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Likelihood of quality restorations of classic Chinese movies?


PerpetualChange
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It seems very difficult to get a hold of physical copies of many Chinese movies that I would consider to be of enduring quality. Some Taiwanese and Hong Kong films have gotten Criterion treatments, but for PRChina it seems like if it didn't come out over the last couple years it probably doesn't have even have Blu-ray and you're lucky if you can still get it on whatever format it was originally released on for a reasonable price. 

 

Seems criminal that the best Zhang Yimou films on have not been given any sort of special treatment. And then there is golden age of Cinema stuff that I would love to have in some kind of decent restoration if it exists like Spring in a Small Town. 

 

Is there a Chinese press that have put out discs for this stuff or does it just not exist?

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I think it's important to point out that the "Criterion treatment" is basically Criterion, one Blu-ray brand among others also of high quality, using existing restorations and improving them a bit more, and mostly for the Region A market. There are a lot of restorations that never reach Criterion discs. We're now at a stage where all but one critically appraised King Hu film is not yet restored (The Valiant Ones). All others have already been released on Blu-ray apart from Four Moods, but that has been restored as well and has toured festivals.

 

The fact something has not been released by Criterion doesn't really tell us if something's been restored or not. It might have been but not released on Blu-ray, or just released by other companies, like Eureka, Arrow, Powerhouse etc.

 

5 hours ago, PerpetualChange said:

Seems criminal that the best Zhang Yimou films on have not been given any sort of special treatment.

 

Zhang Yimou's films have got a much better treatment than a lot of directors more worthy of attention than him. And that comes from someone who appreciates him, at least 1987-1995. I have personally watched the Blu-ray editions of Red Sorghum, Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern, The Story of Qiu Ju and Shanghai Triad. Some of them have even been released by a Korean brand that puts a lot of effort into physical releases, I own their release of A Brighter Summer Day and it's a treasure. Many of his later films have also been released on Blu-ray.

 

Spring in a Small Town has been restored and released by at least two different brands, and I have seen the one released by BFI. There has been a controversy about the soundtrack and hopefully a new restoration/release will fix this sometime in the future. It's still in much better shape than most other stuff.

 

When it comes to other golden era films I would say you're spot on. They have been released in a DVD series but all of them where straight to disc, no restorations done. The only exception I can think of is The Goddess, which I have seen in a good restoration, but it has not been released on Blu-ray.

 

During most of the communist few works worthy of mention seem to have been made, maybe apart from Evening Rain which has been released on DVD in acceptable quality. Women's Basketball Team get mentioned time and time again, but I doubt it's any kind of world cinema masterpiece. That one has however been restored.

 

There have been some appalling restoration attempts in China recently where they've basically modernized the films and made them unwatchable, according to some, but I have not personally seen those releases and I can't remember for what titles this was the case.

 

The animation classic Havoc in Heaven has been restored in excellent quality.

 

5 hours ago, PerpetualChange said:

reasonable price

 

Yeah, Disc Kino have released The Horse Thief in just a couple of hundred(?) discs, immediately went out of print and now costs several hundred dollars I would guess.

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Jia Zhangke’s “The World” is part of Eureka’s “Masters of Cinema” series (a good supplement to Criterion) – although oddly it’s not listed on their homepage… The MoC series too has a bunch of Hong Kong and Taiwan films, but beside “The World” nothing from the mainland as far as I can see. I don’t know why. I’ve read rumors about rights issues regarding Jia’s and Zhang’s films, but I doubt that’s the whole story.

 

Did a bit of searching and it turns out there’s a Chinese company called “Diskino” that has a “World Cinema Library” series which includes Red Sorghum, The Black Cannon Incident, The Horse Thief, King of the Children and The Swordsman in Double Flag Town. Hard to get (and second hand prices are ridiculous), although there’s group-buys for early birds. 1080P, not Criterion/MoC/Arrow level restorations, but still huge improvements (Red Sorghum, The Horse Thief)

 

Also, there’s an Imprint release “Collaborations: The Cinema of Zhang Yimou & Gong Li” with eight films, coming out this September and sure to sell out really fast. I've heard the quality of their transfers is mixed.

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3 minutes ago, Balthazar said:

I’ve read rumors about rights issues regarding Jia’s and Zhang’s films, but I doubt that’s the whole story.

 

24 City, A Touch of Sin, Mountains May Depart and Ash is Purest White have been released on Blu-ray. Platform (the best work he's probably ever going to produce if you ask me) has been confirmed as a Criterion release.

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  @Insectosaurus beat me to it.

 

 

8 minutes ago, Insectosaurus said:

During most of the communist few works worthy of mention seem to have been made, maybe apart from Evening Rain which has been released on DVD in acceptable quality. Women's Basketball Team get mentioned time and time again, but I doubt it's any kind of world cinema masterpiece.

 

Woman Basketball Player No. 5 is on par with Evening Rain imo. Two Stage Sisters is better than both. But I think your general point about films from the Mao era stands, they're mostly interesting in a historical/academic context.

 

2 minutes ago, Insectosaurus said:

Platform (the best work he's probably ever going to produce if you ask me) has been confirmed as a Criterion release.

 

It's been a while since I watched his earlier works, but it would have to be Platform or Unknown Pleasures for me too.

 

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2 minutes ago, Balthazar said:

Woman Basketball Player No. 5 is on par with Evening Rain imo.

 

*adding it to my watching calendar*

 

3 minutes ago, Balthazar said:

Two Stage Sisters

 

Am yet to see it, but I noticed recently that an HDTV version exists.

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