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In the port city of Icheon, five female friends struggle to stay close while forging a life for themselves after high school. When one of the group, upwardly-mobile Hae-ju, moves to Seoul, the other girls deal with the loss in different ways. Feeling most rejected, shy Ji-yeong finds comfort in her new friendship with rebel Tae-hee. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
I was very impressed by this upon first viewing, a couple years ago, and boy does it hold up with the passage of time. This was Jeong's debut and it will be interesting to see what she comes up with next.
In this coming-of-age story set in a group of young women in a rather bleak and industrial Inchon, S Korea, Jeong doesn't attempt to duplicate the lushness of Naruse or the extraordinary technique of Ozu, but there's an elegance that recalls both - a real ability to look straight into the many subtle slights these women endure, along with the many moments of joy they create, and discover profundity in the everyday. The basic mechanics of the story seem (at first) simple, and the film seems very ethereal for the first 20 minutes or so, but it does coalesce into something quite memorable - the slow tempo and loping narrative makes it easy to overlook the subtle defiance and independence of spirit (and the quick moments of odd, deadpan humor) to be found underneath it all. In both look and feel, Jeong's work is of a piece with certain other leading figures in the current Asian cinematic new wave, and like the best examples of that new wave, Jeong creates a memorable style of her own.
Sweet but not sappy, occasionally tragic without sliding into gross manipulations - a film of great power. The Kino DVD looks great, no extras however.
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