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DVD Review

DVD cover

1911 Revolution


Starring: Jackie Chan, Winston Chao and Li Bingbing
RRP: £17.99
Certificate: 15
Available 19 March 2012

The Xinhai Revolution, also known as the Revolution of 1911, is remembered with deep respect in China, its anniversary is still held to this day. With the Qings Dynasties inability to enact reforms, due to a conservative court and its inability to deal with foreign incursions following the loss of the firs opium war, numerous revolutions sprang up across the country, especially when the Qing Dynasty mortgaged the countries railways to foreign powers...

1911 Revolution (2011 - 1hr, 35 min, 11 sec) is a historical drama directed by Jackie Chan and Li Zhang, from a Wang Xingdong, Chen Baoguang script. The film is presented as a two-disc DVD set. The film was made to celebrate both the one hundredth anniversary of the revolution as well as Jackie Chan's one hundredth film, depending how you count them.

The biggest problem with the film, especially for a non-Chinese audience, is that the revolution was a series of smaller revolutions and the amount of characters involved can be quite difficult to follow, a point not lost on the film makers who provide both linking on-screen text as well as titles to tell you who you are watching and what their role was. It’s a problem born of trying to tell such a large and sweeping story in only an hour and a half.

Epic is a good description of the film, with impressive set piece battles juxtaposed with high value production values. If given the concentration, which this film requires, it provides a rewarding viewing experience. I was surprised how even-handed the viewpoints of both the Imperial court and the revolutionaries were portrayed; I expected a film which would have been completely slanted in the revolutionaries favour.

There is a tonality to the film, allowing the audience to see doubt on both sides of the divide, one wishing to change their country for the better, but being aware of the horrible cost in human lives, the other trying, against the tide of history and human corruption, to preserve a way of life which had existed for two thousand years. The players on both sides are portrayed with more understanding than that shown in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor (1987), which told the story from Puyi’s perspective.

Anyone who is expecting a film which has Jackie Chan at its centre may be in for a disappointment, this is an ensemble piece, Chan takes his place providing in a convincingly dramatic role as Huang Xing, one of the founders of the Kuomintang and the eventual republic. The story is also told from the perspective of Xu Zonghan (Li Bingbing), a young woman who gives her life over to the revolution and Sun Yat-Sen (Winston Chao) who would become China’s first president. If you add to this a plethora of Asian stars, some even in non-speaking roles, you have an impressive line-up for your delectation.

Although the direction is strong and the acting is impressive, the main fault of the film is to try and cram too much into the time it has, leading to a feeling that the story is more of a montage, rather than a coherent narrative.

Disc two holds the Hong Kong Press Conference with Jackie Chan, Li Bingbing and Winston Chao (32 min, 58 sec) who discuss the film, prior to its first showing. There is a further interview with Li Bingbing (5 min, 52 sec) and a behind the scenes gallery, which consists of twelve small pieces covering aspects of the film. Given the importance of the movie, it’s a pity that the extras turn out to be so slight.

The print is very clean with vibrant colours and nice deep blacks. Audio options are the original Mandarin DD5.1 (with English subtitles) or a reasonable English DD 5.1 dub. The film also sports another excellent full length commentary from that expert of all things regarding Asian films Bey Logan. Disc one contains a number of trailers.

Visually impressive, the film, nevertheless, can be a confusing experience for those unaware of the revolutions story.


Charles Packer

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