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Gyeolhoneun michinjishida (2002)
A Modern Romantic Classic
Marriage is a Crazy Thing is a fantastic twist on the classic love story.
Jun-young (Kam Woo-seong) is a man in his early thirties who has seen his friends and younger brother get married but has yet to open himself to a serious relationship. Rather he is happy floating through life with little direction or ambition.
Yeon-hee (Eom Jeong-hwa) is girl approaching thirty who is desperate to find a suitable husband, but is looking for a match based on social and economic suitability rather than love.
They meet on a blind date and quickly find that they are incompatible intellectually, but have an instant physical and emotional connection. Both are extremely practically minded, and as such decide to explore each other by starting a casual physical relationship, while she continues looking for more suitable husband and he avoids commitment.
This is a very modern tale, which is romantic, dramatic, smart, sexy and realistic. Turning the romance genre on it's head, and showing what dating is really like for modern thirty-somethings, who have emotional baggage, preconceived ideals and expectations, and too much self-interest to open themselves up to the possibility of a deeper kind of love.
Brilliantly written, excellently performed, smartly directed. If you think that Marriage really is a Crazy Thing then you will more than likely find a lot to love within this film.
Eolguleobtneun minyeo (2004)
Stunning, original, psychological thriller
Faceless Beauty (aka Hypnotised) is a stunning masterpiece in the psychological thriller genre. While it has been marketed as a supernatural horror there are only small elements of the traditional horror style in the film.
The real horror of this film is based largely in the characters and their psychology. The film follows the story of an emotionally damaged psychiatrist who develops an unhealthy (and unprofessional) relationship with a seriously unstable female patient. As the two get more involved both patient and doctor quickly unravel in mutual self-destructive downward spirals.
What sets this film apart though is the stunning direction by Kim In-shik. The film is visually stunning, with gorgeous and unique set designs, interesting locations, fantastic use of CG, and great cinematography. The performances are outstanding, particularly Kim Hye-su, whose portrayal of the disturbed, fragile, emotionally crippled Ji-su is captivating.
Highly recommended for fans of intellectual, emotionally based horror/thrillers.
4 inyong shiktak (2003)
Great Emotional Horror.
The recent New Wave of Asian Horror has seen quite a few mediocre films released, however there have also been some true masterpieces amongst them, and The Uninvited is definitely one of the masterpieces.This is a genuinely dark, violent, disturbing, artistic horror film.
The key ingredient missing from most horror films these days is an emotionally charged story with characters that you can relate to and care for. In the case of the Univited, the true horror is based in human behaviour and the realities the characters have to deal with. While there is a supernatural element, the real nastiness is based in the humanity and psychology of the characters.
The Univited has possibly been mis-represented by it's own marketing, as they have promoted it as a supernatural horror, when in reality the film is more art-house and intellectual than it is horror. This probably accounts for some of the negative reviews, particularly in relation to the films slow pacing.
This is not a film that will make you jump in your seat a few times and leave the theatre laughing, but rather one that will chill you to the bone and leave you thinking.
I highly recommended The Univited if you have a darkly artistic streak, and are looking for a character driven film that abounds with atmosphere and chills.
Juhong geulshi (2004)
Outstanding, Unique, Tragic, Thriller.
The Scarlet Letter is an excellent film for fans of unique cinema. Part erotic thriller, part murder mystery, part police procedure, part extreme cinema, but somehow masterfully pieced together into a single cohesive, disturbing, tragic, emotional and intellectually stimulating film experience.
The cinematography, sound, music, acting, direction and script are all first rate. Although special mention must go to Lee Eun-ju, who steals every scene in a breathtaking performance, which was tragically her last as she committed suicide shortly after completing this project. Obviously she was in some serious emotional pain in her personal life at the time of filming, which she has used to add a raw and real emotional depth to her character.
The storyline is deceptively simple, at first appearing to be a routine murder investigation plot, based on a fairly mundane murder, however as we get deeper into the film this plot takes a back seat to the real story which is a dissection of the investigating officer's (Han Suk-kyu)complicated personal life and his relationships with his wife and his girlfriend (Lee Eun-ju).
It is in the complexities of this love triangle that the films true power and force really take place as the characters try to manage their lives as they slowly unravel. This leads to a climax that is emotionally overpowering and disturbing, and totally unique.
This is very intelligent, artistic, mature, dark, thriller.
Subtle, quiet, superb film-making
Git is a very quiet, subtle film, superbly made and very well acted.
The simple premise of the story is one of film-maker struggling with writers-block who goes on a last-minute trip to fulfill an almost forgotten promise.
