Sound: B- Extras: C- Film: B
It is World War II in Manchuria, 1938, and the Japanese
Militarists have decided to invade China.
Even before they get there, they have sent spies and have solicited
certain traitors in Purple Butterfly (2003), director Lou Ye’s
impressive portrait of story of love and betrayal. The title refers to the resistance group determined to defend
China no matter what.
Itami (Toru Nakamura) joins the resistance group the film
is named after, but finds out that she may have taken on more than she expected
to in the long run, but the other dilemma is in how a woman of that time is
supposed to handle the crisis in any way.
On the one hand, there are the Japanese at their “Axis Of Evil” worst, but
her own country has problems and certain people within the Communist scourge
will be just as problematic.
I give writer/director Ye credit for tackling a still
touchy historical subject, no matter how much time has past, because the wounds
of this situation are still far from healed.
Having a female protagonist is a plus, and the Japanese are not spared
anything for what they did. What does
happen is that the film only achieves a partial look and feel of the time, and
though it could have gone further about the Japanese insurgence, is pretty good
about how brutal sudden outbursts are between the Japanese and resistors. However, even that pulls it more into the
action genre than might have been wise.
John Woo’s Windtalkers (reviewed elsewhere on this site) could be
accused of the same thing, but it is a War Genre film as much as anything and
does not have to try for the period so hard.
Purple Butterfly has mixed results, but works more often than
not, making it one of the best Chinese films to date, even if the French
The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image has some
softness and was shot darkly on purpose by cinematographer Yu Wang, which
achieves a look that is somewhat unique for being part of the desaturated cycle
of color-poor films that think such a look equates realism. A comparison to HD and 35mm film would be
interesting. The Dolby Digital 5.1 is
better than the 2.0 enough and Jörg Lemberg’s score is not bad. The combination offers a unique
experience. Extras include three trailers,
including one for this film, but that is sadly it. For such a good film, maybe more would have been good, but Purple
Butterfly is good enough and worth seeing.
It is the kind of film where the flaws are overcome by something more
profound. These filmmakers are on the
- Nicholas Sheffo