Kangwon-do ui him (1998) Poster

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Challenging a Movie Cliche'
ATOM-129 August 2000
A common plotline in films consists of the main characters leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind, and finding themselves in the tranquility of nature. In Power of Kangwon Province, we are shown two stories of individuals doing just that, trying to find themselves through a trip to the popular Korean parks in the mountains of Kangwon Province. However, rather than epiphanal moments, we have two characters whose trip into nature was just another form of escape.

The pace of this movie is slow, contemplative. We learn in the end what really brought each to Kangwon Province and we learn how they're connected. For those who want Hollywood glam and for a movie to give them a definitive answer, this movie will not satisfy. But for those who want a movie that leaves them thinking, wondering, affecting them years after, this movie will more than satiate that longing.
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A Movie to Think About
J. M. Verville31 March 2004
In the film Kongwon-do ui him it features a relatively intimate look into the meaningfulness (as well as general meaninglessness) into the lives of various Koreans; empty people seeking ways to fill themselves, enjoying the escapism of nature. From the beginning to the end of the film we observe the fallibility of the various characters; we learn of their shortcomings and their desires, the overall complexity captured within human life (and yet the overal simplicity of humanity). Although the film is slow-moving, it can be very contemplative. It does not force any ideas, but allows the ideas to come about themselves, it allows the concepts to reveal themselves.

The film ends as well and as suddenly as it begins, and one truly understands the meaning of aloneness, that love is often an act of selfishness, and the many mistakes that we make. It is a look into everyday life, very well and beautifully done.

If you are looking for action or for intense drama, this is not the film for you. However, if you enjoy honest, original, and meaningful films that are not forced and without glitz, this is a great film to watch.
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Sad, bleak but very compelling
Oriental Filmhouse19 May 2012
Unfamiliar with the works of Hong Sang-soo, I started watching 'The Power of Kangwon Province'. In the early scenes of the film, you see a microphone appearing, used for recording sound. I paused the movie briefly and checked on Google, just to make sure that this was really a picture made by a critically acclaimed director. After Google gave me the confirmation, I finished the movie in one go, satisfied about my first encounter with director Hong.

'The Power of Kangwon Province' is a South Korean drama, first released in 1998 and is written and directed by Hong Sang-soo. This film was Hong's second and other praised movies by Hong are 'The Day a Pig fell into a Well' and 'Virgin Stripped Bare by her Bachelors'. The movie stars Oh Yun-hong as student Ji-sook and Baek Jong-hak as college professor Sang-kwon. I also recognised Kim Yoo-suk as a policeman. Kim played one of the leading roles in 'The Isle'.

The Kangwon province, with mountains and forests, is located in the north eastern part of South Korea and the demilitarised zone splits up the area and continues into North Korea. This movie however is not about the Korean divide, but about relationships. 'The Power of Kangwon Province' tells actually two stories. The first part of the movie is about Ji-sook, who is on a trip to the Kangwon province with her two girlfriends, where she strikes up a fling with a policeman. The second part of the film involves the story of Sang-kwon, a husband and father, who visits the mountains of Kangwon for leisure together with a friend. Both men end up in the arms of a prostitute. During the movie, by coincidence both stories cross each other and at the end of the movie director Hong connects the two stories together.

The style of filming, editing and use of music is very minimalistic, but the end result is intriguing. Every camera shot is a steady shot that doesn't zoom in or out or moves sideways, followed by a hard cut to the next shot. Music only plays at the beginning and ending. By the way that Hong is filming, you really feel connected to the actors and therefore closer to Hong's dim view on relationships between man and a woman. You feel the pain and sorrow of Ji-sook when she returns from Kangwon by bus and cries and cries and cries. Even the sex scenes feel so sad and basically Hong managed to remove the sex out of the sex scenes.

