Note that King and the Clown was released on December 29, so it is listed on the page Seoul population: Korean , Imported Total admissions: Sporting perpetual bruises on his face, he spends his free time reading martial arts manuals and taking fighting lessons from various adults in town, in a desperate attempt to learn how to defend himself. Nothing seems to do any good, however. One day, at a private reading room, he comes across an eccentric old man named Pan-su who possesses an amazing skill for fighting.
It's not that he is powerfully acrobatic or unnaturally strong, it's that he is a seasoned expert in down-to-earth, realistic modes of fighting.
In other words, he fights dirty. Pan-su somewhat reluctantly takes Byung-tae under his wing and starts to teach him what he has learned about fighting and about life.
These include gems of wisdom such as, "Sand and spit are the most useful objects at hand during a fight. Debut director Shin Han-sol's The Art of Fighting is a different sort of action film, one that largely avoids impressive displays of physical movement, and instead focuses on the gritty, sensual aspects of fighting.
Set in a grim, ugly-looking town where the people seem motivated by boredom rather than any enthusiasm for life, the film is most memorable for its black humor and the great presence shown by its two lead actors.
With vulnerability and steely determination reflected in his eyes, Jae Hee, best known from Kim Ki-duk's 3-Iron, is well-suited to the role of Byung-tae. It may seem superfluous to say this after 3-Iron, but Jae really can communicate a great deal to the viewer even when he is not speaking. Here he plays this role with a mixture of world-weary passivity and sudden, electric bursts of violence. Although lacking the depth of the other roles he has played in the past few years, Pan-su possesses an attitude that is uniquely Baek Yoon-shik.
The Art of Fighting is well acted and capably put together, with a mostly predictable but engrossing narrative. Yet the film leaves you with an odd sense of emptiness. Part of this may be due to the inherent pessimism in the work, and its portrayal of a town where life is bleak and unlikely to improve. Yet on a cinematic level too, one wishes that there were just a bit more substance to the film. Ultimately Art of Fighting is worth watching, but is unlikely to rank as one of the highlights of Park's short "Seaside Flower" follows days in the life of Eun-hye, an elementary-school-aged girl with Down's syndrome.
Through the swatches of her life we see her isolation from her peers and her single mother's Seo Ju-hee of Flower Island struggle to make up for the evil that kids do. Eun-hye's closest friend is an elderly woman who lives too far away to see every day.
Compensating for this lack of regular camaraderie, Eun-hye has also created an imaginary friend. Eun-hye is played by a girl Jeong Eun-hye with actual Down's syndrome and some of her own experiences were brought into the short.
In this way, "Seaside Flower" represents what might be a continuing theme in the series, allowing a character to play themselves or at least indigenously represent the community explored within the short, as Yeo Kyun-dong ventured in the first series in his short about the physically disabled which featured Kim Moon-ju, an actor with cerebral palsy.
Ryoo's short "Hey Man! The packed crowd at 's PIFF who saw this film along with me laughed continuously at Kim Su-yeon's character who has been in Ryoo's films Die Bad, No Blood, No Tears, and Crying Fist , a character who learns the lesson be careful who you hate, because your hate might leave you on your own.
Made while he was still working on his essay on masculinity that was Crying Fist, Ryoo provides an added treat with a surprise cameo by someone from the previous series, making me wonder if this is also going to be a regular aspect of the future omnibuses.
I don't know about you, but I like the sound of the word "omnibuses. The pacing is perfect, the images of the friends in arms racing through the city still stay with me, and there's a nice little placement of one of the symbols of capitalism that brought a bit of laughter to what is otherwise a short full of sorrow, even more sorrowful considering its partly based on a true story. Speaking of true stories, let me jump out of the order of this omnibus and mention the last short, Kim Dong-won's documentary about Korean-Chinese immigrants, "Jongno, Winter.
