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A Few Words About A few words about...™ Empire of the Sun -- in Blu-ray (1 Viewer)

Robert Harris

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I'd really like to be able to say that Empire of the Sun is one of the greatest films of the past few decades, but I can't.

It is, however, a beautifully produced, and very special film, about an 11 year-old boy separated from his family in war torn Shanghai before Pearl Harbor.

The film is of epic scale, beautifully shot by Allen Daviau, and with music by John Williams, and in Warner Bros. new Blu-ray comes off as an absolutely perfect incarnation of the film for home theater environments.

The boy is played by a terrific young English actor, who may have worked afterwards.

The problem with the film, is that with all of its high end production values, superb performances, and beautiful cinematography, something is missing, and I've not identified that missing piece. I do love the film. It's 150+ minutes always go by rapidly.

And in this newest incarnation, I have something that perfectly replicates those early theatrical screenings.

For those who may not be aware, the film is a major part of the Steven Spielberg canon, and should be essential viewing for anyone who even pretends to love cinema.

From Warner Bros, in a digi-book. Audio is naturally uncompressed.

Image - 5

Audio - 5

Highly Recommended.

RAH
 

Steve Tannehill

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I saw this movie at Northpark I&II in Dallas, in an 1100 seat auditorium with the best screen and THX sound system in the Southwest. I owned the laserdisc and the DVD. I hope the blu-ray brings back memories of that first theatrical screening. I'll certainly crank the sound.
 

Mark-P

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Robert Harris said:
The boy is played by a terrific young English actor, who may have worked afterwards.
:laugh:
By the way, has there been any Speilberg-directed movie to make it to Blu-ray in less than stellar quality? That can't be coincidental.
 

Dick

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Robert Harris said:
I'd really like to be able to say that Empire of the Sun is one of the greatest films of the past few decades, but I can't.
The problem with the film, is that with all of its high end produc=tion values, superb performances, and beautiful cinematography, something is missing, and I've not identified that missing piece.  I do love the film.  It's 150+ minutes always go by rapidly.
The missing piece for me is emotional involvement. The actors are excellent, but they somehow lack mutual connection. It's like Spielberg was trying to break away from the overly-sentimental feeling of some of his earlier work, but forgot to invest the characters with a greater sense of urgency and depth to make up for it, which makes the film seem a bit too long for me. I realize we're talking a prison camp here, and one would expect the boredom of the daily grind. But the repartee between the boy and the Malkovich characters feels contrived and shallow. That's just me. :)
Everything else about this film is, as Mr. Harris points out, quite wonderful (and I would add to his list the magical score by John Williams).
 

AdrianTurner

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I'm sure Mr Harris will recall that Empire of the Sun was initially developed by David Lean - it would have suited his style of filmmaking, I think, especially the expat society of Shanghai. Apparently Steven Spielberg first met Lean at an awards ceremony in London and said he was such a fan that he'd happily produce anything Sir David might want to direct. Sir David was toying with Empire of the Sun and went to China to get a feel for the place and to recce possible locations. Spielberg meanwhile raised the finance and bought the screen rights to JG Ballard's novel. Discussions were held with writer Tom Stoppard. And then, in the blink of an eye, Sir David walked away from it, saying he didn't like the novel after all, that he'd made one POW drama and two films about kids. Then it was on to Nostromo and the Lawrence restoration drama.
 

Robert Harris

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Originally Posted by AdrianTurner /t/325382/a-few-words-about-empire-of-the-sun-in-blu-ray#post_4004417
I'm sure Mr Harris will recall that Empire of the Sun was initially developed by David Lean - it would have suited his style of filmmaking, I think, especially the expat society of Shanghai. Apparently Steven Spielberg first met Lean at an awards ceremony in London and said he was such a fan that he'd happily produce anything Sir David might want to direct. Sir David was toying with Empire of the Sun and went to China to get a feel for the place and to recce possible locations. Spielberg meanwhile raised the finance and bought the screen rights to JG Ballard's novel. Discussions were held with writer Tom Stoppard. And then, in the blink of an eye, Sir David walked away from it, saying he didn't like the novel after all, that he'd made one POW drama and two films about kids. Then it was on to Nostromo and the Lawrence restoration drama.
I am aware. Reminds me, in a way, of Stanley Kubrick, and his desire to make AI, but was unable to do so, as technology was not yet in place.