It is unclear to me why Hong left in the scenes where the microphone is noticeable, as mentioned in the introduction. 'The Power of Kangwon Province' is however worth watching for its unusual minimalistic style and the underlying depressing note of the film. If you are in a positive mood, then I would recommend you to wait watching this movie, as it affects your mood significantly, but if you have the chance to see this picture, please do so. Overall rating: 6.9
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Masterpiece from overlooked contemporary of Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-Liang
bastard wisher15 April 2006
This is a great film. If this is any indication, than Hong Sang-Soo really is "Asian cinema's best kept secret". It's very similar in style to Tsai Ming-Liang and Hou Hsiao-hsien, and covers a lot of the same ground as them thematically, but I think I actually enjoy this more as a whole than any single one of their films. The overt minimalism is slightly less pronounced here than in their work, although it still completely fits that style (the camera never moves even once), and somehow I found the film less self-consciously "slow" than Tsai Ming-Liang or Hou Hsiao-hsien, which I think is part of the reason I enjoyed it more. Plus, it doesn't keep it's subjects quite as detached as Hou does. I felt like the film was also somehow more "complete" and less open-ended (just barely) than some of their work, although that's not to say it had much of anything resembling a forward-moving plot. I would have a hard time believing that Sophia Coppola wasn't directly influenced by this film for "Lost in Translation" (scenes of a young woman wandering around by herself, and languishing in her hotel room wearing punk panties can't help but seem familiar).
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A first for Korean cinema
mlovmo-218 January 2001
I really don't know, but this is probably the first and only Korean film that that doesn't have any reaction shots. No pans, no dolly shots...nothin'! No professional actors were cast. Very basic filmmaking. The subject matter is trivial, everyday life. Overall, it's a beautiful film to see.
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It is about about human moods which are never the same ! ! ! !
FilmCriticLalitRao15 February 2008
Let us begin by saying that this film's English title "The Power of Kangwon Province" is an absolute misnomer.It is because in Hong Sang Soo's film,there are no actual shots of wars,troubles and conflicts.So the idea of establishing power of a province is neither suitable nor valid in the context of this film.If we were to judge this film by its Korean language title,"Kangwon-do ui him" is going to appear as a cryptic statement about emotional turmoils of its young protagonists whose minds are not at rest.Hong Sang Soo has also directed a highly prolific visual document about erratic choices made by people in their lives.The people in question are a couple of young girls who are constantly in the process of displaying their moods,whims and fancies. If making a film out of nothingness can be claimed as a film maker's meritorious virtue then Hong Sang Soo has to be saluted as a courageous film maker whose films speak volumes about ubiquitous nothingness of human relationships,sentiments and lives.Whether one likes it or not,this is the only fair conclusion that be deduced from this particular film.
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Did Not Like This
crossbow01063 June 2008
I saw this director's "Woman On The Beach" and could not understand the good to great reviews. This film is much like that one, two people who are caught in a relationship with very little dynamic and even less interest to anyone else. Like his other films, you have to want to listen to vacuous dialog, wade through very little and become enchanted with underwritten, pretty uninteresting characters. If you feel you can like this film, don't let my review stop you. I do like minimalism in films, but I feel Tsai Ming-Liang's films are far superior. He has a fairly terrific actor in Lee Kang-Sheng in his films. There is nothing here. I wish IU liked it, but I don't. Oh, well.
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What Happened in this Movie
thompson6220813 February 2007
This movie sounded like it might be entertaining and interesting from its description. But to me it was a bit of a let down. Very slow and hard to follow and see what was happening. It was as if the filmmaker took individual pieces of film and threw them in the air and had them spliced together whichever way they landed (definitely not in sequential order). Also, nothing of any consequence was being filmed. I have viewed quite a few different Korean films and have noticed that a good portion are well made and require some thinking on the viewer's part, which is different from the typical Hollywood film. But this one befuddled me to no end. I viewed the film a second and third time and it still didn't do anything for me. I still don't really understand what the filmmaker was trying to convey. If it was to just show a typical mundane portion of a person's life, I guess he succeeded. But I was looking for more. Needless to say, I can't recommend this movie to anyone.
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Innovative film under conventional look
hkwak4 May 2000
An awesome innovative film under conventional look. The film questions and deconstructs everything--our normal concepts, philosophical notions, and cinema itself. To trace how the film deconstructs the traditional idea of narrative cinema could be a first step to the reading of this profoundly bizarre film.
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Well done film that is more akin to neorealism than minimalism, and not really like HHH or Tsai Ming Liang
veritassw10 July 2011
This is a good movie for those who like art films, of which I am one. The plot is obscured behind some seemingly vacuous dialog for most of the movie, and there isn't really a traditional arc for either the plot or the characters - so you can call this contemplative. The director succeeds in encouraging the audience to recall its own emotional reactions rather than be forced to react along with its characters - you don't really get 'drawn in' to this movie, you're drawn along with it, like watching the scenery change as you float down river. It's successful and well done, but, for all its positives, low on entertainment value.

Additionally, this movie is not like Hou Hsiao Hsien or Tsai Ming Liang. This movie does have a more or less stationary camera, lack of score and generally non-glamorous locations and characters, but that does not qualify as similar to or reminiscent of those filmmakers, as other reviewers have suggested. If you want to compare this to another 'Asian New Wave' movie you've seen, this is more in keeping with an Ed Yang film, although lacking the grandeur and narrative complexity. So even that comparison is a stretch. To me, this looks and feels much more like an early Jarmusch movie, just with more sympathetic (if less interesting) characters. That comparison may give you a better sense of what you're sitting down to watch.
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