack of subs, some of the behind the scenes footage in here is really quite interesting, particularly when we see the director working out some of the more intricate parts of a few of the more complicated kill scenes.
From there we move on to just under ten-minutes of interviews with the cast members of the film. Eom Jung-Hwa goes first, followed by Moon Sung-Geun, and then Kwon Oh-Jong. This featurette is followed by a fifteen minute spotlight on director Bang Eun-Jin where we see some footage of her at an awards ceremony, some interviews with those who have worked with her, and some interesting footage of her at work both as a director and an actress.
Also included on the second disc in the set is a short film that runs just shy of thirteen-minutes in length. In the film we see a house wife cleaning up and watching television and going about her daily routine. She hits the shower and then from there she starts writing something down in a journal or something. Without subtitles, it's pretty difficult to follow.
Up next is a seven minutes featurette about the music used in the movie that makes use of some interviews with some people that we can assume were involved with creating the score for the film. A featurette on the art direction and cinematography for the film follows, running for just under eight-minutes. There are some interviews in here as well as some interesting on set footage.
Rounding out the extra features are a brief four and a half minute documentary on the stickers used in the movie, a four minute music video, a teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer, and a television promo spot.
Special note needs to be made of the excellent packaging job that has been done for this limited edition release. The two discs are housed inside a regular keepcase which in turn is adorned with what one can probably assume is some sort of one sheet art for the film. From there, that keepcase is housed inside a box that is wrapped in some ribbed metallic purple foil embossment with a band that slides over top of it to keep it from opening. Also included inside the box is a booklet with some nice pictures and some Korean text, and two sheets of the stickers used in the film so that should you opt to go on your own bloody mission of cold hearted revenge you can leave a calling card too (how cool is that?)!!! While some might gripe that this won't sit on the shelves next to your other DVDs very easily, it's definitely a unique and very eye catching design.
An inventive and genuinely dark thriller, Princess Aurora is a very
well made film with some stand out performances, some grisly kill scenes, and
an interesting, well thought out plot. While the extras aren't subbed, the movie looks
and sounds great on this DVD and the packaging is the coolest thing to come out in
some time. Recommended!
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.