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The Quiet Family – UK Region 0 (Tai Seng) vs HK Region 0 (Modern)
10th September 2005

The Quiet Family Comparison Review
Rating/Certificate: UK 15
Region: 0
DVD Release Date: 27th June 2005
Run Time: 98 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Anamorphic: Yes
Colour: Yes
Video Signal: PAL
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Genre: Comedy
Soundtrack: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Korean, Dolby Digital 5.1 Korean, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Cantonese
Subtitles: English, English (for commentary), Chinese
Extra Features: Audio Commentary, “Coming Out” Short Film, Interviews, Making of Featurette, Music Videos, Storyboard Comparisons, Soundtrack Featurette, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Kim Ji-woon
Starring: Choi Min-sik, Song Kang-ho
Related Movies: A Bittersweet Life, Oldboy, Memento Mori, She’s on Duty


The Quiet Family Comparison Review
Rating/Certificate: HK Category IIB
Region: 0
DVD Release Date: 7th January 2004
Run Time: 105 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Anamorphic: No
Colour: Yes
Video Signal: NTSC
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Genre: Comedy
Soundtrack: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Korean
Subtitles: Chinese, English
Extra Features: Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Kim Ji-woon
Starring: Choi Min-sik, Song Kang-ho
Related Movies: Related Movies: A Bittersweet Life, Oldboy, Memento Mori, She’s on Duty



You may not recognise writer-director Kim Ji-woon, but chances are that you will be aware of his contribution to the South Korean film industry. He is the brilliant mastermind behind A Tale of Two Sisters, an intelligent, subversive take on the repetitive Asian horror scene that resulted in a complete redecoration of the nature of fear and evil. Kim’s latest blockbuster, A Bittersweet Life, is a visually ravishing experience; ruthlessly depicting betrayal and honour in the gangster underworld. Like any professional filmmaker, Kim Ji-woon’s directorial debut was a special title, which would define his creative and leadership competence. Just as Reservoir Dogs saw the rise of Tarantino, for Kim Ji-woon that title was The Quiet Family.

The Quiet Family Comparison Review

Film


A family of six retire to rural South Korea to open a mountain lodge, desperately craving a life of peace and tranquillity. However, all they find is death and murder after the overnight suicide of their first guest. Worried about the hotel’s reputation, the family decide to bury the body instead of reporting it to the police. Problems arise when a series of comical situations result in even more fatalities, greatly increasing the amount of grave digging and family pressure. As if that were not enough, the council begins work on a new road located directly above the burial ground.

Echoes of Shallow Grave resonate through this superbly crafted black comedy, a kind of subtle combination of horror and arthouse drama, as a dysfunctional family continuously encounter ridiculous situations. Despite the obvious western references, director Kim has provided distinctly offbeat traits that are only evident in Far Eastern cinema. The Quiet Family has subsequently caught the attention of Japanese visionary Takashi Miike, who remade the film as the all singing, all dancing zombie infested musical, The Happiness of the Katakuris. Whilst Miike’s version was magnificent in its own right, The Quiet Family is a much more sombre affair although there is an eerie sensation when viewing it for the first time. It is easy to understand the romance Miike felt with Kim’s title, almost too eager to insert the familiar hallucinogenic qualities that we have all come to expect from one of Japan’s most extreme filmmakers.

The Quiet Family is still a very musical production, queuing a diverse range of tracks from the opening Latino hip-hop hybrid to the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You.” In effect, chapters that would traditionally be politically incorrect conversely reveal uplifting moments thanks to some delightfully twisted humour. The irony is that despite the main characters tearing each other apart, Kim’s message is one of family bonding and togetherness. Every death becomes a test to see how each member relates to one another at a time of extreme pressure. For instance, the act of helping loved ones is far more recurring and significant than trying to justify morals.

If there is one thing the audience has learned about Kim Ji-woon is that he is anything but traditional. Most, if not all, of his films display the occasional uncertainty; in the case of A Tale of Two Sisters, the audience is left to decipher half of the story. Similarly, The Quiet Family challenges the audience’s intelligence by highlighting the youngest daughter Mina, who observes a lot of the family behaviour from afar. Therefore, a fine line exists between fact and fantasy but it is up to the viewer to decide how the pieces fit.

The Quiet Family Comparison Review
Filmed in 1998, many of the cast members are now globally recognised superstars – namely Choi Min-sik of Oldboy fame and of course Song Kang-ho who stars in the melancholic true story, Memories of Murder. The latter looks young but certainly not young enough to play a twenty-one year old, who was ten years older at the time. The performances are thoroughly amusing, guaranteed to generate plenty of smiles and laughter. It is almost refreshing to see these South Korean actors handle a more relaxed role; Choi Min-sik, for example, is a startling contrast to his character in Oldboy. Whoever was in charge of casting did a splendid job assembling six very talented individuals, who react convincingly enough to portray a modern family. It is no wonder that they were destined for further exciting projects.

