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No Studio presents
Chinese Dream (2004)

"The long path starts with a first step."
- Nurse (Patty Louie)

Review By: Nate Meyers  
Published: August 16, 2004

Stars: Qix Keith Chen
Other Stars: Evan Lei, Jimmy Leung, Yu Lew, Patty Louie, Scott Chan
Director: Victor Quinaz

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 16m:22s (long version); 14m:22s (short version)
Release Date: August 24, 2004
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B-B-C+ D-

DVD Review

Chinese Dream is a small tale about big time dreams. On the festival circuit, Victor Quinaz's film has been rounding up many accolades and it may now be on its way to an Academy Award nomination for best live action short film. It is easy to understand why this short narrative has made a name for itself—it has a lot of style. However, it doesn't offer a fully developed story.

Of course, a short film does not have much time to develop its characters or story. That is why it is a shame that writer-director-editor Quinaz did not make his narrative more taut. He succeeds in creating the atmosphere of the story's main character's world, but atmosphere can only do so much. Bo (Qix Keith Chen) lives in a cramped tenement with his co-workers. They work in a Chinese restaurant for the Boss (Evan Lei), who keeps them protected, he claims, from the Chinese government. It is obvious that Bo's boss is essentially treating his workers as slaves, but he also seems to be hiding something from them. When Bo reveals to his boss that he wants to go to New York City, he is beaten. All of the other characters in the film either ridicule Bo about his dream or discourage him from following it. Chen's performance allows the audience to relates to Bo's frustrations.

Yet despite the good acting, none of the characters ever feel three-dimensional. Perhaps this is what Quinaz is attempting to show—that people are mere shadows unless they pursue their dreams. This DVD contains two cuts of the film, one that runs 14m:24s and another containing an additional scene between Bo and his roommates (16m:22s). The shorter cut of the film is preferable, because the longer version's additional scene could potentially ruin the surprise ending for the viewer. However, both cuts never feel complete. Quinaz has a great deal of talent and should be a strong director (at the very least with short projects), but Chinese Dream feels like he is only flexing his muscle. He has made a handsome production with its own mood, but it is not entirely clear why the audience should invest themselves emotionally in this piece of work. In essence, it would be nice if the film was five to ten minutes longer so its themes and characters could be fleshed out just a little bit more.

Leaving its shortcomings aside, there are strengths in Chinese Dream. The acting is strong and so is the film's style. There is a beautiful shot of Bo washing dishes at work that is sped up to condense his entire shift into less than a minute. The problem with Quinaz's direction of the material is that it too dreary to make viewing the film entertaining. This is not to say that Quinaz needs to please his audience, but he should at least capture our spirit. The ending is too rushed for it to affect the audience the way he intends it too. The movie has style, but not enough heart.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Chinese Dream was shot on 16mm film in 1.85:1 widescreen. This nonanamorphic transfer does not hide the fact that 16mm is a grainy, gritty picture. Scenes with low light levels contain a lot of grain, but this cannot be blamed on the transfer. Contrast is stronger than one might expect, which makes this a pleasant viewing experience.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The film, although made in America, was performed in Mandarin Chinese. The dialogue is well balanced in the mix and the opening and closing scenes have a tremendous amount of bass (maybe even too much) in this mono mix. There is a slight hiss that permeates throughout, but this is probably a result of the original sound recording.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 9 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
Packaging: test disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are no supplemental features on this DVD. However, there are easy to read English subtitles and chapter stops. The packaging dOc received is a DVD-R jewel case.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

For those who are interested in seeing the grassroots filmmaking that is taking place in America these days, Chinese Dream is definitely worth a look. It has a lot of style but feels more like a trailer than a film in its own right. This DVD has a bassful mono sound mix and a strong transfer of the 16mm source footage.


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