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Wolf Totem (2015) (DVD-9) (China Version) DVD Region All

Jean-Jacques Annaud (Director) | William Feng (Actor) | Shawn Dou (Actor) | Yin Zhu Sheng (Actor)
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YesAsia Editorial Description

Based on Lu Jiamin's award-winning, slightly controversial semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, Wolf Totem examines the different, intersecting relationships between humans and wolves in Inner Mongolia. Starring William Feng (The Golden Era) and Shawn Dou (Under the Hawthorn Tree), the film is directed by famed French director Jean-Jacques Annaud, whose 1997 film Seven Years in Tibet remains banned in China to this day.

In 1969, Beijing students Chen Zhen (William Feng) and Yang Ke (Shawn Dou) are sent to live with Inner Mongolian shepherds as part of China's Down to the Countryside Movement. Chen develops an intense fascination with wolves after witnessing shepherds interacting with the animals, and resolves to raise one himself. However, when an incident forcibly breaks the peace between the shepherds and the wolves, Chen finds himself caught in the middle of a dangerous battle.

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Technical Information

Product Title: Wolf Totem (2015) (DVD-9) (China Version) 狼圖騰 (2015) (DVD-9) (中國版) 狼图腾 (2015) (DVD-9) (中国版) 狼圖騰 (2015) (DVD-9) (中国版) Wolf Totem (2015) (DVD-9) (China Version)
Artist Name(s): William Feng (Actor) | Shawn Dou (Actor) | Yin Zhu Sheng (Actor) | Ba Sen Zha Bu (Actor) 馮 紹峰 (Actor) | 竇 驍 (Actor) | 尹 鑄勝 (Actor) | 巴森扎布 (Actor) 冯 绍峰 (Actor) | 窦 骁 (Actor) | 尹 铸胜 (Actor) | 巴森扎布 (Actor) 馮紹峰(ウィリアム・フォン) (Actor) | 竇驍 (ショーン・ドウ) (Actor) | Yin Zhu Sheng (Actor) | Ba Sen Zha Bu (Actor) 풍소봉 (Actor) | Shawn Dou (Actor) | Yin Zhu Sheng (Actor) | Ba Sen Zha Bu (Actor)
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud 尚積葵亞諾 尚积葵亚诺 ジャン=ジャック・アノー Jean-Jacques Annaud
Writer: Jiang Rong 姜戎 姜戎 Jiang Rong Jiang Rong
Release Date: 2015-05-27
Language: Mandarin
Subtitles: Simplified Chinese
Country of Origin: China
Picture Format: NTSC What is it?
Sound Information: Dolby Digital 2.0, DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1
Disc Format(s): DVD, DVD-9
Region Code: All Region What is it?
Duration: 128 (mins)
Package Weight: 100 (g)
Shipment Unit: 1 What is it?
YesAsia Catalog No.: 1041790815

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This film has received 2 award nomination(s). All Award-Winning Asian Films

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YumCha! Asian Entertainment Reviews and Features

Professional Review of "Wolf Totem (2015) (DVD-9) (China Version)"

September 30, 2015

This professional review refers to Wolf Totem (2015) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version)
What a difference eighteen years makes. Once banned from China for the 1997 Hollywood film Seven Years in Tibet, French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud directs a film for China with the frontier epic Wolf Totem. Based on a novel by Jiang Rong, the film is not Annaud's first step into Chinese film's good graces, as he served on the jury of the Shanghai International Film Festival in 2012. There's a story there, having to do with the China film industry's growing power, Annaud's experience with animals (he directed the 1988 adventure The Bear), and probably his networking skills, but this is a film review and should concentrate on, I dunno, maybe the film itself and not behind-the-camera politics. And as a film, Wolf Totem provides engaging and picturesque entertainment if little in the way of innovation. Also: prairies and wolves, for fans of either or both.

In 1967, during the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, Chen Zhen (William Feng, not playing Bruce Lee’s role from Fist of Fury) and Yang Ke (Shawn Dou) are intellectuals who sent to the Mongolian prairies to teach the nomads while also learning to be good, hard-working proletariats. Integrating quickly into their assigned tribe, Chen and Yang are soon asked by the local cadre of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to help exterminate the local wolf pack, which is endangering the PLA's horses and sheep. The process includes the unfortunate killing of wolf cubs, but Chen captures one cub to personally raise in secret. His time in the country, not to mention a harrowing escape from some adult wolves, has piqued his interest in the prairie’s resident predators. Unfortunately, Chen’s violation of PLA edict is discovered, while the wolves begin subsequent, intelligent attacks on the human settlements.

Wolf Totem immediately engages with its "man meets nature" storyline, its prairie setting and the wolves, who alternate between cute (the cubs) and threatening (the adult wolves, duh). An early action sequence, following the wolves as they herd unwitting gazelles into a frozen lake, is thrilling and illuminating, and offers a startling glimpse of the wolve' intelligence. Other aspects of the film are less well-developed. Chen Zhen's bond with his own wolf isn't fully explored; while we do see Chen learning to raise his wolf, we don't experience an emotional connection between the two, and the wolf never becomes much of a character (at least, not as much as some of the antagonist wolves). Also, Chen occasionally appears unsympathetic, as he doesn't noticeably consider the repercussions of his actions. Another subplot features Chen's attraction to a married nomad, Gasma (Ankhnyam Ragchaa), but their relationship mostly fulfills plot functions and never becomes that compelling.

Despite these issues, William Feng is a solid lead and gives Jiang Rong's alter-ego (the novel is semi-biographical) the proper stubborn naiveté. In contrast, Shawn Dou's character is only a sounding board for Chen Zhen if not merely wallpaper. The elder supporting actors fare well; Basen Zhabu (who kicked ass as Guan Yu in John Woo's Red Cliff) shows grizzled presence as the tribe leader Bilig, while Yin Zhusheng offers some moral complexity as PLA official Bao Shungui. The film steps into interesting territory with its interactions between intellectuals, nomads and card-carrying communists, but little is really gleamed from that dynamic. Primarily, the film makes a point of how human incursion threatens the natural order – an effective but familiar theme announced plainly in the film’s early going. Still, when Bilig tells Chen Zhen, "You captured a god to turn it into a slave," his words carry meaningful weight. Wolf Totem works primarily as a commercial adventure-drama. Technically, the film is top-notch; the visuals are superb, with sweeping vistas and a number of deftly-directed sequences featuring the wolves that create genuine tension. The score from the late James Horner is stirring if occasionally overblown, while the CGI used for the wolves is terrific. Jean-Jacques Annaud goes for more universal themes in Wolf Totem, making the film very accessible to wider audiences. The film could have amounted to much more, given the time period and the cultural setting, but overall it satisfies with its fine production values, easily-digested environmental message and, of course, the wolves, whose dangerous and enigmatic presence gives the film remarkable tension. There are some plot holes and questionable moments, but nothing that's a deal breaker. Wolf Totem possesses much unrealized potential, but we would be remiss to not recognize everything that it does accomplish.

by Kozo -

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