The Quiet Family has been sumptuously shot, opening with an Evil Dead style tour of the lodge followed by frames that keep the characters snugly in the middle – kind of resembling a family portrait, which is quite fitting considering the film’s title. The professional cinematography extends towards capturing vast woodland details, almost glorifying desolate landscapes being consumed by the harsh autumn. The title is a work of exquisite pictorial beauty and surprising contrasts that eventually reflect on the principals behind Kim’s storytelling methodology. The Quiet Family has magnificently exposed a filmmaker with superb potential – indeed he has continued to merge innovative filming techniques with abstract narratives in his later movies. A thorough study of the reviewed title however will introduce the viewer to the seductively distorted mind of Kim Ji-woon.

Video


Tai Seng have provided an anamorphic widescreen format, maintaining an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Firstly, the film was made in the late nineties, around about the time the DVD medium started to take off. As a result of budgetary constraints, poor storage and negligence of care, the source print is not in the greatest of condition. The image is decidedly soft and murky. Considering that a good proportion of the story takes place at night, this has resulted in abysmal shadow detail and blurriness. Pixilation is also predominant during heavy camera and onscreen movement, engulfing the screen with grotesque blocks. The runtime seems to indicate a true PAL transfer (in reality, the film is around twelve minutes shorter than the figure specified on the sleeve) but there is still noticeable ghosting and motion blurring. Furthermore, edge enhancement does not go by unnoticed – those halos are marked rather explicitly.

Despite its flaws, the image on the whole is still perceptible, although perhaps not so much in the shadows. Colours have been powerfully reproduced and the blacks are deep and wholesome. Flesh tones appear over-saturated at times, turning orange-red but this may be a result of intense lighting. The outdoor segments look more natural in the skin department and do a nice job with sky and agricultural details. Tai Seng have thankfully kept the transfer relatively free of speckles – only minor artefacts creep up occasionally.

The Quiet Family Comparison Review
UK (Tai Seng) Region 0

The Quiet Family Comparison Review
HK (Modern) Region 0

The Quiet Family Comparison Review
UK (Tai Seng) Region 0

The Quiet Family Comparison Review
HK (Modern) Region 0

The Quiet Family Comparison Review
UK (Tai Seng) Region 0

The Quiet Family Comparison Review
HK (Modern) Region 0

The Quiet Family Comparison Review
UK (Tai Seng) Region 0

The Quiet Family Comparison Review
HK (Modern) Region 0

The Quiet Family Comparison Review
HK UK (Tai Seng) Region 0

The Quiet Family Comparison Review
HK (Modern) Region 0

The HK disc from Modern suffers from similar problems, namely the frequent pixilation, motion blurring and ghosting. It is however not as dark, exhibiting greater details in the shadows but at the price of weaker shades. The difference is apparent when comparing the sky and forestry, where the Tai Seng represents richer blues and greens respectively – the pallet is one of calm and equilibrium although the colours have most likely been boosted. In any case, the high contrast levels on the HK disc have ensured a somewhat coarse image. Add to that a ridiculous amount of dot crawl, cross colouration, horizontal cropping and print damage and we have a truly ugly transfer.

The ultimate insult is that Modern have provided a non-anamorphic transfer, which is automatically frowned upon these days. Strangely enough, it is actually more detailed than Tai Seng’s effort – the dirt on the shovel is crisper and the patterns on the tapestry are more recognisable. There is also not as much smearing, which is perhaps the only major side effect from Tai Seng’s colour experimentation. However, trying to fill a non-anamorphic transfer on a widescreen television is a joke – examining what Tai Seng have done with the print, their video options are far more favourable.

The Quiet Family Comparison Review

Audio


Tai Seng have provided a wealth of audio options to cater for a wide audience range. Firstly the original Korean soundtrack can be heard in either Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround or Dolby Digital 5.1 format. There is little to distinguish between the two; the dialogue originates from the frontal array and the surrounds manage to capture minor woodland noises. As expected however, the 5.1 mix is slightly more approving in terms of bass generation; the LFE channel adds substantial depth during the more aggressive moments. Moreover, the music sounds livelier and more fulfilling thanks to some professional audio separation.

In addition, two English dubs in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 have been included. The Stereo track is unbelievably frail in comparison with the 5.1 upgrade, which is largely similar with the Korean soundtrack in the dynamic balance department. It loses minor points during the instrumental chapters, where the separation is virtually non existent and the music is pushed uniformly out of every channel. As for dubbing quality goes, reasonable voice actors have been assigned to the appropriate characters and they have made an admirable attempt in matching the lip movements. However, Korean is a language that is drastically different to English, so the mouth shapes do not represent the exact sound of the words. Furthermore, the quality of the voice acting is debateable but overall, this is a reasonable dub that follows and translates the story accurately.

