Pieta is latest movie from exceptional and famous Korean director Ki-duk Kim, known for such tranquil and dramatic masterpieces as 3-Iron, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring, Samaria and many more that I had no opportunity to watch yet. He is no stranger to Cannes and Venice film festivals, however this particular movie triumphed at Venice film festival earning most prestige award there, Golden Lion.
Gang-Do (Jeong-jin Lee) lives in a small once blooming industrial district known for it's crafty metalworking, that now is laying down in poverty and is slowly being swallowed by the big city. People leave, and the ones that stay are unable to make ends meet. Gang-Do is a cruel, heartless debt collector for a local loan shark. One day he encounters a woman, who claims to his own mother whom abandoned him at birth. Thinking it's some kind of cruel joke, he rejects her claims, but she doesn't let go and is tenacious so eventually after some times passes they start to bond together. But who she really is? What are her reasons for appearing so sudden?
Recently there has been big influx of fantastic Korean movies whose central theme revolves around mother figure. Almost all the influential Korean directors have made a movies about it, such as Mother, Poetry, Secret Sunshine. Which in itself is not a surprise, considering that every living person in the world has a mother, so the story possibilities are quite extensive. Now it was Ki-duk Kim's time to make one.
It's a bleak, and sad movie, devoid of any lasting happiness. Jeong-jin Lee's character is cruel, cruel to his new found mother, to creditors, to himself. The world that raised him was cruel too.
What grabbed my attention is interesting camera work that was present in the movie, almost all the shots were filmed with hand held camera, even the static close ups, which made for some shaky, and at times amateurish experience, which might be what director was going after.
Ill be honest, this so far is my least liked Ki-duk Kim's movie. While it was quite gloomy and brutal, I felt it somehow lacked that realism which I love in movies, the feeling that such people exist and such events might happen to them. It felt more like theater performance on the big scene with set pieces instead of actual world out there. Maybe it was intended to be in a such way, isolated, out of this world experience like famous Michelangelo's sculpture Pieta, an artwork to be displayed and seen alone, by itself. To capture a moment of life.
Nonetheless, it didn't win Golden Lion for no reason, so while it may not be to my liking, definitely watch it and be a judge for yourself.
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Peppermint Candy (Bakha satang) is yet another piece from our old friend director Chang-dong Lee, a talented novelist, scriptwriter, teacher and former Culture Minister of South Korea. This, his second movie, was his first award sponge and the one that launched him into elite of Korean movie-makers.
On a bank of small river in some rural area, there is a small reunion of group of students taking place. Soon a man arrives, who was once a part of this group, but his behavior is irrational and confounded, even hysterical. He without saying much wrecks the party and then proceeds to nearby train tracks where he stands and faces oncoming train. In a manner, his live flashes before his very own eyes.
And we as a viewers are invited to see important events of his live that lead him to where he is standing.
A really sad story of a man, a series of a flashbacks that go deeper and deeper into his past. 20 years of a one mans life, and 20 years of entire country's turbulent history.
Masterfully crafted series of flashbacks, that each could deserve it's own short-film. And each meant to evoke certain emotions into viewer regarding the man we observe, his ambitions, and to explain why he is what he is and where he is. Fear, anger, hate and love.
Captivating performance by Kyung-gu Sol which enhances the almost flawless narration of the director. A must see struggle with life for every drama fan.
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Bleak Night (Pasookkoon) is what you might call an indie film that started out as graduation project, made by young director Sung-Hyun Yoon and young actor crew, that gained many praising critic reviews and awards in local movie scene.
Big thanks to reader who goes by nickname poolfish1 for bringing this one to my attention!
As the movie starts, we follow a disheartened father (Seong-ha Jo), who is now alone in his family. His wife, mother of his son has died long time ago, and his son recently committed suicide. Looking for answers and trying to understand reasons of his sons demise, he seeks for classmates and friends of his son.
The premise of this movie really simple. After the questions are being asked, the focus of movie entirely shifts to the boys, son and his friends. The narrative of the movie follows two paths, one of present time, and one of reminiscing past, where complicated relationships of these highschool boys are show, and these paths intersect each other in artistically seamless way.
As Aristotel had said once:
What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.Important theme in the movie is said friendship. How our actions form grudges and they in their turn form cracks in foundation of this trust of most importance that's given to people close to us. And how this abusing this trust may lead to bleaker consequences. It also provides insight into what may lead a person to suicide.
