- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: English/Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Descriptive Audio
- Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
- Region: A (Region-Locked)
- Rating: PG-13
- Run Time: 104 Mins.
- Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
- Studio: 20th Century Fox
- Blu-ray Release Date: November 1, 2011
- List Price: $39.99
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
I haven’t read Lisa See’s original novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, but from what I can gather from investigating the background of the film, this adaptation weaves into the author’s original story about two women in 19th century China bound together through the years by a sworn oath of “sisterhood” a parallel story set in modern day Shanghai. Does it work? Not really.
The women in question are played by two actresses, the Chinese-born Bingbing Li (Nina/Lily) and the Korean-born Jeon Ji-hyun (Snow Flower/Sophia). Lily and Sophia are two modern Chinese girls from two families of differing classes. Having just moved from Korea, Sophia needs a tutor in Mandarin, and that is how she comes to know Nina, but Sophia’s stepmother feels Nina is a bad influence on her and banishes her from coming to the house anymore. Of course, girls will be girls, and the two find a way to meet anyway and remain friends, going out to clubs and doing rebellious things. One day, Sophia discovers a family heirloom – it’s a tiny shoe from her great, great grandmother who came from China. It is a relic from the days when women in China were treated simply like property and forced to go through the barbaric ritual of foot binding, meant to make them more beautiful and apt to attain a better mate.
The story flashes forward some years and the two girls haven’t spoken, we soon find out, for some time. Sophia tries to call Sophia, but is in an accident that places her in a coma. They’d sworn themselves to each other years ago as each other’s spiritual sisters, just as their ancestors had, and Sophia had been investigating this. Nina feels it her duty to stay by Sophia’s side and continue to find out what Nina had uncovered.
This is when the film switches to the past, the story of Snow Flower and Lily, the two young girls born on the same day, with their feet bound on the same day who swear their oath to be each other’s spiritual sister for life and learn the secret language only they will know, passed down from generation to generation of women for a thousand years, and passed to one another in the folds of a paper fan.
Through the interwoven stories, we learn the hardships of all four women, the trials of their lives, loves, and friendships, and how the two women in modern China are faced with their own trials as women in a modern age.
I thought I would like this film, I’m usually very open to Asian cinema and history, but this film was just confused and, honestly, too dour from start to finish. It was obviously meant to play on the heartstrings at every moment, which I find overbearing and insulting. Maybe, if they had dropped the parallel story in Modern China, it might have been better, but who knows?
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan on Blu-ray look very film-like to my eyes without any evidence of video noise in this AVC/MPEG-4 encodement, but the overall image leas toward softness and the grain structure is a bit coarse, particularly in dimly lit scenes. Blacks aren’t quite as deep as I’d like to see the, either, looking a bit greyish at times.
The English/Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is competent, but that’s about it. There isn’t much information in the surround channels, though the dynamics and spread of sound across the front compensates for this. Dialogue is clean without a hint of clipping.
This package is very light on extras. Fox hasn’t even seen fit to include a DVD or Digital Copy with this one and the only worthwhile on disc supplement is a featurette with the original author.
- The Sworn Sisterhood of the Secret Fan (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:29:02) – The author speaks of her family and the inspiration for writing her novel.
- Theatrical Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24; Dolby Digital 5.1)
The Definitive Word
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan took what could have been a poignant story about a rather interesting part of Chinese history and turned into a sappy mess. Despite the beauty of the costumes and the cinematography, I have to say skip this one.
Additional Screen Captures