Lastly, a Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo dub has been provided for those who require it. The track shares similar qualities with the English counterpart but the lip synching is slightly better - perhaps a closer relationship exists between Korean and Cantonese.

The optional English subtitles are absolutely wonderful, comprising of a perfectly legible font and are nicely paced. They do fade upon appearing and disappearing, as opposed to sudden transitions. This reviewer did not find the aforementioned issue the least bit distracting.

The Quiet Family Comparison Review
UK (Tai Seng) Region 0

The Quiet Family Comparison Review
HK (Modern) Region 0

The Modern disc provides a single Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround soundtrack, which sounds slightly muffled and is definitely dwarfed by Tai Seng’s 5.1 mix. There is a clear amount of ambient noise being generated from the rears while the front channels handle the primary sources. Digital faults such as distortion and audio dips are absent from the soundtrack, everything is reasonably balanced with sufficient depth and integrity.

The optional English subtitles on the Modern disc suffer from unfinished sentences, unattractive font and poor timing. It is still easy enough to follow the story but the Tai Seng wins this round.
 

Extras


Tai Seng have provided an audio commentary with director Kim Ji-woon and leading actor Song Kang-ho. The optional subtitles for the commentary have not been given the same level of care – they contain clumsy spelling and grammatical errors, quite often disappear off screen and fail to translate much of the conversations. Kim and Song quite happily speak for a long period of time and just a few words from the subtitles remain. Still, it is easy enough to follow but does become tedious after a while. They generally go off on a tangent, discussing special colleges and friends from within the industry and rarely discuss aspects of the film.

Switch over to the second disc and the viewer will be treated to a rare English subtitled version of Kim’s surrealistic short film, Coming Out. This forty-five minute existential riddle follows the confession of a young woman as she makes a video diary for her friends and loved ones. The opening image of a tormented individual may very well startle and brace the audience for the major confession. Once revealed, the film spirals down a twisted path of lost identities, pleasure and deliciously sick humour. Switching between actual footage, studio interviews and a reconstruction, Coming Out is delicate, cerebral and contemporary cinema at its most profound.

The Quiet Family Comparison Review
There are four interviews between the director and leading actors. Actually, they are more like informal conversations that have been subjected to poor English subtitling. The topics are remarkably mundane and not the least bit interesting; a few feelings are expressed, as well as random stories and other trivial pieces of information that do not make sense. In fact, the only joy I gained was from viewing Choi Min-sik’s interview, in which he was dressed in his Oldboy gear.

Similarly the 6m28s Making of featurette offers nothing in the way of production process but details the construction of the mountain lodge via interviews with specific crew members. Some interesting pieces of knowledge can be gained here, as the documentary highlights principal and final stages of the set design.

Next up are two music videos - Ubangi Stomp by the Stray Cats and Tres Delinquentes, which is the film’s spectacular opening theme. Both of these provide a montage that has been rhythmically edited to match the songs’ beats.

The storyboard comparisons reveal early indications on what the film may have looked like. The final product is actually surprisingly different, especially in terms of camera angles and frame orientation.

The final featurette is entitled Original Soundtrack, which is narrated by Cho Yong-wook – the film’s music coordinator. Cho discusses his choice of tracks and why he installed them during The Quiet Family’s definitive chapters. There is a reason behind the diverse range of styles, simply because the title is strikingly diverse by nature. The handpicked songs are intended to reflect upon the high level of unpredictability, extending the varying tones that Kim Ji-woon wanted to portray.

A collection of trailers from Tai Seng’s range has been included to finish off the list of supplementary materials. Majority of the extras have burned in English subtitles, which are generally of poor quality – either lazily missing out large sections of dialogue or swarming with spelling and grammatical mishaps. On the other hand, the menus are spectacular – comprising of dazzling artwork and upbeat music from the film.

The Modern disc only has a trailer for Joint Security Area.

The Quiet Family Comparison Review

Overall


The Quiet Family is perhaps not as polished as Kim Ji-woon’s latest violent gangster yarn A Bittersweet Life but it is undeniably superior, providing the audience has a thirst for unashamedly distorted comedies with underlying messages of family loyalty and relationships. Handsomely structured, visually appetising and utterly inspirational, this startling debut is arguably the finest in Kim’s career.

There is literally no comparison between the Tai Seng and Modern DVD, the former stamps on its opponent’s non-anamorphic transfer from a great hight. Tai Seng’s rich, well balanced pallet and supplementary materials have ensured complete victory, although the quality of the overall package is above average at best. Whilst the English subtitles for the main feature are impeccable, the translations for the extras are dreadful in every sense of the word. Only the fantastic short film Coming Out maintains any real value but even that suffers from poor subtitling, which is unforgivable for a Western distributor. Still, if one were to examine the current situation, the Tai Seng DVD is worth it for the time being and should sit nicely in between Memories of Murder and Oldboy.

UK Region 0
HK Region 0
Film:99
Video:53
Audio:65
Extras:70
Overall:74


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