The Rooftop Blu-ray Review
A woman stands in an empty art gallery in front of a photograph of a man bowling. There’s not much to it; there’s certainly no reason to stare that long at it. And then we’re thrust into the photo, with springs to life with full color. Welcome to Galilee City.
Before we can adjust to the new world, there’s a musical number featuring wheelchair-bound men and their scantily-clad “nurses.” They’ve clearly gone over the hip-hop routine numerous times. The lyrics? Perhaps improvised. A sampling: Eat the grape, not the skin / Without the grapes I’ll hit all of the pressure points on your body / Eat the grapes, not the skin / I’ll hit the spot to make your laugh non-stop.
The happening place in town is The Rooftop, which has buildings that mimic a run-down ghetto but lights and design that make it feel like an acid-dripped soundstage—and you better believe they take advantage of that. Below that, wealthy men like Rango (Wang Xuegi, 2008’s FOREVER ENTHRALLED), the head of the City Housing Authority, rule.
The man with the bowling ball turns out to be Wax (writer/director Jay Chou, better known to Western audiences as Kato in 2011’s THE GREEN HORNET adaptation; he previously directed 2007’s SECRET, starring himself and Gwen Lun-Mei), whose purple bandana and two-story pompadour make him one of the more attractive men in Galilee. In between manic dance numbers, he swoons for a gorgeous actress and singer, Starling (Li Xinai, in her debut), and gets himself mixed up with some thugs.
But never mind the plot. When the end credits hit (an excruciating 116 minutes after the whole fiasco starts), you’ll remember THE ROOFTOP for everything except for how Wax saved the day.
Even though it gets a bit too serious and action-oriented in the final act, THE ROOFTOP is one of the most chaotic and strange movies of the year. It’s so over-the-top, you may not be able to process what you just saw. It is riddled with peculiar characters (what exactly is Po-Ye, owner of the local medicine house, selling?), frantic dance bits (in and on bathhouses, cliffs, markets, and, of course, bowling alleys) and shades of color you didn’t even know existed (let’s call that yellow one on Starling’s dress ‘canary orgasm’).
The movie may give you a headache, but the technical aspects are really remarkable. Although sometimes intrusively over-stylized, the cinematography by Mark Lee Ping Bin (who lensed IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE for Wong Kar-wai, among others) is top-notch and exactly what a movie of this sort requires. There is also the art direction by Liang Ji Yong and costumes by Wu Lilu, who both contribute in creating an environment that has rarely (if ever) been seen.
All of this combined, the viewer might be left trying to determine whether they were supposed to be laughing or not. If so, are we laughing at or with? Is Jay Chou aware just how out there THE ROOFTOP is? If not, then we can assume he’s one of Po-Ye’s Medical Hall’s most valued customers.
THE ROOFTOP BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.38:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. THE ROOFTOP is one of the most colorful movies of 2013 and, courtesy of a faithful transfer, this Blu-ray is one of the most vibrant. Every beam of light and splash of color (notably in The Rooftop sequences) comes through without flaw, making this a wildly vivid trip from start to finish.
Audio: Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0. Subtitles in English and Chinese. The audio transfer is also very strong. The dialogue in clean for the duration, but the real draw here are the musical numbers, which come through the speakers with great effect.