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Not One Less (Blu-ray Review)


The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Director Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers, Hero) made this reflective film, Not One Less, in 1999, eschewing the lavish visuals and outsized drama he had already become known for.

The film is set in a poverty-stricken village in China during the PRC’s nine year plan in the 1990s for compulsory education. Gao (Gao Enman) is the lone teacher in a ramshackle schoolhouse so desperate for funding he has to ration chalk and where some of the students are so poor many of them have to sleep there. When Gao has to leave for a month, the only substitute that can be found is a 13-year-old girl, Wei Minzhi (Wei Minzhi), who herself has not had a solid education, but she needs the money. Wei is overwhelmed by the task and not too interested in teaching beyond earning the money and trying to keep the children from misbehaving, but she can earn a 10-yuan bonus if none of the 28 children drop out by the time Gao returns. When one of the boys is sent away to the city to find work, Wei undertakes a treacherous journey to find him and bring him back, even as she is lost in the big city and finding few people who care until a TV station manager allows her to plead for her student on air.

What Zhang crafts with Not One Less is a quiet and intimate portrait of the grim reality of poverty, but the strength of will and humanity that still manages to prevail. This film is far from the historical pageantry of his films like Raise the Red Lantern, but no less a riveting drama. The use of amateurs in the leads often results in some stilted dialogue, but an authenticity to the feel of the film that is absent from the more removed productions he usually gives us.

The final act shows Wei growing as person and gaining a genuine care for her student, whom she did not like much to begin with. The film becomes not only an exploration of poverty and the effort of China to educate its populace, but a coming-of-age story for a teenage girl. Not One Less won the Golden Lion at the 1999 Venice Film Festival.

  • Wei Minzhi in Not One Less (1999)
  • Wei Minzhi in Not One Less (1999)
  • Not One Less (Imprint)
  • Not One Less (Imprint)

The Video

This high definition presentation of Not One Less is taken from a 2K scan. The film was originally shot on 16mm and arrives in a 1.78:1 AVC 1080p encodement on this release from Imprint Films. Since this is from 16mm, the detail and contrast are not as strong as a film shot on 35mm, but there is still a natural, filmic look, but there is also a lot of source damage in the form of tramlines, scratches, and some dirt apparent.

The Audio

The original Mandarin stereo mix is supplied in LPCM 2.0. The sound level is a little low, but the dialogue is clear and stereo imaging is fairly good for this dialogue-driven film.

The Supplements

The theatrical trailer (720p) is the only on-disc bonus feature, but the release comes in a Limited Edition slipcase on the first 1500 copies with unique artwork.

The Final Assessment

A touching drama with amateur actors playing roles similar to their real professions, this quiet drama from Zhang Yimou is touching and riveting, despite less-than-reference video quality. Imprint provides the release in a gorgeous limited edition package.

Not One Less (1999) – Imprint Collection #228 is out on Blu-ray June 28, 2023, from Imprint Films

  • Rating Certificate: Australia:G
  • Studios & Distributors: Guangxi Film Studio | Xin Huamian Film | Imprint Films
  • Director: Zhang Yimou
  • Written By: Shi Xiangsheng
  • Run Time: 106 Mins.
  • Street Date: 28 June 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: Mandarin LPCM 2.0 Stereo
  • Subtitles: English

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes Director Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers, Hero) made this reflective film, Not One Less, in 1999, eschewing the lavish visuals and outsized drama he had already become known for. The film is set in a poverty-stricken village in China...Not One Less (Blu-ray Review)