RAH
 

AdrianTurner

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I've just found the quote I was looking for - David gave up on the novel because, "It's bloody well written . . . but I don't think it's a movie because it hasn't got a dramatic shape . . . I must say a bit of what I felt I felt about [Spielberg's] film."
(from Kevin Brownlow's David Lean).
 

theonemacduff

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Like a lot of Ballard's stuff, Empire of the Sun is a story about inner-ness (in spite of its precise and detailed setting; see his Drowned World for a similar feel), and that doesn't always translate well to film. The character of the boy, especially his power worship, and his slowly turning into a somewhat less than admirable person because of that – and all of this happening more or less unconsciously, because he's only a boy, and simply reacts to things, making no decisions, or very few – all of that keeps the audience at a good deal more than arm's length. The viewer really only has a choice, in terms of identifying, or more neutrally, following, either the Malkovich character or the boy, and that's really a choice of the less bad and the worse bad. Ultimately, I think audiences choose the boy because he is the less culpable in terms of his behaviour, but again, we're not keen to fully follow him; and the only redeeming feature is that, when you step back a bit, you realize that the boy is only doing what the world has taught him to do, that is, that his evolving "less than admirable" quality is what the world has forced him, and many others, to become simply in order that the wars of the truly powerful can be prosecuted, the way cannon fodder makes itself into cannon fodder. I'm not explaining this very well, but the thought itself is not quite clear, and I think a similar lack of clarity is what makes the movie hard to warm up to. I would say that, given the story, and the context, the film is probably the best it could be. Favourite shot: light from Hiroshima passing overhead as the boy looks up from a vast heap of discarded lives, the one a reflection of the other, a sort of light given off by the souls of all the unlikely and unlucky dead, the civilians, as they pass on their way heavenward. For another Spielberg film that has the same intermittently working vibe, try Always, which I have always loved for no reason whatsoever. THAT I want to see on BR soon.
 

FoxyMulder

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Christian Bale isn't English, he was born in Wales he is Welsh, i do agree he is a fine actor and i do like this film, what i do not understand and maybe this is an American thing but Wikipedia acknowledges he was born in Wales but when you try and change the first words on the page that say he is an English actor they tell you not to do it, they tell you don't call him British, don't call him Welsh, he is, you don't go by what his parents were you go by the place a person is born, that is their nationality, as an example i am Scottish born and have English parents, here in the UK we take our nationalities seriously and no way would a proud Welshman or Scotsman or Englishman or Irishman call themselves anything but that, we are all British but at the same time all 4 nations are individuals, especially when it comes to sporting events.

I would also add it does not matter what Bale himself considers his nationality, he apparently said in interviews he considers himself English although BBC news have called him Welsh, he was born in Wales, he is Welsh, there can be no argument of this, if there must be an argument then he should be called British since none of the 4 countries that make up the UK are independent, calling him English is incorrect though.

By the same token i would say Kiefer Sutherland is English, that's where he was born, sure he doesn't have the accent but your place of birth is your nationality, passports can say otherwise, it doesn't matter, bottom line is your place of birth. Okay rant over, just venting today, i have strong opinions on this subject matter.
 

BJQ1972

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FoxyMulder said:
Christian Bale isn't English, he was born in Wales he is Welsh, i do agree he is a fine actor and i do like this film, what i do not understand and maybe this is an American thing but Wikipedia acknowledges he was born in Wales but when you try and change the first words on the page that say he is an English actor they tell you not to do it, they tell you don't call him British, don't call him Welsh, he is, you don't go by what his parents were you go by the place a person is born, that is their nationality, as an example i am Scottish born and have English parents, here in the UK we take our nationalities seriously and no way would a proud Welshman or Scotsman or Englishman or Irishman call themselves anything but that, we are all British but at the same time all 4 nations are individuals, especially when it comes to sporting events.
I would also add it does not matter what Bale himself considers his nationality, he was born in Wales, he is Welsh, there can be no argument of this, if there must be an argument then he should be called British since none of the 4 countries that make up the UK are independent, calling him English is incorrect though.
By the same token i would say Kiefer Sutherland is English, that's where he was born, sure he doesn't have the accent but your place of birth is your nationality, passports can say otherwise, it doesn't matter, bottom line is your place of birth.  Okay rant over, just venting today, i have strong opinions on this subject matter.
So where do you stand on Andy Goram's nationality? How about Eric Liddell?
 

FoxyMulder

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Originally Posted by BJQ1972 /t/325382/a-few-words-about-empire-of-the-sun-in-blu-ray#post_4005025
So where do you stand on Andy Goram's nationality? How about Eric Liddell?

I already told you, their place of birth, the fact they represented Scotland and in Liddell's case the UK does not matter, we cheer them on of course but that doesn't make them Scottish, your place of birth does, my sister is English even though she moved to Scotland aged two.
 

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Malcolm, I believe your rule also applies quite well to the idea of Scotch Whisky. Which must be made with barley, aged for at least 3 years in the appropriate wood, and above all else, must be made in Scotland. I remember hearing about some Americans a while back who obeyed all the rules but the last one. For that, they simply renamed the area around the distillery/warehouse "Scotland". This did not go over well and the experiment, while likely yielding some good spirit, was a failure in trying to circumvent the old ways...
 

