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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Drama > Foreign > Asian > World War II > Purple Butterfly

Purple Butterfly

 

Picture: C+     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 co-produced.

 

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 right track.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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