Kim's documentary interviews several Korean-Chinese, people whose illegitimate residency risks being exposed by appearing in this film, and they share with us the struggles in their lives due to the limits placed on their status in South Korea. The center of this documentary is around one particular person, Kim Won-sub, a Korean-Chinese who died in the streets of Hyehwa-dong from the cold on December 9, , a day when director Kim himself was in that very neighborhood.
Yes, the air-conditioning may have had something to do with it, but I think something more was responsible for the chill I felt while watching this film. But instead of making me feel something, Jang Jin's short "Someone Grateful" pictured made me think something. That is, how amazing Jang is in his complexity, weaving together a story like no one else in South Korean cinema today.
Jang chose to look at the discrimination of contract workers. But he couldn't stop there; he had to bring in the political tortures of South Korea's past to make his point. As Jang said during the discussion after the screening at PIFF, when portraying such historical torture scenes, he's very cognizant that someone in his crew might have experienced the simulacrum in front of them.
To approach such a sensitive topic in such a satirical way takes a very steady hand, and I can think of no one else I'd want on the optic operating table than Jang. The key joke in the film revolves around a paper-and-pencil game about which I am unfamiliar, but the crowd lost it when Jang brought his creative wit to this game of the Korean everyday.
And it is that packed crowd that was just as much a part of my If You Were Me 2 experience as the shorts themselves. Unlike the thirtysomething and over hip crowds that flock to festivals in the United States and elsewhere I've attended such as Austria and Italy , high school kids, college students dominate at PIFF. And the fact that they were so engaged with this omnibus human rights film throughout and after the screening, I can't help but hope that when these young South Koreans position themselves in places of power, they might remember what they've seen here and try to make things better for the real people who inspired what's on screen.
Adam Hartzell Ssunday Seoul Ssunday Seoul is an omnibus consisting of three short stories and hilariously bizarre opening and closing sequences, taking the stale genre of comedy momentarily away from 'funny' gangsters and feisty lovers.
Bizarre is the operative word when describing the film and the characters running through it, and most of the movie takes on the atmosphere of a light-hearted Twilight Zone. The first chapter of the omnibus is a familiar coming of age story with a twist. Mercilessly teased and bullied, Do-yeon Bong Tae-gyu knows that he is the low man on the totem pole at his high school where he daydreams about the drop-dead gorgeous Ji-yeon Ko Eun-ah who sits in front of him in class.
However, the living hell he faces daily changes dramatically when he discovers himself sprouting tufts of hair in unusual places and developing fangs. When his parents inform him that he is actually from a long line of werewolves, Do-yeon greets the fact with a mixture of despair and terror. The resulting story of learning to accept oneself is an interesting metaphor for the difficulties of adolescence.
Another episode affectionately parodies the kung-fu movies of old where we find a man named Typhoon Kim Su-hyeon seeking to train with a mystic master of martial arts in order to take revenge on the man who killed his father. The acting in this story is exaggerated for humor, but the most entertaining aspect of this sequence is its predictability. It follows the plotline of similar movies made decades before and even pays homage to actor Hwang Jeong-ri, a Korean-born star of many Hong Kong action films of the 70s and 80s.
Clever additions and numerous cameos add interest and keep the proceedings fresh. However, what works so well in the martial arts story proves to be disastrous for the story of a serial killer Park Seong-bin whose car has broken down. He finds himself forced to search for a phone and winds up at a house occupied by a very unusual family.
The predictability of this episode, which is actually the second chapter of the omnibus, is not played for humor. In fact, it takes itself far too seriously. The serious and sometimes disturbing events that ensue seem mismatched with the rest of the film. The three tales are connected by a pair of hapless comic figures who seem to have frequent accidental brushes with the supernatural but are just a little too dense to fully grasp what they have encountered.
Director Park Sung-hoon took the name for his debut film from one of Korea's most infamous tabloid newspapers which was famous throughout the nation as having some of the most sensationalized, lurid and implausible stories imaginable. The newspaper Ssunday Seoul went out of print nearly a decade ago. Note that there is another independent Korean movie from that is titled Sunday Seoul with one 's', but it has no relation to this one.
