Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Ju-hie Seo, Yu-jin Lim, Hye-na Kim, Byung-ho Son
Director: Il-gon Song
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Tai Seng Entertainment Release Date: 07/25/2006 Run time: 126 minutes
Similarly Requested DVDs
A Film of Startling Beauty, Humor, Compassion and Humanity
avoraciousreader | Somewhere in the Space Time Continuum | 05/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
I'll say it flat out -- This is one of the best films I've seen, and would be high on my short list of DVDs to be marooned with on the proverbial desert island (with my solar powered DVD player). Since discovering it by accident about six months ago, I've watched it several times, each time with increasing enjoyment and wonder. In that respect, and in the seeming improv and found-setting nature of much of the footage, it's similar to Wong Kar-wai films such as "Fallen Angels" (but with none of the hyper-kinetic feeling of Fallen Angels or Chungking Express).
The film begins with a narrative by one of the main characters, partially over titles and partially in black-and-white home video. She tells of how she longed for a beautiful voice, made a promise at sunset on Machu Pichu to use it for God and for others. Soon after, following a fever, she developed that voice but used it selfishly, "for fame and applause." "Now I've been punished because I didn't keep my promise."
With this, we begin the introduction to three distinct and widely differing women, each suffering a tragedy, hardship or disgrace. There is the Singer, You-Jin [Lim Yujin], who on hearing terrible news must make a crucial choice. Then the Student, a punkish, withdrawn high-school girl Hye-na [Kim Hyena], whom we are also introduced to through her own home video shot in a bathroom stall . Hye-na's camera, "my friend Genie", is her constant companion, and she often interacts with the world through its LCD screen, yet can be observant, curious, concerned and helpful. The home movie footage is skillfully interwoven throughout the film,. Finally, there is the Mother [Seo Juhee or Joo-Hee], known primarily as "Joo-hee's Mother" because her real name, Oknam, has a humorous meaning; but she is also a quintessential Mother, soft-spoken, almost simpering, always smoothing things over, yet perceptive, persuasive and relentless. After her disgrace, her husband gives her a wad of cash and tells her "don't come home for a while." [I am being purposely coy about their tragedies, to allow you the moment of discovery. Also, the names are seldom used: only Oknam's occurs near the beginning, Hye-na's not until over an hour into the film, and as far as I could tell, You-Jin's only in the final credits.]
Their lives in tatters, each hits the road with a different goal. The Student and the Mother meet on a deserted bus to the Southern Sea, when they wake to find it has gone the wrong way and they must hitch rides south. Hye-na is going to find "a woman who gave birth to me," with only the clue that a friend of this woman can be found in a bar, La Traviata. Oknam will visit her "angel friend" on Flower Island: "If you go to Flower Island, you will forget all your sorrow and misery there." They find the Singer near death in her snowed-in car, and persuade her to come with them to Flower Island. "Does it really exist?" "I believe so. Why don't we find the answer before we die?"
Their adventures on the way there are sometimes hilarious, sometimes touching as we see their characters unfold and interact. with each other and with a variety of boldly drawn characters (primarily men) they encounter on the way, some helpful, some antagonistic, some ambiguous. They finally do get to Flower Island, and the "angel friend", who is a hippie of sorts, a batik-maker and healer. And they are each healed in their own way, some obvious, some seen only subtly in the change of expression or bounce in the step. The film ends with the Student and Mother on a boat toward home, the Mother narrating what she does with Joo-Hee after returning home. .
This is a very un-Hollywood movie, and won't appeal to those looking for a simple, flashy bit of fun. It's non-linear, but not relentlessly so, with flashbacks and foreshadowings and cutting of Hye-na's home video with the director's footage. It may take more than one viewing for everything to fall together and make sense, but there is a feeling from the start that when it does, the experience will be revelatory. Dialogue is often sparse, with the story told in the characters' faces, the camera cutting and shifting focus between them. But it's not a sloppy indie, and is carefully shot and edited, though I suspect that there was considerable improvisation and serendipitous use of found props and locations. The camerawork is excellent, and there are many images of great beauty, from the faces to a boat on a crane in the air to Hye-na running with sparklers on a deserted dock. It all gels together marvelously, developing layer upon layer of experience with multiple viewings, and even the simplest actions or statements become imbued with emotion and meaning.