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Big Fish & Begonia

Shout Factory // PG-13 // August 7, 2018
List Price: $24.49 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted August 30, 2018 | E-mail the Author



http-equiv="content-type">
Bigfish & Begonia Blu-ray Review


Bigfish
& Begonia
is
an animated sci-fi fantasy which was a long time in the making for
its filmmakers. It's a rare Chinese animated feature. It aims to sit
alongside the likes of Japanese anime from the brilliant Hayao Miyazaki
(Spirited Away) and Mamoru
Hososa (Wolf Children). Executive produced by
Chang-tian Wang
(Dearest), Xiaoping Li (Back in Time),
and Chun Zhang,
Bigfish & Begonia is a unique example of
crowdfunding and
studios teaming up to make a movie become a reality.


The
story for Bigfish &
Begonia
is fantasy-based and it is largely inspired by
Chinese
folklore. It centers on a girl named Chun who enters into another
magic realm in the form of a dolphin: she can change back and forth
between the sea form and her human appearance. She encounters many
strange creatures from both sea and land. She befriends a young boy
along the way. She is tossed into a journey of surprising, mystical,
and curious adventures.


The most
impressive thing
about this film is it's breathtaking imagery and visuals. The film
earned acclaim for it's animation and with good reason. The art is
astonishing. There is a great level of detail to each visual image.
From the wide-open canvas of the skies and to the pearly-blue depths
of the ocean waters, the filmmakers achieved something that looks
unique. This film was clearly heavily inspired by Japanese anime
filmmaker's while utilizing CG animation and flash-style
cinematography in a unique way. At least from an animation
standpoint, Bigfish & Begonia is a film
which delivers
strong artistic merit.


The
music score composed by
Kiyoshi Yoshida (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) is
also
notable with a rhythm and style that befits the imagery. The score
alternates between peaceful melodies and more invigorating
action-pieces during some key scenes and it does so with clear
success. Its both intense and beautiful at the same time.


The film
was written and
directed by collaborators Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun. Both of these
filmmakers make their feature film directorial debut with this
production. The film has a clear directorial style that succeeds in
bringing out terrific animation. They succeed on that level.
Production-wise, they excel as visual storytellers.



Unfortunately, the storyline
itself is rather jumbled and unquestionably convoluted. For those who
are used to watching anime it's like a convoluted anime series (the
ones that are pretty to look at but don't actually make much sense
dramatically if you stop to ponder the storytelling itself). Bigfish
& Begoni
a makes little to no sense whatsoever. It
feels
unfocused. It's mostly style and not substance. This is a huge
detractor from the experience.


Despite
a disappointing
storyline to the film itself, the behind the scenes journey this film
underwent impresses. This is the directing team's first film after
over a decade spent struggling to try and get the film financed and
made. The journey began with starting a studio that was aimed at
making animated films. Things were sidetracked due to financing
issues and the studio turned to making promotional videos (such as
commercials and educational material) instead.


Rather
than pursing their
passion for film, directors Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun weren't able to
make this film for many years. After many delays, Bigfish
&
Begonia
started to make waves to being produced when they
made
short film advertising the concept and turned to Kickstarter and
independent studios to co-finance it. A door opened.


With the
help of passionate
fans in China who were moved by the short film and the filmmaker's
mission
statement for the project, the directors met their goal and got the
movie made as originally envisioned. In that regard, Bigfish
&
Begonia
is a testament to the quest for artistic expression
and
the pursuit of dreams. It's an imperfect film from a storytelling
perspective but its visually stunning to behold and worth checking
out.


The Blu-ray:




Video:


Bigfish
& Begonia
is
presented on Blu-ray with a 1080p high definition MPEG-4 AVC encoded
presentation in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1
widescreen. This is a strong HD encode which showcases the
mesmerizing visual aesthetics. The use of color impresses on this
presentation. The film has some minor issues with banding throughout
so there are some minor distractions to the presentation but the
clean, crisp animation is still impressive.


Audio:


The
audio is presented in 5.1
DTS-HD Master Audio with both an English dubbed version and the
original Mandarin audio with English subtitles. The lossless surround
sound presentation has some interesting use of the surround channels.
This is an effective and engrossing surround sound mix. Dialogue is
also clear and easy to understand. The music score by Yoshida sounds
terrific too.




Extras:


The
release includes a bonus
digital download of the film (not a streaming version but a digital
edition that can be obtained through distributor Shout Factory).


On disc
supplements include:


Making-Of
Documentary

(HD, 24 min.) focuses on the film's lengthy production and the
filmmaker's journey to getting the movie made. Includes interviews
with the directors, producers, animators, and others who worked on
the film. It also highlights the film's journey with fans helping to
get the film produced.


Short
film
which
inspired Bigfish & Begonia (HD, 8 min.) is
an early flash
animation short which inspired the making of the feature length
movie.


Music
Videos: Big Fish
(HD, 3 min.) and Wind Whispering (HD, 4 min.)


Theatrical
Trailer
(HD,
2 min.)


Final Thoughts:


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-weight: normal; line-height: 100%;"
align="left">
Bigfish & Begonia style="font-style: normal;">has
beautiful animation and is worth a look for its visuals.
Unfortunately, the story itself is rather convoluted and
underwhelming. However, the film is still worth a watch once for the
impressive animation. The release also includes some excellent
supplemental material which delves into the film's production
history.


Rent
It.



Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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