This later work was originally screened at the Pusan International Film Festival. Our man Darcy dared to juxtapose My Sassy Girl's refashioning of old feminine brews in new bottles with Kim Eung-su's nihilistic, emotional-bludgeoning dungeon Desire.
Although obviously different films, Darcy argued that South "Korean romances remain fascinating for both the uneasy tension they exhibit between the traditional and the modern and the sense of moral confusion" Kim Eung-su's focus in this area is "the messiness of human relationships". Kim's new film Way To Go, Rose! Frustrating for the reviewer, the best example of this happens at the end when Kim dismantles a ubiquitous scene in South Korean romances. Review ethics keep me from going into greater detail, but it's lovely in its cheekiness.
Way To Go, Rose! In an effort to rekindle what, as far as we know, wasn't there in the first place, Young-mi devises a plan for them to head out to a bar, followed by a tryst in a love motel, all the while acting as if they are dating rather than married. Young-mi even goes so far as to videotape this encoded encounter. This allows for wonderful narrative confusion about whether the actions that transpire while in the hotel are real, memories, or all a facade.
Director Kim nicely utilizes color to black and white transitions as well as a discordant soundtrack to note when the narrative is shifting. The "Divorce" section of this two part play of many parts has our two divorcees meeting up to spend the day together. Focusing on Nam-dae's after-married life, we eventually venture to the apartment of Nam-dae's boss, President Oh, where a scene takes place as classically dark and humorous as the dinner party scene of Desire.
And humor is definitely where Way To Go, Rose! Early on we witness Young-mi placing a large fishbowl-like glass container over her head. So much is revealed in this scene about where the film is headed.
Young-mi is never portrayed as stupid, so we know she knows the trouble she's about to get herself into. Yet just like the jabs she takes at Nam-dae's male insecurities, she ventures on to play around the edges of the vulnerability that intimate relationships expose.
The bowl over the head also relates to how each character is confined within the roles that they play as husband, lover, daughter, subordinate employee, and divorcee. There are expectations in the roles we take on that often bring us to expect complementary roles from others.
Although neither character is portrayed sympathetically -- there are no heroes here -- Young-mi is presented as the one with the greatest expectations, from her appreciation of the acting in the play that Nam-dae mocks to her mapping out the romp at the love motel.
Throughout the film she nags Young-mi to 'be a man'. Of course, what she means is 'be the person I expect you to be; don't be who you are' and these expectations are confined by gendered politics about how a man 'should' be.
The film's sympathy defaults initially along his side until we discover the appalling steps he will take to get his script made into a film. Kim Eung-su works within moments of Hongian discomfort, yet his characters are louder and more histrionic than Hong's somber, muted souls.
I don't need another Hong so I don't wish to impose Hong standards on Kim. Kim has his own thing going and I hope the South Korean film industry affords him an opportunity to continue to explore his quirky take on relationships.
Through the most intimate of our relationships, the one we negotiate with our romantic partners, Way To Go, Rose! Kim smears our faces in the worst of our actions to the best of our selves for us to contemplate during our bus ride home or while watching the bus we missed ride away.
Adam Hartzell One Shining Day Partially financed by the Committee for the Promotion of Cultural Enterprises Commemorating the 60th Year of Liberation, this indie omnibus production puts together three novella-length short films. Even though One Shining Day is ostensibly made to celebrate Korea's liberation from the Japanese colonial rule, the actual film pays little attention to the memory of colonial experience which makes only a brief appearance as an unresolved mystery in one of the episodes.
Indeed, inculcation of anti-Japanese patriotism is as far from its mind as one can imagine. Instead, the filmmakers approach the subject of Japan-Korean relationship with an attitude closely approximating the one held by many contemporary Korean youths: