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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Relationships > Russia > Biopic > Boxing > Faith > Immigration > Thailand > Character Study > Taiwan > Compartment No. 6 (2021*)/Father Stu (2022/*both Sony Blu-rays)/Road To Mandalay (2016/DVD**)/Vive L'Amour (1994/Blu-ray/*both Film Movement)

Compartment No. 6 (2021*)/Father Stu (2022/*both Sony Blu-rays)/Road To Mandalay (2016/DVD**)/Vive L'Amour (1994/Blu-ray/*both Film Movement)

Picture: B-/B-/C+/B- Sound: B/B-/C+/B- Extras: C-/C/C/C Films: C+/C/B/C+

Now for some dramas with some comedy, some more than others...

Juro Kuosmanen's Compartment No. 6 (2021) is based on the book by Rosa Liksom about a young Finnish woman (Seidi Haarla) leaving Russia (pre-Ukraine invasion) leaving behind an unsatisfying love affair to go by train to very snowy, cold Murmansk. She lands up having to share the title car with a Russian miner (Yuriy Borisov) who is a little off-kilter, then they start getting other visitors along the way.

They are all trying to find new connections, but that will be a bit more difficult as they all have personal issues to deal with and things to learn. I am a sucker for films that take place on trains, but I never totally bought this film, though the actors are not bad. Maybe the book was better, but it was another case of many things we had all seen before, some locales are interesting. It did well at Cannes, but it feels long at 107 minutes and ultimately does not offer too much new to see or experience. Still, it is sad to see anything about Russia before recent events and will likely be remembered as one of a short list of films that did not know they were at the end of an era.

Rosalind Ross' Father Stu (2022) is a personal pet project that star Mark Wahlberg backed personally, a biopic about a young boxer-turned-priest that has its moments, yet has the actor repeating himself a little bit with a screenplay that does not offer much new either. A bit cliched, Jacki Weaver and Mel Gibson play the man's parents at all points of his life and seeing Gibson again in anything at this point is odd to me. I believed they could be his parents, though.

Needles to say Wahlberg gives it his all and is never afraid to get his hands dirty, so he could not have done better. Its a small, even old-fashioned project like Channing Tatum's Dog (also reviewed on this site) that is a personal throwback work that only got made because of the leads' box office clout. There is some audience for this one, but I am not it. Look into it if you are really curious.

Lianqing (Wu Ke-Zi) and Guo (Kai Ko) are illegal immigrants. They snuck across the Burmese border to find jobs in Thailand. After bribing border patrols, cops, and officials they still have a tough time finding jobs, as they work, they must apply for IDs and work permits. Lianqing works from job to job and continues to apply for legal papers believing legal documents will lead her to a better life. Meanwhile, Guo believes it is easier and better to work without permits and it is a waste of time and money to continue to bribe the officials. But after Lianqing acquires fake identity papers everything changes between her and Guo in Midi Z's Road To Mandalay (2016.)

Lianqing just wants to work and have a better life. So does Guo. However, without any legal papers they only way to survive is to continue to bribe officials and working for employers who paying for cheap labor and even lower paying jobs. Lianqing finds herself constantly failing job interviews and losing her jobs and even getting arrested without legal papers. Meanwhile, Guo works in a factory outside the system and he constantly 'rescues' Lianqing and even tells her it's hopeless and it's better to work at the factory with him instead of worrying about legal papers. Guo is in love with Lianqing and tries to make her see his point of view and give up on getting legal papers. But Lianqing then learns Guo has been hindering her from getting legal papers, she leaves him. What will happen next?

This is drama and struggle of illegal immigrants living in a corrupt world and where everyone must have legal papers. After blood, sweat and tears, tragedy only follows for those who try and work hard. Can happiness ever be found?

Tsai Ming-Liang's Vive L'Amour (1994) takes place in Taipei, Taiwan, with three different roommates in one apartment trying to get along, find happiness and any kind of connection. One is a suicidal guy (Lee Kang-sheng) who works in a funeral home, another a freewheeling guy (Chen Choa-jung) who is not as joyous as he thinks and is the lover of their female counterpart (Yang Kuei-mei) is in the real estate business. Decently shot and more often silent (minus any dialogue or voice overs) has a visual style that the Blu-ray case accurately states is not unlike Michelangelo Antonioni, but you get much more L'Avventura than Red Desert here and though that's nice and even somewhat of a risk, it does not necessarily make the film work. I do think the actors are not bad and locales interesting, so the film creates its own feel and mood, but it never adds up into something more.

This was still enough to make it a critical and commercial success at the time, though with the current state of work politics, war and the like, this might become more of a time capsule than any of the makers could have imagined at the time. It is at least ambitious and those interested should definitely give it a look.

Now for playback performance. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Compartment tends to be on the soft side throughout, if not awfully so, but more often than it should.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Stu is just as unexpectedly soft and even slightly more throughout to the point it is a bit of a distraction.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Vive is also a little softer throughout than I would have liked, but it looks very slightly better than the others being shot on 35mm film. Otherwise, still on the soft side and too much so for me.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Mandalay is going to be the weakest performer here being the only DVD, but it is fine for the old format.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Compartment is a mixdown from its original Dolby Atmos soundmaster, but is still the best performer on the list with a consistent soundfield and good recording, mixing and mastering throughout. I cannot say that about the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Stu which is softer and weaker than any film with Wahlberg should be at this point in time. What happened?

The Mandarin PCM 2.0 Stereo on Vive is not bad and has some limited Pro Logic-like surrounds, but sounds good for its age.

The lossy Chinese/Burmese/Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 on the Mandalay DVD is the poorest showing here, but might sound better lossless. It is passable.

Extras include Digital Copy on Stu, which also offers 10 minutes of Deleted Scenes and a featurette about the real Father Stu, Compartment adds a few trailers including one of its own, Vive adds a nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text, illustrations and a solid essay by Nick Pinkerton, while its disc adds a featurette on the director discussing this film (et al) and Mandalay adds the short film ''On the Border'' (Directed by Wei Shujun / Chinese with English subtitles / 15 minutes; per the press release:) In a border village, a Chinese teenager of Korean descent aspires to emigrate to the homeland.

- Nicholas Sheffo and Ricky Chiang (Mandalay)


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