Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Wanee and Junah

In the mood for love.

Wanee and Junah
Starring Joo Jin-Mo (Happy End, Musa) / Kim Hee-sun (Bichunmoo, The Myth)
Director Kim Yong-gyun

Taboo lite.

That's it, let this movie surprise you. Not a giggly giddy romance. Its thoughfulness keeps you glued, the fearful politeness necessary. The fluid leaps in time are candid the way memories surface like smiles from strangers. Plus the watercolor animation that bookends the movie is, plain and simple, beautiful.

Junah (Joo) is easily accessible because A.) He is a struggling writer; B.) He's fighting everything and everyone to keep what he has: live-in relationship, happiness, pride; c.) As a result of item B, he ends up trying too hard. Hits too close to home. X marks the heartbreak. Kim keeps uncomfortable moments burning under low fire, and true enough, they gnaw. They haunt. They hover like something you shouldn't have said. Or should have noticed. Can't help waiting for that spill over, that boiling point. The break-up.
You're in for one serious mood-fuck. ****

Palwol ui Christmas (Christmas in August)

Last Christmas.

Palwol ui Christmas (Christmas in August)

Starring Han Suk-kyu (Shiri) / Shim Eun-ha
Director Hur Hin-ho (April Snow)

(Because it's Christmas.)

Short, sweet, yet surprisingly tough. This movie about an unremarkable man with a terminal disease pulses with life, quiet and natural. Jung-won (Hang) chuckles, drinks with high school friends and falls in love in his last few weeks while he writes down instructions on how to run his photo developing store. His interaction with his family is mundane, devoid of drama and soundtrack, but the wonderfully expressive actor that Hang is, Jung-won always appears like he is memorizing everything. The flavors of his father's cooking; the conversations over watermelons.

Da-rim (Shim) enters his life in a stumble, harassed and unapologetic. But when she becomes a regular visitor, armed with ice cream and a secret smile, you know it's love.

In one of the film's best moments, Jung-won tries to teach his father how to operate the VCR. We've all been there; grrr-arrrgh. Jung-won storms out, frustrated. Desperate. In his room, he writes down detailed instructions. Step 1. Step 2. With such quiet formality, it fucking hurts. *****

Friday, December 09, 2005

Dalkomhan insaeng (A Bittersweet Life)

Bloody hell.

Dalkomhan insaeng (A Bittersweet Life)

Starring Lee Byung-hun (Joint Security Area) / Sin Min-ah (Volcano High)
Director Kim Jee-won (A Tale of Two Sisters, The Quiet Family)

An assassin and the boss’s luminous mistress. Like oxygen to a flame, the result is predictable combustion. Surprising and consuming. And as an action movie, this one cauterizes, fueled by feral rage. Sun Woo’s (Byung-hun) frantic punches and swings, fighting of twenty men in an abandoned warehouse, is epic. The camera shudders with every blood splatter. Insides lurch when rusty nails connect, digging too deeply in the ankle. Yet the movie keeps us guessing, all this for what? Sun Woo keeps emotions simmering; a trained killer precise as shattered glass yet awkward. Adolescent shy. The first few glances at Hee Soo (Min-ah) were fleeting. Her feet. Her neck. The lock of hair she tucks behind her ear. And the casual smile that makes everything worthwhile. It’s the small things that drive us crazy, really. Those uncalculated long last looks that make A Bittersweet Life great. *****