I Am Not Madame Bovary on DVD – The DVDfever Review

I Am Not Madame Bovary

I Am Not Madame Bovary is so-called as the lead character, Li Xuelian (Bingbing Fan), is considered a woman of ill repute (as she had an affair), and all following her failed marriage to Qin Yuhe (Li Zonghan), even though we can see he’s not a very nice man. Hence, the lead character doesn’t associate herself with her, but in this film, the woman is referred to as Madame Bovary. In China, the term is “Pan Jinlian”, so that’s the real title, but more people outside of that country are expected to be more familiar with the other (and presumably I would be if I read any books).

As we join Xuelian’s story, she wants to divorce her husband, but she might already be divorced, as she didn’t think she had a real divorce… if that makes sense. Well, that didn’t, and it doesn’t to her, either. It looks like it might’ve been a fake divorce. Since no-one – including any authoritarian figures – will help her divorce properly, and her ex-husband is a nasty piece of work, is the answer just to kill people?

Well, no, it doesn’t turn into that kind of film, but instead, she berates one official after another. And another. And another. And another. Then she meets up with an old friend Zhao Datou (Tao Guo) in Beijing. Then she berates more officials, threatening to sue everyone. Endlessly.

Yes, the main problem with this film is that its threadbare plot is really dragged out, and then it repeats the plot discussions over and over, either with Xuelian in the scene or without. I rarely think a film needs to last longer than two hours, and this one certainly doesn’t. In fact, it could all be wrapped up within an hour.


The film in circular format.


And then there’s the bizarre aspect ratios. Mostly, it’s 1:1 circular – yes, you heard me. Circular! Sometimes it’s around 1:1 square, although onscreen it looked a bit taller than it was wide, and occasionally there’s 16:9 and 2.55:1. It certainly ticks all the ‘arty’ boxes, and could be aligned with Michael Bay’s multi-ratio Transformers: The Last Knight, since that jumps between 1.90:1 and 2.35:1 for no apparent reason, other than he knows it annoys some people, although widescreen aspect ratio geeks like me loved that ‘aspect’ of it.

Yet, while the variations worked in that film, the circular ratio, which is used the most in this one, gets quite annoying as the film goes on.

When I saw the trailer and I’ve never seen a film that’s almost entirely shot in a circular ratio before. The closest thing to that I’ve seen was 2014’s Mommy, a French film which was shot in a mobile phone-type ratio, and as there were a lot of intense scenes in it, it was impossible to watch in one sitting. Great film, though. That also had a lot more of a story to it.


The film in 1:1 square format.


The film’s ratio I’ve commented on aplenty in this review, but as for the disc itself, the film is presented only on DVD, don’t expect the moon on a stick when it comes to picture quality. It’s fine. That’s it. Where’s the Blu-ray? They’re the ideal format and the one the world has moved on to, since it presents the film in HD, *but* there is still an option to watch it in HD, and that comes with the Amazon Video link above.

The audio is in DTS 5.1, and there are no particular split-surround shots, but some nice use of the soundscape when there’s beating drums.

The only extra is a trailer (1:29), which is a shame. As stated earlier, it’s entirely in the circular ratio.

The menu is static with a short piece of the music from the film, there are forced subtitles in English and just 14 chapters, which for a 139-minute movie, is not nearly enough. I always work on the rule of thumb of one every five minutes, so that’d be 28, in this case.

I Am Not Madame Bovary is out now on DVD and Amazon Prime, and check out the full-size cover by clicking on the packshot.


One of the film’s 2.55:1 scenes.


FILM
PICTURE QUALITY
SOUND QUALITY
EXTRAS
3
7
7
0
OVERALL 7.5


Detailed specs:
Cert:
Running time: 139 mins
Year: 2017
Distributor: Thunderbird Releasing
Released: October 2nd 2017
Chapters: 14
Cat.no: TRL374R0
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: Mandarian
Subtitles: English
Widescreen: 1.00:1 Circular, 1.00:1 Square, 2.55:1
Disc Format: BD50

Director: Xiaogang Feng
Producer: Dajun Zhang
Screenplay: Zhenyun Liu
Music: Wei Du

Cast:
Li Xuelian: Bingbing Fan
Wang Gongdao: Da Peng
Guo Nong: Fan Wei
Narrator: Xiaogang Feng
Zhao Datou: Tao Guo
Qin Yuhe: Li Zonghan
Lao Hu: Liu Hua
Zheng Zhong: Yu Hewei
Ma Wenbin: Zhang Jiayi
Jia Congming: Zhang Yi
Shi Weimin: Zhao Lixin

Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.
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