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Sparrow (DVD) (US Version) DVD Region 1

Kelly Lin (Actor) | Simon Yam (Actor) | Gordon Lam (Actor) | Lo Hoi Pang
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Sparrow (DVD) (US Version)
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Customer Rating: Customer Review Rated Bad 8 - 8 out of 10 (2)

YesAsia Editorial Description

Premiering at the Berlin Film Festival with stops at the Udine Far East Film Festival and the New York Asian Film Festival, Johnnie To's Sparrow is certainly well-traveled. The award-winning director took three years to make this gorgeous little film characterized by vibrant locations and heaps of entertaining style. To enlisted many of his regular players for Sparrow - including Simon Yam, Kelly Lin, Gordon Lam, Lo Hoi Pang, and Lam Suet - and each plays their part with solid, practiced charisma. But this is clearly Johnnie To's show, and the director delivers an engaging cinema love letter demonstrating his affection for both his city and the movies. This whimsical thriller creates a glamorous Hong Kong filled with gentleman pickpockets, elegant damsels, and unspoken honor amongst thieves. As lovely and enjoyable as it is breezy and smart, Sparrow is a Hong Kong movie with grace, wit, and abundant cinematic pleasure.

The dapper Kei (Simon Yam) leads a four-man team of pickpockets (played by Gordon Lam, Kenneth Cheung, and Law Wing Cheong), each adept at relieving unsuspecting tourists of their valuables. But their daily thievery is interrupted when Chung Chun Lei (Kelly Lin) enters their lives, bringing with her an elegance and mystery that immediately attracts. She approaches each man separately, drawing each in like moths to a flame, but what's her angle? Is she a thief? A damsel in distress? And why is she constantly on the run from suit-wearing thugs? Chun Lei most definitely means trouble, as her interference - and a sultry cry for help - threatens the foursome's solidarity. Ever the experienced leader, Kei knows that it's best for pickpockets to keep a very low profile, and desires for his men to attract as little attention as possible. But when Kei's skills are challenged by an elder, more experienced thief, he goes all in, risking everything to help Chun Lei.

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Technical Information

Product Title: Sparrow (DVD) (US Version) 文雀 (DVD) (美國版) 文雀 (DVD) (美国版) Sparrow (DVD) (US Version) Sparrow (DVD) (US Version)
Artist Name(s): Kelly Lin (Actor) | Simon Yam (Actor) | Gordon Lam (Actor) | Lo Hoi Pang | Lam Suet | Law Wing Cheong 林熙蕾 (Actor) | 任達華 (Actor) | 林家棟 (Actor) | 盧海鵬 | 林雪 | 羅永昌 林熙蕾 (Actor) | 任达华 (Actor) | 林家栋 (Actor) | 卢海鹏 | 林雪 | 罗永昌 林熙蕾(ケリー・リン) (Actor) | 任達華 (サイモン・ヤム) (Actor) | 林家棟(ラム・カートン) (Actor) | 廬海鵬(ロー・ホイパン) | 林雪 (ラム・シュー) | 羅永昌(ロー・ウィンチョン) Kelly Lin (Actor) | 임 달화 (Actor) | Gordon Lam (Actor) | Lo Hoi Pang | Lam Suet | Law Wing Cheong
Director: Johnnie To 杜琪峯 杜琪峯 杜琪峰 (ジョニー・トー)  Johnnie To
Release Date: 2008-09-05
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin
Subtitles: English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese
Country of Origin: Hong Kong
Picture Format: NTSC What is it?
Aspect Ratio: 1.78 : 1
Widescreen Anamorphic: Yes
Closed Captioning: Yes
Sound Information: Dolby Digital 5.1
Disc Format(s): DVD-9, DVD
Region Code: 1 - USA, Canada, U.S. Territories What is it?
Rating: IIA
Duration: 87 (mins)
Publisher: Tai Seng Video (US)
Package Weight: 120 (g)
Shipment Unit: 1 What is it?
YesAsia Catalog No.: 1011633749

Product Information

* Special Features:
- Interview
- Making Of

Director: Johnnie To

Kei (Simon Yam) is an experienced "sparrow". He enjoys a carefree lifestyle taking photos with his vintage Rolleiflex. One day a dashing beauty, Chun Lei (Kelly Lin), suddenly appears in Kei's viewfinder. The sparrow is mesmerized. But behind Chun Lei's attractive facade lies a mysterious past and a mission to set herself free.
Additional Information may be provided by the manufacturer, supplier, or a third party, and may be in its original language

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Awards

This film has won 1 award(s) and received 6 award nomination(s). All Award-Winning Asian Films

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YumCha! Asian Entertainment Reviews and Features

Professional Review of "Sparrow (DVD) (US Version)"

September 2, 2008

Was it worth the wait? Three years is a long time to make a film, especially one as short and slight as Johnnie To's Sparrow. To pieced Sparrow together over the course of three years, writing the script as he went with the Milkyway Creative Team, and asking actors back to film new scenes when necessary. The same process was used to create his acclaimed 2003 thriller PTU, but that film was likely easier for international audiences to accept. It was a Milkyway crime film that arrived after years of no Milkyway crime films, while Sparrow is a light, playful movie that resembles a French musical and not a down-and-dirty Hong Kong thriller. That doesn't sound like the usual Johnnie To recipe for success.

The plus to Sparrow is that it's To at his most personal; the man put the film together because it was the film he wanted to make, and witnessing the playtime of one of Hong Kong's best directors should never be considered a waste of time. But despite our love for all things Johnnie To, Sparrow really isn't all that, and possesses little narrative thrust or depth to compensate for its brisk pace and cineaste-pleasing style and verve. That said, the film provides loads of cineaste-pleasing style and verve, and predictably, it's all quite enjoyable. Ladies and gentlemen: this is your Johnnie To style over substance moment.

Simon Yam stars as Kei, the leader of a gang of four pickpockets, played by Gordon Lam, Law Wing-Cheong (moonlighting from usual directing and editing duties, e.g. Hooked on You), and Kenneth Cheung. The film opens with Kei prepping for his day, bemused at the appearance of a sparrow flying into his Hong Kong Island-located flat. He relates the incident to his three comrades over a generic Hong Kong breakfast, but the three take it as an omen of bad luck. Afterwards, the four proceed to demonstrate their supremacy at their craft, creating distractions and snatching wallets in an amazing seamless shot. The camera follows them as they deftly take mark after mark, and from this single shot the message seems to be that the pickpocket's life is a wonderful thing.

This early sequence oozes nonchalant charm and playfulness, and depicts the four not as amoral thieves but as charming rogues whose vocation just happens to fall on the other side of the law. Cinema can give positive life to the most unlikely of people, and while thieves have a long tradition of glorification in the movies, To seemingly gives these characters their own uniqueness and Hong Kong flavor. Kei may wear nicely tailored suits and ride a bicycle like he's vacationing in Europe, but he also orders spam and egg on rice in local cafes, and wanders around well-chosen Hong Kong locations that highlight the city's cultural charm as well as its urban architecture and cosmopolitan feel. Sparrow portrays Hong Kong as a romantic and very lovely place - a very large reason that the film feels as seductive as it does.

Further seduction occurs with the appearance of Chung Chun-Lei (Kelly Lin), who first shows up in Kei's sights while he's taking a photo in Central with his super-cool antique camera. He's quickly enchanted by her alluring, damsel-in-distress-and-an-expensive-dress looks, but he's left with nothing but a photo from this first encounter. Curiously, Chun-Lei soon appears in front of the other three pickpockets too, obviously charming each man with the same combination of mystery and glamour, if not outright sexuality. She's obviously the film's metaphorical sparrow, flitting into each man's life and providing that moment of brief, enchanting magic that makes one think that there's more at play than simple happenstance.

But is she bad luck? She's obviously hiding something, and may even be up to no good. Is she a high-class thief? A runaway heiress? A duplicitous femme fatale? Her appearances come with few words and mostly action, drawing us into the mystery of her identity while also giving Johnnie To a chance to show off his talent for irony and good, old-fashioned cinematic storytelling. One moment where Kei and Chun-Lei share a cigarette seems lifted from an old Cary Grant-Grace Kelly caper film, and Lin and Yam ably channel Johnnie To's Hong Kong interpretation of what Hong Kong movie glamour should be. The lively score by Xavier Jamaux and Fred Avril gives every movement and glance pitch-perfect accompaniment. This is cinema to absorb and savor, and is innately enjoyable thanks to its rhythmic pace and flowing visual wit.

The problem is there may not be much to Sparrow besides cinematic sensory pleasure. To and his team of writers create an attractive and sophisticated world filled with charismatic thieves and unspoken rules of honor, but the meat of the film is absent, as many of the undeniably gorgeous scenes don't apply to a complete, compelling whole. The mystery of Chun-Lei's actions seems somewhat unconnected to her true predicament, and the film's main conflict - between Kei's band of pickpockets and an old-school crew of thieves - seems to come largely out of nowhere. Like Throwdown, Sparrow exists in a world where far too many people are versed in an esoteric art - in this case, it's being able to pick pockets via sleight of hand, quick reflexes, and razor blades carried on the tip of one's tongue - and realistically speaking, the idea isn't credible or even that exciting. Sparrow takes place in a Johnnie To world with Johnnie To characters, and that's supposed to be enough to convince audiences who paid money that they're watching a good movie.

Truthfully, what To creates is enough, provided that audiences go in expecting for Johnnie To to work his magic cinema fingers in whatever way he wishes - and not in a manner that the audience necessarily desires. Sparrow is only a disappointment if one goes in expecting a certain sort of film, e.g. a return to P.T.U. or Exiled, or perhaps a regular commercial picture, where the obvious and the routine are handed over efficiently by whatever hack filmmakers are at the helm. Johnnie To has long been more than a hack filmmaker as his films are artful and very thoughtful. They're put together with effort and skill, and even when they falter, there is some evidence of a direction or intent that's worth admiring. Sparrow seems obvious in its intent: it just wants to have fun, both with its characters and with cinema, and To certainly does have fun. His giddy enjoyment is present in nearly every frame.

The fun factor of Sparrow makes it difficult to really slam it. Unlike Throwdown (Sparrow's closest comparison, considering its themes, characters, and obtuse screenplay), Sparrow does not deliver anything truly affecting. Throwdown used its cinematic set pieces to develop its characters or demonstrate emotional catharsis; Sparrow doesn't seem to even attempt that, using its style to signal nothing more than superficial cinema coolness. Only at one or two moments does the film really dig beneath its exterior to show something compelling. Otherwise, the film is never more than a collection of technical superlatives, from art direction to locations to music to the actors, with the usual Milkyway crew handling their genre-typical roles to near perfection.

Sparrow simply screams Johnnie To from frame one until its excessive slow-motion pick-pocket finale, a noted homage to the French musical Umbrellas of Cherbourg that simultaneously dazzles and confounds. The sequence is a microcosm of the whole film; it's lovely and mesmerizing, but also alienating because it's style over discernible substance. An audience member who swears allegiance to Johnnie To will probably be with him every step of the way, citing his assured style as enough reason to call the film quality. But those who've raised eyebrows at To's past displays of arch cleverness? They may turn up their nose and call it an empty Johnnie To show. Better to split the difference, and let Sparrow fly unfettered by critical cynicism. Frankly, it makes the film easier to enjoy. There's sound and fury here, and while it may signify nothing, it's still something to behold.

by Kozo - LoveHKFilm.com

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This original content has been created by or licensed to YesAsia.com, and cannot be copied or republished in any medium without the express written permission of YesAsia.com.

Customer Review of "Sparrow (DVD) (US Version)"

Average Customer Rating for this Edition: Customer Review Rated Bad 8 - 8 out of 10 (2)

Hon Wai Chun
See all my reviews


October 7, 2008

1 people found this review helpful

Slow... a little boring Customer Review Rated Bad 6 - 6 out of 10
If you are looking for some excitement from this movie, you'll be disappointed. Make sure you have enough sleep before watching this movie.
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Kevin Kennedy
See all my reviews


October 4, 2008

1 people found this review helpful

A movie lover's delight! Customer Review Rated Bad 10 - 10 out of 10
"Sparrow" charms the viewer with its pervasive air of mystery and ravishing cinematic beauty. Simon Yam and his mischievous group of pickpockets become captivated by the allure of damsel in distress Kelly Lin. Lin manipulates the boys into seeking to free her from the grasp of a mob boss. The elusive story draws the viewer in, the cinematography enchants the eye, and the soundtrack music captivates the ear. Director Johnnie To orchestrates this cinematic feast with a master's touch and brings it to a satisfying resolution. I loved this movie and expect you will, too. (Note to MilkyWay: Please release this beautiful soundtrack music on a CD!)
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