FoxyMulder

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Originally Posted by Kevin EK /t/325382/a-few-words-about-empire-of-the-sun-in-blu-ray#post_4005027
Malcolm, I believe your rule also applies quite well to the idea of Scotch Whisky. Which must be made with barley, aged for at least 3 years in the appropriate wood, and above all else, must be made in Scotland. I remember hearing about some Americans a while back who obeyed all the rules but the last one. For that, they simply renamed the area around the distillery/warehouse "Scotland". This did not go over well and the experiment, while likely yielding some good spirit, was a failure in trying to circumvent the old ways...

Yes, also quite expensive these days due to the higher taxes, anyways i can understand if people disagree with me and i'm sure many will.
 

BJQ1972

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FoxyMulder said:
Yes, also quite expensive these days due to the higher taxes, anyways i can understand if people disagree with me and i'm sure many will.
It wouldn't be quite the same if we all had the same opinion, would it? I thought I would have caught you out with the names above but Andy Goram is a Hun anyway, so he doesn't count.:)
 

Robert Harris

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FoxyMulder said:
Christian Bale isn't English, he was born in Wales he is Welsh, i do agree he is a fine actor and i do like this film, what i do not understand and maybe this is an American thing but Wikipedia acknowledges he was born in Wales but when you try and change the first words on the page that say he is an English actor they tell you not to do it, they tell you don't call him British, don't call him Welsh, he is, you don't go by what his parents were you go by the place a person is born, that is their nationality, as an example i am Scottish born and have English parents, here in the UK we take our nationalities seriously and no way would a proud Welshman or Scotsman or Englishman or Irishman call themselves anything but that, we are all British but at the same time all 4 nations are individuals, especially when it comes to sporting events.
I would also add it does not matter what Bale himself considers his nationality, he apparently said in interviews he considers himself English although BBC news have called him Welsh, he was born in Wales, he is Welsh, there can be no argument of this, if there must be an argument then he should be called British since none of the 4 countries that make up the UK are independent, calling him English is incorrect though.
By the same token i would say Kiefer Sutherland is English, that's where he was born, sure he doesn't have the accent but your place of birth is your nationality, passports can say otherwise, it doesn't matter, bottom line is your place of birth.  Okay rant over, just venting today, i have strong opinions on this subject matter.
It's a bit more difficult for some of us over here in the Colonies to differentiate. I generally go with the term "British."
RAH
 

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theonemacduff said:
For another Spielberg film that has the same intermittently working vibe, try Always, which I have always loved for no reason whatsoever. THAT I want to see on BR soon.
Count me in on Always. What separates it from Empire to me is the emotional impact of the story. The sequences with Audrey Hepburn, though critical to the plotline, were too cute by half. Still, I much enjoyed the film. As for Empire, there was no emotional involvement for me; highlights were the Shanghai sequence where mother and child were separated, and the air raid (which took real guts to film with basically just one camera). The rest was slow (and dreary) going. Basically, I like movies, not "cinema".
 

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Rick Thompson said:
Count me in on Always. What separates it from Empire to me is the emotional impact of the story. The sequences with Audrey Hepburn, though critical to the plotline, were too cute by half. Still, I much enjoyed the film. As for Empire, there was no emotional involvement for me; highlights were the Shanghai sequence where mother and child were separated, and the air raid (which took real guts to film with basically just one camera). The rest was slow (and dreary) going. Basically, I like movies, not "cinema".
Always is the Spielberg film I've been waiting patiently on Blu-ray since I bought my first player - the DVD is non-anamorphic and not of the highest quality.
Dont know what it is about it, but each time I've watched Aways, it grabs me emotionally - simlar in some respects to ET.
Ghost came out at roughly the same time as Always, and although (IMHO) a lesser film, it became a huge box-office hit whereas Always flopped.
 

theonemacduff

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Yeah, I got Always on VHS I liked it so much, a rare letterboxed VHS. Never got the DVD, still waiting for an anamorphic copy. The flying sequences are incredibly dynamic, largely because the A-26 is a beautiful plane; kind of like a motorcycle – two big engines with an airframe draped around them to make 'em look pretty. One thing I liked about the film is that where previous airplane films kept the camera in close for cockpit shots (for fear of making it seem too obviously like rear screen projection), for Always Spielberg moved the camera back a bit, giving us more air, more surround, for those shots, instantly giving them more credibility and presence. And there are still parts of the film that choke me up, for example, the scene where Dreyfus' plane blows up, especially Goodman's reaction shot, which is stunning; or the scene where Holly Hunter, now an ATC, remembers her dead sweetheart. Yes, it's true, I'm a sucker for cheap emotional kicks at the movies; so sue me. Anyone who has a Spielberg contact please remind him that Always deserves a blu ray release, preferably before the 2025 fiftieth anniversary boxed set Spielberg Masterworks Collection comes out.
 

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