Commentators: Bey Logan, Cheng Pei Pei, Marsha Yuen

Now here’s an example where there’s a brilliant commentary going on but jeez, the technical aspects! Logan’s a UK born Hong Kong film freak who has a deserved reputation in the West as one of the big popularizers of HK’s film history to an English-speaking audience, Cheng Pei Pei was the villainness in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon but has decades of film experience under her belt (this film being one of her most well-known efforts — its reputation as one of the best ever HK productions certainly seems deserved) and Marsha Yuen is her daughter, an aspiring actress in her own right. The whole feeling of the commentary is loose, relaxed, quite informative in both details and general scope, darting from noting the cinematographic qualities of a shot to the nature of HK film production in the mid-sixties, from filming things backwards to get them looking right on screen to why films were shot in what particular Chinese dialect at what particular time, from pronounciation lessons to the use of drums on the soundtrack and more. Logan’s a merry motormouth, quick but never so fast as to obscure his points, Cheng a font of information, considered but just as sharp as Logan, Yuen more generally appreciative than anything else.

But thus the problem! The way the commentary is miked is, simply, ridiculous. Yuen is the most forward in the mix, almost painfully up front — not that she’s got a bad voice, but the problem is that the volume has to be cranked to hear everyone else. Logan is in the middle, able to be heard and all but sounding distanced from the microphone, while Cheng is, sadly, barely audible…at least not unless the volume is really pumped. And then Yuen is horribly loud in turn, and since she’s adding the least in terms of relevant info (to be fair, she does have stories remembered from her mom as well as a variety of worthy observations on technique, both cinematic and in martial arts terms), the problem gets compounded. It gets all the more sadly comic when at one point the three joke about Yuen doing some exercises to keep awake a bit because she’s in ‘the corner of the studio,’ but why they miked the corner and not the center is one for the ages. A missed opportunity, there’s everything you ever wanted in a commentary like this but the ability to really enjoy this.