The film explores love, loss, memory and the resolution of emotions. This a great little film for anyone who has ever held onto the emotional memories of a relationship for longer than they should have.
Beautifully shot on the picturesque Udo Island, and subtly directed by Song Il-Gon, this film has all the traits we have come to expect from the Korean Film Industry - great production values, honest and realistic performances, and an interesting perspective on it's subject matter.
Old School Kim Ki-Duk
I must confess I am a huge Kim Ki-Duk fan, and have loved every one of his films. In my opinion Ki-Duk has directed 4 absolute masterpieces of modern cinema, Bad Guy, 3 Iron, The Isle, and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring. Each of these films has gone some way to changing the shape, scope, style or accepted boundaries of modern cinema.
The Bow, however does not go to these lengths, but instead falls into the category of Ki-Duk's more eclectic and arguably more mainstream works like the Birdcage Inn or Samaria. This is by no means a bad thing as these are also great films in their own right.
Much like 3 Iron, the Bow has very little dialog, and much of the emotion is conveyed solely by glances, gestures or actions. This makes the film both more and less commercially acceptable to western audiences.
The Bow has re-confirmed Kim Ki-Duk as a modern cinematic maverick, an uncompromisingly original and visionary director.
Sae-yi yaeseu (2001)
Slick and sick little thriller
Say Yes is a taut, slick, thriller that deserves to be seen. Well made, well acted, well directed. It is fast paced, twisted and sick, as a good thriller should be.
This is a film that balances nicely between gritty realism, and heightened-realism, without falling into the realms of "hollywood-realism". For example, there are car chases and crashes, but nothing explodes, and the cars stay crashed! While the story of a couple picking up a hitcher who then terrorises them has obviously been done before, this movie has enough originality and realism to make the simple premise fresh and entertaining.
There are some quite gruesome and bloody moments to keep you squirming, and plenty of tension. This is a great little thriller and well worth a watch.
Simple, subtle, quiet, but extremely effective.
Korea has a long tradition in the romantic melodrama, and the concept of a young woman with a serious illness has been done countless times. However, rarely has this topic been covered as delicately and emotionally as it is in "...ing".
The cast is superb all around. Su-jeong Lim and Rae-won Kim have great chemistry as Min-a and Yeong Jae, but the show stopper is Mi-suk Lee as the mother. Her quiet desperation and struggle for her daughter to enjoy "quality of life" rather than "quantity of life" is just heart breaking.
The director, Eon-hie Lee, does an excellent job of engaging the audience with what is a very simple love story, but then as the third act gets going you slowly realise that there is much more going on than you first thought. This is not to say there are any real shocks or surprises, but this film takes the viewer to new emotional depths very subtly and unexpectedly.
Well worth seeing if you are in a quiet and contemplative mood, or if you need to exercises your heart-stings or tear-ducts.
Yok mang (2002)
Fantastic study of the loveless
Desire is a fantastic and artistic film. This is not a film for the average multi-plex masses. It is deliberate, ambiguous, thought-provoking, dark, and emotionally-bleak.
The plot revolves around a married couple who seem to have nothing to offer each other, no love, and only inter-dependence based on habit. Both the husband and wife are seeking sex elsewhere, however neither seem to be looking for love, romance or companionship.
The characters are almost exclusively self-obsessed, egotistic, self-destructive, emotional shells. Obviously this makes it difficult for the viewer to connect emotionally with the characters, however, if you look closely you will see parts of yourself in these characters, and you will then find yourself sympathising with them as they unravel.
The production qualities are very high, the acting and direction is superb. This is a film that will stay with you and raise many questions for you to consider about selfishness, life, love, dependence, self-destruction.
I think the most amazing accomplishment by the director Eung-su Kim is that although none of the characters are very likable (even to each other) I found myself drawn to their plight. These are loveless people trapped in their own loveless worlds, and they seem to do everything they can to keep themselves in that state.
Nae meorisokui jiwoogae (2004)
Totally Enchanting Romance
This review is based on the Directors Cut of A Moment to Remember so I am not sure how different this may be from the theatrical release. However, this is by far the best drama/romance I have seen in recent years. The concept, story, and script are original, subtle and very thought provoking.
The cast is superb, lead by a devastating performance by leads SOHN Je-jin and JUNG Woo-sung, who capture the extreme emotional ranges of their characters amazingly.
Director John H Lee has certainly got a lot of talent. Every shot in this film is beautiful and rich, the cinematography is great. This visual flair (which is unusual for a romance film) enables the viewer to easily get absorbed into the film.
It takes a lot to get an emotional response from me, but this film sure did. If you are looking for a great romantic drama that is uplifting and heartbreaking in equal measures then this is the film for you.