Tag Archives: Cinema Service

My Sassy Girl (2001, Kwak Jae-young), the director’s cut

The most important action in My Sassy Girl takes place off screen–the film takes place over a few years (though the main action is over three and a half months), with listless Cha Tae-hyun home from compulsory national service and back in school and having no idea what to do with his life. Enter Jun Ji-hyun's mystery girl, who doesn't just give Cha a love interest, but often provides him with someone to care for (she can't drink, but does) and someone to give him an energy boost.

Director Kwak never goes into either characters' home life too much, but both are still living with their somewhat overbearing parents. The parents get enough personality to be memorable, but Kwak can't give them too much time because My Sassy Girl has a very tight, very meticulous structure. Most of Jun's off screen life is a mystery and it turns out a lot of Cha's is too. And Cha narrates the film, but Kwak wants to fix the audience's attention.

The film is unambiguous–for the comedic scenes, Kwak goes for silent era slapstick music, for melodramatic ones, composer Kim Hyeong-seok is ready with a devastating piece. But Kwak identifies exactly what film stereotypes he wants to play with–Cha and Jun have a scene discussing melodrama in Korean cinema, with a “movie in the movie” example, no less.

Thanks to Kwak's sincere yet ambitious directing and scripting and excellent performances from the leads–Jun gets the harder one and excels–My Sassy Girl is outstanding.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Kwak Jae-young; screenplay by Kwak, based on a novel by Kim Ho-sik; director of photography, Kim Sung-bok; edited by Kim Sang-beom; music by Kim Hyeong-seok; production designer, Oh Sang-man; produced by Shin Chul; released by Cinema Service.

Starring Cha Tae-hyun (Kyun-woo), Jun Ji-hyun (The Girl), Kim In-mun (Kyun-woo’s Father), Song Wok-suk (Kyun-woo’s Mother), Han Jin-hie (The Girl’s Father), Hyun Sook-hee (The Girl’s Mother) and Seo Dong-won (The Deserter).


RELATED

Advertisements

Arahan (2004, Ryoo Seung-wan)

Arahan has a couple big problems. One is just for me–I didn’t get the final joke. I wonder if it was something cultural. The other one has to do with mainstream Korean cinema. Arahan takes a lot from Western blockbusters (most obviously The Matrix… though there’s a nice Back to the Future homage) and marries it to Korean filmmaking sensibilities. It just doesn’t have the budget and director Ryoo doesn’t have the ability to make it special.

As a comedic martial arts fantasy, it’s an enjoyable outing. The third act fight scene, lasting something like twenty minutes, is a little long but Arahan has just spent ninety minutes making the protagonist so likable, it gets the leeway.

The film just can’t achieve its potential, not with Ryoo, the occasionally weak special effects and the awful music from Han Jae-kwon.

Ryu Seung-beom is very likable in the lead–he’s an earnest, if naive young cop who stumbles into his magical abilities. Yoon So-yi plays his love interest and comedic straight woman. They’re good together, but the film drags out the courtship a little long. Possibly because it’s paced so well, actually. Some of Arahan‘s best elements work against the whole.

Ahn Sung-kee plays the wise mentor; he gives a good performance, but can’t overcome some of director Ryoo’s worst choices. As the villain, Jung Doo-hong makes almost no impression (again it’s probably Ryoo’s fault).

Arahan is fun but doesn’t have any of its implied substance.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Ryoo Seung-wan; written by Ryoo, Eun Ji-hie and Yu Seon-dong; director of photography, Lee Jun-gyu; edited by Nam Na-yeong; music by Han Jae-kwon; produced by Lee Chun-yeong; released by Cinema Service.

Starring Ryu Seung-beom (Sang-hwan), Yoon So-yi (Wi-jin), Ahn Sung-kee (Ja-woon), Yun Ju-sang (Mu-woon), Kim Ji-yeong (Banya), Kim Yeong-in (Yuk Bong), Baek Chan-gi (Sul Woon) and Jung Doo-hong (Heuk-woon).


