The Phantom Lover
Tai Seng Video Marketing
Cast: Leslie Cheung, Wu Chien Lien, Lei Huang
Extras: 2 Commentary Tracks, Docuemntary, Featurettes, Trailers, Photo Gallery
The film tells the story of Song Danping (Leslie Cheung), a daring singer who is determined to bring Western theater arts to China. He is building a large theater in the middle of the Chinese countryside and stages Western plays. His progressive behavior is not welcome by all, however, despite the fact that every night all his theater seats are sold out. The simple folks are concerned about their traditions, the fact that Danping is luring their children – mostly the girls – to listen to decadent Western operas and to adore him. Especially in his role as Romeo in Shakespeare’s "Romeo & Juliet", Danping shines and his reputation is making its course through the country, attracting even more visitors from afar.
And so years pass, until one day, a broke troupe of stage artists move into the abandoned ruins of the theater. Wei Quing (Lei Huang) is a young aspiring singer who is very intrigued by the mystery surrounding the building and tries to learn everything about Danping. On his search he stumbles into the unexpected. Danping is alive and living in the theater still! Disfigured by the flames he does not dare to show his face, which also prevents him from contacting Yun Yan, the love of his life, while he sings to her on rainy nights from a hidden retreat every time she somberly visits the theater. To help Yun Yan overcome her pain, Danping decides upon a plan. He teaches the young singer and soon the theater is once again filled with people who are eager to witness the glorious presentation of "Romeo & Juliet." Wei Quing is such a good scholar actually, that even Yun Yan is fooled into believing, he is Danping, who finally returned to her, to sweep her off her feet. But how long can they keep up the charade?
Tai Seng Video Marketing is presenting "The Phantom Lover" in its original 2.35:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio on this DVD in a transfer that is not <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> television sets. Still, the transfer has a very good level of detail and what is more important, the print is mostly clean and free of distracting blemishes. Although occasional the occasional mar and dust mark is evident, the transfer manages to create a clean and clear image throughout. The film’s monochrome scenes look a bit flat, as the contrast of the footage does not allow for deep blacks, and the compression in these scenes creates a slightly noisy image. However, as soon as the film switches to its glorious color images, the transfer becomes a bold and colorful representation of the original movie. Deep and solid blacks, good highlights and finely delineated colors make up the image without bleeding or noise. Given the strong use of subtle hues, as well as strong colors, in the film’s photography, the DVD becomes a beautiful representation of the movie that is gorgeous to behold and does full justice to the powerful cinematography. Shadows are well defined and never break up, and together with the deep blacks, it gives the image good visual depth. The compression has been well applied to the material and apart form the opening minutes where noise is evident, the DVD features a presentation that is free of compression artifacts.
The DVD also contains two separate audio <$commentary,commentary track>s. The first one features director Ronny Yu, who delivers an engaging and interesting commentary on the entire scope of the film, it’s origins, its characters and many other aspects of the production. Cinematographer Peter Pau – who just recently received a well-deserved Academy Award for his work on "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" – makes a rare appearance in the second <$commentary,commentary track> and it quickly become apparent that viewers are in for a treat. Not only is Peter Pau one of the best cinematographers in the world, he is also an engaging commentator. Throughout the film he discusses technical issues surrounding the film in a way that is easy to follow and always interesting, while sprinkling in enough anecdotes and wits to keep it exciting. His commentary is a very welcome addition to the DVD that offers incredible insight from his very unique perspective, colored with his extensive experience.
"The Phantom Lover" is a feast for the eyes and ears, and this DVD is theway to experience this film. The magic of the filmmakers’ skills and mastery, and the sumptuous visual qualities of the film, weaved in with the sensitive story create a fairy tale like romance that doesn’t fail to impress – even more so once you realize that it is indeed based on real events. "The Phantom Lover" proves once again just how visually driven many Hong Kong films are and that it is indeed possible to create a poetic film with a solid story and stunning imagery. Do yourself a favor and check out this DVD. You won’t regret it!