Metade Fumaca
UNIVERSE
 
Starring:
Directed By:
Ip Kam Hung
Year:
1999
Run Time:
101mins
Producer: Universe
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Languages:
CANTONESE 5.1, Mandarin 5.1
Subtitles:
Removable Chinese (S+T), English
W/S Subtitles:
No
Ratio:
1.85:1 Non Anamorphic
Region:
NTSC 0
Genre:
Drama - IIB
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MOVIE
8/10

Mountain Leopard (Tsang), a hitman with a reputation as false as his hairpiece, travels back to Hong Kong in search of revenge and the the women he loves.
Upon meeting Smokey (Tse), a young Triad wannabe, Mountain Leopard enlists his help in tracking down Nine Dragons, Leopard's old enemy .

The incident involving Dragon and Leopard, having occurred some 30 years ago, is not one many current Triad bosses remember, and those that do see things quite differently from Leopard's recollection.

However, as events unfold, a clearer and sadder picture reveals itself to Smokey - one which not only makes him reassess Leopard's life, but also his own.

Ip Kam Hung's refreshingly different story of memories, and how we attempt to hold on to them, starts in a manner which belies its true essence.
This is no A Better Tomorrow rejig, or an exploration of Triad activities, although at first that's where it appears to be heading.
Slowly things begin to make sense, and Mountain Leopard's real motives become clear.

Eric Tsang is especially impressive as Mountain Leopard, and although I don't want to give anything away concerning the plot, handles his character's nuances with dignity and maturity.
The film hinges on his ability to hide enough of his character to keep your interest, without being so aloof that your attention begins to wander over the film's duration - a feat Tsang manages to achieve with great success.
For a Hong Kong film to tackle such a serious subject so well, was quite a surprise, and one which should be commended.

As the other key player, Nicholas Tse holds his own admirably. Having only ever seen him in the dire 'A Man Called Hero' I was unaware of his acting range - something I'll definitely be looking forward to viewing in the future.

Not everything in the film works, and the overly-slow pacing of the first 30 minutes makes for an intially rather uninvoling start.
However, Metade Fumaca provides a thought provoking, moving, and occasionally funny account of one mans attempts to cling onto the memories he holds dearest.
The fact that repeat viewings allow you to garner further perspectives on the film, prove that this is far from being a simple, one-dimensional effort.

PICTURE
10/10

Proving yet again that they are without equal among Hong Kong DVD Producers, Universe provide a quite beautiful transfer.
The film, having been lensed in 1999, is completely devoid of wear, and I can't remember seeing the slightest mark or sparkle over the entire run time.

Peter Pau lends his superb cinematography skills to this production, with the results as exemplary as usual - the flashback sequence being a particularly outstanding moment.
The disc pays full tribute to this aspect, with every scene looking about as good as it can do for a non-animorphic transfer.
No pixellation was visible, and although the opening scenes appear slightly soft, the remainder of the film looks stunning, with crisp detail throughout.
A pleasure to watch.

SOUND
8/10

Relying heavily on evocative Brazilian tunes and some excellent instrumental pieces, the original Surround Sound track, remixed into 5.1 Digital, is very good.
The only slight negative point is that occasionally the dialogue sounds harsh, with a slightly "scratchy" quality being audible. This occurs in only a few scenes and may be more to do with the film having been shot in synch-sound, but I still became aware of it at times.
Other than that, surround usage is extremely good, as music is frequently sent to the front and rear speakers, creating an involving experience.

SUBTITLES
10/10

I only noticed two tiny errors in the otherwise perfect subtitles, and they were so insignificant that they're not worth describing.
The subject matter covered in the movie could have been made laughable had the translations been sloppily handled. Thankfully they're most definitely not, and if only every HK disc could contain subtitling of this standard, I'm sure the films would receive a much wider audience.

MENUS
8/10

I have to say that I was instantly impressed by the standard of these menus on my first encounter with the disc.
Each screen is composed very well, with the Star Files screen looking particularly good.
It seems as though Universe put a good deal of thought into the menu design, and this shows throughout.
The nicest touch is the chapter selection screen, which is made to look like the Camcorder Smokey uses in the film.
After selecting a chapter from the list of 8, a clip of the scene is played in the Camcorders viewfinder.
My only complaint with the menus is that the use of green for the menu buttons can occasionally mean you can't make out what you have available for selection.

EXTRAS
6/10

Under the Special Features menu are two differing theatrical trailers (which contain a couple of clips not seen in the film) as well as additional trailers for Gen-X Cops and Purple Storm.
The most pleasing element about the extras are the substantial number of Star Files - something which certain Universe titles have been guilty of neglecting in the past.
Kelly Chen, Stephen Fung, Shu Qi, Eric Tsang, Nicholas Tse and Sam Lee are all given informative Biographies and comprehensive Filmographies, which I took great interest in flicking through.

PACKAGING
7/10

A montage of film stills adorn the front cover, as do pictures of Eric Tsang and Nicholas Tse.
Again, there seems to have been some genuine thought put into the box design, resulting in a very attractive cover.
However, although the synopsis on the reverse is very well written, it does give away elements of the plot, including the main twist regarding Leopard's character.
DO NOT READ THIS BEFORE WATCHING THE MOVIE - it'll take a lot away from the experience.

CONCLUSION
9/10

My surprise at finding such a maturely told story, which never felt the need to simplify, or make a laughing stock out of its main character, was a pleasant change of pace for a Hong Kong movie.
With Universe's superior transfer also adding another layer of quality, you have a film that not only impresses emotionally but also visually.
Although Metade Fumaca falls just short of being a classic, overall this exceptionally well acted story has more than enough positive points to make it a very worthwhile purchase.

MOVIE 8/10
PICTURE
10/10
SOUND
8/10
SUBTITLES
10/10
EXTRAS
6/10
MENUS
8/10
PACKAGING
7/10
OVERALL
9/10