RELATED

Murder, Take One (2005, Jang Jin)

Usually when I say Korean films effortlessly mix genre, I mean it in a good way. It’s still impressive in Murder, Take One; director Jang definitely makes the final ingredient a surprise, but it’s a questionable choice….

The majority of the film—albeit on a reduced budget—is successful. It’s a police procedural with one caveat, the entire investigation is being broadcast live. It’s unclear why the police department is teaming with the TV producers, but it isn’t particularly important. The case is interesting enough (turning out to be Agatha Christie influenced) and the acting is good. Jang is able to make Murder, Take One feel absurdist, while still reasonably grounded.

Until the end, when he doesn’t just take away from the absurdist nature of the television show, he brings in a whole new element. It doesn’t destroy the film—it just pushes it below the fail line.

The acting is, as I said before, all good. Lead Cha Seung-won takes a while to get going—his first scene is opposite Shin Ha-kyun, who’s a far more nuanced actor—but he eventually turns in a solid performance. Ryu Seong-ryong is good as Cha’s colleague and initial competitor (they’re both racing to solve the case before the TV producers muddle it too much) and Jang gives them a nice arc.

Murder, Take One moves well—the first hour flies past; Jang knows how to plot a procedural. His composition’s decent, though he cuts too fast.

It’s generally okay.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jang Jin; directors of photography, Choi Yun-man and Kim Joon-young; edited by Kim Sang-beom and Kim Jae-beom; music by Han Jae-kwon; produced by Lee Taek-dong; released by Cinema Service.

Starring Cha Seung-won (Choi Yeon-gi), Shin Ha-kyun (Kim Young-hun), Shin Goo (Yun), Park Jung-ah (Han Mu-suk), Jeong Jae-yeong (Bully), Kim Ji-su (Jung Yun-jung), Kim Jin-tae (Oh) and Kong Ho-su (Dr. Han).


RELATED

R-Point (2004, Kong Su-chang)

Kong has definitely seen Apocalypse Now–to the point he pays homage–and Full Metal Jacket–to the point he doesn’t really pay homage, but kind of just lifts moments and shots.

I guess a horror movie set during the Vietnam War’s a good idea. I mean, there’s a lot of history, a lot of possibilities for ghosts–one of the better things about R-Point is its preference to infer, instead of explain, it makes it seem a lot more thoughtful than it turns out to be.

There’s some scary music, but it’s scary in the not-so-scary way. It’s intentionally creepy, with anything possibly creepy broadcast minutes before it comes to pass.

The ending is sort of like the music in that regard. It’s pretty obvious what’s going to happen at the beginning of the ten minute end sequence–there’s one “surprise,” but it’s not scary or particularly interesting so I’m not sure why it’s even in the picture–R-Point just moves along towards its inevitable conclusion. Actually, a couple things seemed possible early on, didn’t come to pass, and the film suffered for it. My expectations for its common ghost story elements were better than what Kong came up with.

Kong’s a rather good director, but he slowly loses grasp of his film, clearly narratively, but also filmically. Some of the shots look like terrible DV, it hurts the experience–with the weak script, Kong can’t afford the missteps.

The fine acting all around helps.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Kong Su-chang; director of photography, Seok Hyeong-jing; edited by Nam Na-yeong; music by Dal Pa-lan; produced by Choi Kang-hyeok; released by Cinema Service.

Starring Kam Woo-seong (Lieutenant Choi Tae-in), Son Byung-ho (Sergeant Jin Chang-rok), Oh Tae-kyung (Sergeant Jang Young-soo), Park Won-sang (Sergeant Cook), Lee Seon-gyun (Sergeant Park), Song Jin-ho (Sergeant Oh), Kim Byeong-cheol (Corporal Joh Byung-hoon), Jeong Kyeong-ho (Corporal Lee Jae-pil), Mun Yeong-dong (Corporal Byun) and Gi Ju-bong (Captain Park).


RELATED