A Great Wall is a comedy-drama film that came out back in 1986 and was the first American made movie to be shot in China. The film follows a family from Silicon Valley, California who take a trip to visit their long lost family in China, which sets up the story for some endearing, yet awkward moments, as well as some funny culture clashes. It's a beautiful and simple film without any need for big conflict. The video and audio presentations are both decent, although there is a big issue with the audio as you can read about below. There are no extras either, but despite these problems, this film should be seen and enjoyed. Worth A Look.
Released back in 1986, A Great Wall was billed as the first American film to be shot in China, which was directed by Peter Wang, who also wrote and starred in the film. This mix of subtle comedy and drama is a brilliant and realistic look at two different cultures colliding with the added stress of family in the mixture. What Wang does so well here is that he never makes a big conflict or unnecessary plot device, but simply shows how one family adapts to the another culture with all of its awkwardness and pleasantries, while showcasing some amazing landmarks overseas.
A Great Wall follows Leo Fang, a successful computer engineer in Silicon Valley and husband and father to his family. They are the picture of the American Dream who work hard and have a bit of fun. It's decided that the family will take a long vacation to their homeland of China to visit Leo's family, which he hasn't seen for a few decades. Instead of staying in a hotel, they decide to stay with their family, The Chaos, who lead a simple life that consists of meditation, gardening, amongst other tasks. It's the big city that meets the countryside here as Leo and his family adapt to their new home and the ways of China.
It's rather funny, too, as Leo's son can't figure out why his uncle opens their kids mail before they can read it, or why his cousin just can't apply for a university, but must jump through hoops. Another funny moment is when Leo sees the big computer lab in China that has one lonely poorly made computer. There is never really anything at stake throughout the film, but rather a light-hearted look at these two worlds coming together as one. Wang shows us the actual Great Wall, traffic in the city, and the high rise apartments that populate the Chinese landscapes.
It's a fantastic look still to this day and gave us Americans a small glimpse of what life is like on the other side of the pond. It also shows us that while it might be hard to come home again, it's still something we all do.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
A Great Wall comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Kino Classics. There is an 18-page booklet that contains essay and information about the film. The disc is housed in a hard plastic case.
A Great Wall comes with a good 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image is impressive as a whole after all these years, but it still has some issues. The exterior shots in China are exquisite, sharp and full of life. The stones on the Great Wall and high rises all reveal intricate detail with all their imperfections. Facial features of makeup blemishes and pores look good in exterior shots.
While shooting scenes inside, though, the image can have a white glow such as a fantasy or halo effect. Colors are naturally bright and vibrant, especially on the 1980's clothing that brings back some awkward memories for sure. Black levels are deep and inky and skin tones are natural. There are some issues with dirt still showing up, but it's all part of the experience, leaving this video presentation with good marks.
This release comes with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix in Mandarin and sounds quite good. That being said, there is a space of time that lasts about 20 minutes where the audio seems to have been turned way down, where everything sounds much quieter and suppressed. It's difficult to hear most things during this time, but then it corrects itself after about 20 minutes and all is back to normal.
The score always adds to the comedic and dramatic moments, while the dialogue is clear, with the exception of those 20 minutes or so. The English subtitles are easy to read and follow along with. Sound effects are robust and full and give life to the city with cars passing by and people walking around. The big pop comes during the ping pong tournament with the crowd cheering and clapping, which adds a good low end quality. There are no issues with hiss, pops, or cracks here, either.
Trailer (SD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
Booklet - A Criterion sized 18-page booklet with essays and information on the film.
A Great Wall is a fantastic look at two cultures coming together with their similarities and clashes that is well acted and directed. This is a light-hearted film that captures the soul of stepping outside your comfort zone and experiencing something new without anything heavy-handed. The video and audio are both decent, despite the big problem with the audio. There are no extras, though. Still, this is a rare film that should be discussed more and deserves your attention. Worth A Look.