Hong Kong Digital is sponsored by Poker Industries. Please see the Hong Kong Digital home page for a special offer from Poker Industries to Hong Kong Digital readers.

Issue #120a HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES August 12th, 2002

Purple Sunset
(2001; Shanghai Paradise Film and TV Group/Beijing Forbidden City Film Co.)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Ji Yat
Mandarin: Zi ri
English: Purple Sun

The final entry in director Feng Xiaoning's "War and Peace" trilogy (following A TALE OF THE SECRET MOUNTAIN and LOVER'S GRIEF OVER THE YELLOW RIVER), PURPLE SUNSET unfolds in August 1945, just after the atomic bomb attack on Nagasaki. The USSR declares war on Japan and sends several brigades to engage troops the enemy has stationed in Inner Mongolia. Saved mere seconds from execution by a Russian incursion, Chinese prisoner Yang (Fu Dalong) hooks up with female Russian soldier Najia (Anna Dzenilalova) and her male counterpart, who have been separated from their unit following a skirmish. Shortly thereafter, they capture a young Japanese girl, Akiyok (Chie Mieta), who knowingly leads them into a minefield. The man is killed and Najia wants to eliminate their prisoner but Yang cannot bring himself to do it, despite being tormented by memories of his mistreatment at the hands of the invaders. A crashing Japanese warplane touches off a fast moving blaze and the three are saved only by Akiyok's last minute thinking. In the process, the girl accidentally reveals that she can speak Chinese. A resident of China since the age of four, Akiyok was sent to Japan by her father to escape the fighting. However, when her love was forced into the service, she volunteered and ended up right back where she started. After several days in the unending bush they encounter signs of civilization but find no immediate answers to their principal dilemma.

The story transpires amidst truly gorgeous autumn scenery and the leads are nicely contrasted. Unfortunately, this is a film almost entirely lacking in subtlety. It is all but impossible to make a statement about the horrors of war and not have it resonate but Feng uses symbolism and camera set-ups to hammer home moments that hardly needed such blatant amplification. Also, the decision to open the picture with a sequence featuring Yang as an old man reveals early on that he will survive. The fate of another character is exposed in the narration around the halfway point, further depleting the viewer's emotional involvement. Additionally, the film falters when trying to depict actual warfare: a tank assault is haphazardly staged and a climactic sea battle is presented via some very unconvincing miniatures. Where PURPLE SUNSET does succeed is during its mid-section, with the protagonists wandering through the gorgeous Mongolian wilderness. Cut off from the rest of the world and not entirely trusting one another, they gradually develop a friendship that crosses borders. This section is somewhat overstated as well but feels a bit more satisfying, thanks to sincere performances. Animal lovers are warned that a rabbit is set alight and allowed to burn to death during the fire sequence.

Cover art courtesy Guangzhou Beauty Culture Communications.

Anna Dzenilalova (left) and Fu Dalong. Image courtesy Guangzhou Beauty Culture Communications.

Chie Mieta. Image courtesy Guangzhou Beauty Culture Communications.

Fu Dalong. Image courtesy Guangzhou Beauty Culture Communications.

Guangzhou Beauty Culture Communications BED-049 (Mainland China label)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Sync Sound Mandarin Language Track

Optional Subtitles In English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)

12 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Clips

Letterboxed (2.35:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

102 Minutes

Contains moderate war violence, cruelty to animals, and brief nudity

DVD menu courtesy Guangzhou Beauty Culture Communications.

Not Available

The frame is insufficiently matted, causing the splice line to appear at every shot change. Aliasing can be noted in some shots but the transfer is generally crisp and attractive. Given the spectacular scenery, colors are a bit lighter than one would wish, but remain acceptable; the audio is sufficiently energetic when called for. Traditional Chinese subtitles appear on the print during all of the Russian and Japanese dialogue; the rather poorly translated and timed English subs are on the lower matte. Extras consist of a bilingual text section about the video distributor and an 8 minute featurette, which includes untranslated interviews with Fu, Feng, Chie, and Dzenilalova (the latter speaking English). In the most interesting bit, we see that the director stood in for one of the actors and performed a fire stunt himself. The menu's "Chapters" and "Subtitles" buttons are reversed.

Having problems printing this review with Netscape? Go to the File option in the Netscape Task Bar, click the Page Setup from the sub-menu and make sure that in the Page Options listings, the Black Text box is clicked. This should resolve the "no text" printing problem.

Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2002. All Rights Reserved.
E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com