The Longest Summer
UNIVERSE
 
Starring:
Directed By:
Fruit Chan
Year:
1998
Run Time:
128 mins
Producer: Universe
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Languages:
CANTONESE Mono, Mandarin Mono
Subtitles:
Chinese (S&T), English
W/S Subtitles:
Yes
Ratio:
1.85:1 Non Anamorphic
Region:
NTSC 0
Genre:
Drama - IIB
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MOVIE
7/10

Despite opening and culminating with two of the most shocking scenes I've witnessed in cinema for a long time, Fruit Chan's 1998 film is an somewhat disappointing mix of the good and the bland...

In following five recently discharged members of the British garrison of Hong Kong, the Longest Summer explores the problems faced by these men as the '97 Handover looms large on the horizon.
Ga Yin (Tony Ho), Ga Suen's (Sam Lee) older brother, is one of the five and finds it hard to adjust to his new life outside his usual routine.
A Sergeant in the Army, Ga Yin and his friends increasingly realise they no longer belong to either Hong Kong or Britain, and in their desperation to leave Hong Kong, decide to rob a bank.
Ga Suen, a cocky Triad member, is drafted in to help, and just as everything is seemingly going to plan, a freakish coincidence occurs.
So, having not only gone behind Ga Suen's Underworld Boss's back in order to carry out the robbery, the men also begin to lose their trust in one another.
With Ga Suen also becoming more immersed in the Triad lifestyle, Ga Yin is put in the position of either losing his friends, or his brother, or both.

As alluded to in my opening paragraph, Fruit Chan's movie is an awkward mix.
The two main plot threads (the Handover and its effects on the ex-soldiers, and Ga Suen and Ga Yin's involvement in the Triad) are both handled very well, with each containing some brilliantly crafted scenes.
Unfortunately, in trying to run these two narratives concurrently, the film at times becomes confusing and muddled, creating a rather detached experience.
During the film's first hour, many varied and subtle points are made about the Triad lifestyle, Ga Yin's feelings about himself, and other people's opinions of the Hong Kong Army. But none of these scenes really seemed to gel, and left me with the feeling that I was watching a collection of disparate ideas bolted together to form a film.
Thankfully, the film's remaining hour tightens the narrative considerably and provides a number of unforeseen and violent twists, which results in a strangely uplifting conclusion.

Of the main actors, Sam Lee and Tony Ho are easily the most striking.
Lee's typical bravado and extravagant style is always engaging to watch, but he also manages to incorporate a measured dose of arrogance which his character so obviously deserves.
Having never seen Tony Ho before, this fine actor continually surprised me throughout.
With his hangdog expression reminding me of a young Richard Ng, Ho crafts a fascinating portrait as Ga Yin.
Constantly being told by all and sundry that his years spent as a soldier were a waste of time, Ga Yin's morals and spirit are slowly eroded, to the extent that he eventually follows his brother into the Triad.
The irony of the situation is all too evident in the scene in which Ga Yin's parent's tell him to get a "job" like Ga Suen's. His father tells him that "as long as know-one is getting killed, and you're making lots of money, then it's OK" - unaware that the son they're so proud of is doing a lot more than just picking up a paycheque at the end of the week.

PICTURE
7/10

A surprising amount of wear is present throughout this recent film, with some scenes being particularly affected by marks and lines flicking across the screen.
The print is generally in goodish condition. However, a number of scenes looked rather faded and soft, and no matter how good Universe's transfer was, this aspect was always going to to be a problem. Apart from this, the technical quality of the transfer is very good.
Detail levels are consistently excellent, as is colour reproduction, although black levels occasionally appear muddy.
Artifacting is evident in some scenes which are overly bright, and trails are noticeable in quite a few of the darker ones.
However, overall, these differing aspects add up to a transfer which is just plain good.

SOUND
6/10

This Mono soundtrack at times distorted slightly, and sounded strained. Dialogue however, shot in synch-sound, was clear and distinct.
The almost entirely instrumental score is one of the most striking aspects of the movie. The main theme is a haunting and moving piece which lifts all the scenes in which it's incorporated. Again, some distortion is heard in a few places, but it never becomes too distracting.

SUBTITLES
8/10

Whilst the subtitling of the English dialogue often lagged behind, or ran faster than the lines, the general translation level was high.
Grammar and syntax were of a very good standard throughout, and errors were kept to a minimum.
Although the English dialogue subtitles were off-putting, the rest of the subtitling was in no way difficult to follow.

MENUS
5/10

The blood-splattered main menu, featuring a sharp image of Ga Suen and Ga Yin, is a disappointing effort by Universe. It seems as though the film is trying to be marketed as some sort of Heroic Bloodshed action movie - which it most definitely isn't. All of the subsequent menus have this "bloody" appearance, and it does nothing for the movie.

EXTRAS
2/10

Extras? No, I can't be bothered...That seems to be the resounding signal which came from Universe as they put together this utterly pathetic area of the disc - all you get is the theatrical trailer.
Although the trailer's very good (containing a number of different shots which never made the final cut), having it as the only extra is pitiful.
For a film containing so many first-time, and unknown actors, a Star Files section would have been an incredibly helpful addition.

PACKAGING
5/10

Just like the menus, the front cover's sloppily composed design is awash with the same blood-splattering effect, making it a particularly unappealing mess.
However, the reverse, whilst relatively plain, contains a well written synopsis.

CONCLUSION
7/10

Ultimately, the Longest Summer's immense final hour saves it from being mediocre. However, no matter how good the last half is, it can't make up for the very disjointed first one.
As such, this is a film, and a disc, which falls short of greatness because of its inconsistencies.

MOVIE 7/10
PICTURE
7/10
SOUND
6/10
SUBTITLES
8/10
EXTRAS
2/10
MENUS
5/10
PACKAGING
5/10
OVERALL 7/10