Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 3 Old 11-01-2011, 06:50 AM - Thread Starter
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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109944&d=1210373692

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109942&d=1210373692

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 104 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): Mandarin/English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English Descriptive 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Gianna Jun, Li Bing Bing, Vivian Wu, Russell Wong, Coco Chiang, Jingyun Hu
Directed by: Wayne Wang
Music by: Rachel Portman
Written by: Angela Workman, Ron Bass, Michael K. Ray
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: November 1, 2011

"Sworn sisters for life"

Film Synopsis:

From the director of The Joy Luck Club, and based on the best-selling novel, comes a timeless portrait of female friendship. Centuries ago, two "sworn sisters" are isolated by their families, but stay connected through a secret language written in the folds of a white silk fan. Now in modern-day Shanghai, two women draw inspiration from the past as they struggle to maintain their own eternal bond in the face of life's complications. What unfolds are two stories, generations apart, but everlasting in their universal notion of love, hope and friendship.

My Take:

Inspired by author Lisa See's bestselling novel of the same name, SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN tells a poignant tale of eternal friendship. Growing up in 19th century China, Lily (Li Bingbing) and Snow Flower (Gianna Jun) are brought together in a Laotong friendshipa lifelong bond between two women who rely on each other for companionship and comfort. Amid the civil unrest and gender discrimination of the era, the pair deals with life's hardships together until they are separated by marriage and childbirth. As sworn sisters, however, the women continue to communicate through the secret Chinese language of Nushu, hiding their stories and messages within the folds of delicate silk fans. In present day Shanghai, best friends Nina (also played by Bing Bing) and Sophia (also played by Jun) joined by the oath of Laotong friendship struggle to maintain the intimacy of their childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers and complicated love lives. Drawing on lessons of the past, the two modern women must understand the story of Laotong connection or risk losing one another forever. What unfolds are two stories, generations apart, but everlasting in the notion of love, hope and friendship.

Based on the novel of the same name by Lisa See Sunflower and the secret fan is a compelling dramatic film with a parallel storyline that moves back and forth between two sets of women (wonderfully portrayed by the same actresses) generations apart but sharing similar emotional bonds. The story of Snow Flower and Lily begins in 1829 Hunan China where the two are just five years old. Both were born on the same day and as such are set to have their feet bound on the same day. This makes them Laotong sisters according to the customary belief and the girls, from two very different backgrounds/families, are brought together and essentially raised as sisters. Nina and Sophia live in modern day Shanghai and are two fairly typical teenage best friends. Sophia's aunt is an art collector and explains to the girls about the ancient customs of Laotong and foot binding. Nina and Sophia decide to take the oath of Laotong and vow lifelong devotion to one another (the story moves back and forth between Nina/Lily as teens and adults). Both sets of women encounter differing obstacles in the pursuit of their lifelong commitment. For Lily and Snow Flower it's the difficulty associated with the ancient ways of thinking that set women at a lower station, even in their own homes. For Nina and Sophia it's the pressures of staying connected amidst busy lifestyles and the unspoken words that can stagnate and forever remain.

The Lily/Snow Flower storyline is the more poignant of the two and offers a deeper connection to the characters. Considering the fact that the contemporary storyline between Nina/Sophia wasn't part of the book this probably makes sense. Even though the narrative switches back and forth it is obvious that the primary focus is on the ancient story. Conceptually speaking I like the idea of the parallels and the use of the same actresses to portray the two sets of women. Even though there is no ancestral connection between them it's the bond of friendship and commitment that bridge them. The depiction of the customary lifestyle of women in ancient China is interesting. The idea and act of foot binding was barbaric and cruel. I can't imagine why it was so revered and considered beautiful. These were strong women that were given little credit for having a single thought that pertained to anything outside of subservience, let along coming up with a form of communication like Nushu. Lily and Snow Flower's story is a solemn one that draws from tales we have heard before but I found gratification in the nuance of the performances and the beauty in the photography. Nina/Sophia's story revolves around familial strife, reflection, guilt, and secrets. I cared less for their storyline and found its veiled attempt to elicit interest with intrigue to be poorly conceived. Regardless I enjoyed Sunflower and the secret fan. I appreciated its message and the respectful nature of its telling. It isn't a thoroughly fulfilling film but it's an engaging one that speaks to the transcendence of friendship's implications.

Parental Guide:

The rating is for sexuality, violence/disturbing images and drug use.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

Audio: 86

  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

Video: 88

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373699

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

Snow flower and the secret fan comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 35 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.4 Mbps.

This film utilizes two distinct visual styles to convey its thematic content. One makes use of darker/monochromatic color schemes and grittier textures while the other features richer contrast and vibrant colors emboldened by warm accents. Each provides the look that the filmmakers strove for to drive the story's components. Close ups reveal crisp definition and perceptible detail that reveals the presence of pores, stubble, peach fuzzy hair and subtle complexional variations. The texture on the surfaces of objects was just as defining which gave them visibly apparent structure and lifelike quality. Black levels are slightly elevated but not detrimentally so and contrast is spot on which delivers bright punchy whites and appreciable dimension when mixed light/dark elements are present onscreen. The video has a noticeably clean and pristine quality that appears devoid of video related anomalies and artifacts.

I think this is a well designed lossless audio presentation that plays well to the film's thematic components while effectively using the entire sound field. The recorded elements are enhanced by refining clarity, and excellent directional correlation. Dialogue through the center channel is crystal clear and maintains a position of prominence within the front soundstage. The beautifully crafted music permeates the listening area with its light instrumentation and superlative tonal balance. This surround mix capably handles the subtle intricacies thrown at it by this rewarding soundtrack.

** CIH users should note that the subtitles appear both in the picture and letterbox area.**

Bonus Features:

  • (HD) The sworn sisterhood of the secret fan - 29 minute documentary

  • (HD) Theatrical trailer

Final Thoughts:

Based on Lisa See's novel of the same name Snow flower and the secret fan is a rewarding albeit uneven drama that takes viewers on a parallel journey that speaks to the transcendence of friendship's implications. I thoroughly enjoyed the performances by Gianna Jun and Li Bing Bing, and appreciated the respect conveyed for the source material by director Wayne Wang. This isn't a wholly fulfilling film but it is certainly an engaging one. It debuts on Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring gratifying high definition video, crystal clear lossless sound and noticeably light supplemental offering that consists of a single but worthwhile making of documentary. If you enjoy period filmmaking check out Snow Flower and the secret fan.


Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

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JVC DLA-RS50 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100 16x9 Screen
Onkyo PR-SC5508 THX Ultra 2 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
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Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package

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post #2 of 3 Old 11-09-2011, 08:18 AM
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Despite it getting panned critically for it's overtly sappy tones, I'm a sucker for Asian period pieces and will probably give it a spin. How much of the film is in English? (I see no Chinese subtitles, so if they speak English for a good portion of the film, ironically, the Chinese portion of my household won't be able to watch this with me...) I was hoping more films would take the Inglorious Basterds route and just have them speak the language they should be, not magically speak English with accents of the country they're from. (Such as in Memoirs of a Geisha.) That route just seems weird to me.
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post #3 of 3 Old 11-17-2011, 06:13 PM
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You are too good in your description of this movie. The only thing that kept me in it to the end was the picture quality. With good PQ and AQ I can hang with almost any movie. Thanks for hittin' the nail on the head, once again. .
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