The cinematography of this film is gorgeous, I absolutely adore the visual style used in it. The sound is perfect. The actors, a performances of highest levels, not a single miscast. I hope they along with director of the film will have bright future in cinema world.
A slow paced, even meditative film, full of sadness and regrets. Some may find it uneventful and boring, some will love it. In my eyes, it's a masterpiece. Highly recommended (but not for everyone).
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Going by the Book (Bareuge salja) is yet another lesser known quality product of South Korea. Directed by Hee-chan Ra, who despite being almost unheard of before managed to secure box office success locally for his first feature film.
I'll allow myself to quote a bit from Wiki:
Jung Do-man (Jae-yeong Jeong) is a low-ranking traffic cop whose tendency to do things "by the book" sometimes gets him in trouble, such as when he pulls over his new boss, newly instated police chief Lee Seung-man (Byung-ho Son), and issues him with a traffic ticket.
What police chief thought would make for an easy PR trick for hungry public eyes, turns out to be quite an opposite.
It managed to squeeze out of me a lot of good hearted laughs, while keeping the flow of story interesting and engaging. While it's a comedy, it's not a wacky one, and offers quite a number of serious scenes.
What can I say, I really enjoyed it. Good camera work, great performances and most important great humor. Not everyone will find it to their humor taste, but those who do, will definitely have a great time.
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No Mercy for the Rude (Yeui-eomneun geotdeul) is movie written and directed by Cheol-hie Park, so far his only one, which is a shame, because judging from this work, he is really good at what he does.
A chef who dreams to become a matador. Embarrassed to talk, playing mute since childhood because of his tongue deformation, he decides to fix this, but a lot of money is required for corrective operation. Unable to provide it with usual means, he becomes a hitman for local crime organization. A hitman who vows to kill only ones whom he consider rude.
But good things usually don't last... bad fortune smiles upon him, just few jobs short to his goal, he makes a mistake during hit and gets into a huge mess with local crime figures.
The cinematography is brilliant, soundtrack is absolutely amazing, featuring latin rhythms and mesmerizing use of Anita Lane cover of Bella Ciao.
But the strongest part it's the actors performance. Starring Ha-kyun Shin whom is fantastic actor, known for many famous Korean movies. His narration and portrayal of this difficult character, who imposes himself to be a real macho, wearing leather, and sunglasses, while overdoing it, even at night, while underneath being and dreaming something entirely different.
This movie carries that character archetype, seen in movies like A Bittersweet Life, The Man From Nowhere and Leon: The Professional which I absolutely adore.
I really hope to see more from this director in future. Highly recommended.
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Who said that master of vengeance Chan-wook Park can't film romantic comedies? I don't know, but if someone did say that, I'd present to him I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK (Ssaibogeujiman Gwaenchanha) and ask to check again.
Cha Young-goon (Su-jeong Lim), a young factory worker that is sent to mental institution, because she think's shes a cyborg. She refuses to eat food and constantly attempts to expose herself to electric shocks, believing that it will recharge her instead.
Park Il-sun (Rain), a young man, that's hospitalized for his antisocial behavior and schizophrenia induced kleptomania tendencies. He also believes that he can steal and posses other people souls, often mimicking their manners of behaving.
Park Il-sun takes interest in Cha Young-goon well being after her condition gets even worse after medical electroshock treatment. Both of them start spending their time together, living though their own weirdness and the ones of other patient that surround them in this asylum.
The structure and narrative of the movie is quite bizarre and at times confusing, but so is minds of the characters portrayed in it. Even though these characters are complex and puzzling, the story told is quite simple.
Visually really colorful and robust movie deals about darker and familiar to Chan-wook Park themes, workings of human mind, but this time he is taking it a little bit lighter, tying to fix it instead of damaging.
Korean pop superstars Rain's first role in movies that many thought was only a marketing ploy to promote himself and film, not expecting young star to perform well, but they were wrong, he's not only a good (I suppose) singer, but a good actor as well. Su-jeong Lim should too be complemented on her acting abilities. Being crazy is not that simple.
A little bit of comedy, drama and absolutely crazy fantasy sequences, directed by Chan-wook Park, whats there not to see? It's worth watching even if only to check out a different side of this famous director.
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