Tag Archives: Eun-ha Shim

Tell Me Something (1999, Chang Yoon-hyun)

Tell Me Something is, for a graphically violent serial killer movie, kind of goofy. It mixes genres–well, but it leads to the problem–starting off a straight cop movie, moving to the serial killer, then bringing in Shim Eun-ha as the damsel in distress. The serial killer aspect slows over time (especially since the killings, all related to Shim, disqualify the killer from actually being a serial killer). Where it gets goofy is in the conclusion, the surprise ending. None of it makes sense and not an after watching the movie senseless, it’s obviously problematic when it goes on, because once it stops being about a serial killer (or close to it), the question of motive comes up. And that question is never answered. Now, ending without revealing the motive is fine, but here the big problem is the lack of explanation for the murders starting. That detail, the impetus event, needed addressing if the utterly goofy conclusion was going to be palatable.

Besides the plot, it’s a decent movie. It moves real well for a two hour thriller, even if another five or ten minutes would wrap up all the first act loose ends (the straight cop stuff) and maybe have a nice bridging scene for one of the big discoveries. The acting from the leads–Shim and detective Han Suk-kyu–is fine. Unfortunately, their chemistry isn’t what it could be… another genre-mix problem. The first act establishes Han one way and, when Shim enters, it’s clear they aren’t going to have much deep interaction. Shim’s playing the riddle in the mystery in the enigma, which closes her off a lot too. The gore factor and the imminent danger do a bit to make them sympathetic, but there’s very little development. Jang Hang-seon plays the personable sidekick cop and does a great job.

The most interesting part of Tell Me Something is the music. While I’m guessing the Nick Cave is in there for a Scream reference, all the music is excellent. The direction’s adequate, but when the music fits well, it makes for some great sequences. There’s one in particular–the cop racing through traffic jams, down hilly streets, et cetera, et cetera, and the music really makes it pay off cinematically. The music’s even good enough to make the conclusion effective, if not particularly well thought out.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Chang Yoon-hyun; written by Chang, In Eun-ah, Kim Eun-jeong, Kong Su-chang and Shim Hye-weon; director of photography, Kim Sung-bok; edited by Kim Sang-beom; music by Bang Jun-seok and Jo Yeong-wook; produced by Chang and Ku Bon-hau; released by The Klock Worx Company Ltd.

Starring Han Suk-kyu (Detective Cho), Shim Eun-ha (Chae Su-yeon), Jang Hang-seon (Detective Oh), Yum Jung-ah (Oh Seung-min), An Seok-hwan, Park Cheol-ho, Yu Jun-sang (Kim Ki-yeon) and Lee Hwan-Jun.


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Art Museum by the Zoo (1998, Lee Jeong-hyang)

The film’s title, Art Museum by the Zoo, suggests some geographic awareness–or at least, recognition of a geographic relationship–but there’s never an establishing shot of the art museum or the zoo. There are shots of the intersection leading to either location and there are shots in the museum and at the zoo, but never any to establish either in the viewer’s imagination. The title sounds pleasant and conjures up a lot of its own imagery, which works for the film, since the film lets the viewer conjure up a lot on his or her own too.

Art Museum by the Zoo is a romantic comedy, playing by romantic comedy rules. I place these rules’ inception in 1938, with H.C Potter’s The Cowboy and the Lady. Art Museum seems, at first, to be doing little with the rules. There are the two leads, the man and the woman who can’t stand each other and are forced into each other’s company, there are their two love interests, and the film seems like its going to predictably decouple, then reconnect. Around forty-five minutes in, I became aware Art Museum was doing something different. The supporting cast–the ostensible romantic interests of the leads–disappear. The actors don’t disappear–the two leads start writing a screenplay about a couple and the roles in the movie in the movie are played by their love interests–but the actors don’t appear again in the “real” roles. Art Museum becomes solely about the two leads, played by Shim Eun-ha and Lee Sung-jae, so much so, I think there’s only one new actor in the film–a guy on the street–in the last hour. Art Museum is the first Shim film I’ve seen and I think I’ve read she was South Korea’s most popular actress and retired at the height of her popularity. She’s an excellent lead, both as an actor and as a star. Art Museum is her film–it sets itself up as her film and it all revolves around her, so when the story asks the viewer to accept Lee guiding it, there’s a bit of a disconnect. His character changes drastically–he has an internal, blink-and-you-miss-it revelation–because it’s time for him to stop being a jerk and start being the good guy (just because Art Museum is a little different, doesn’t mean it isn’t going to go where romantic comedies go).

While the closed storytelling approach is interesting, too much emphasis is put on the movie in the movie. The characters’ script isn’t good and the scenes from it aren’t good. The female actor in their script comes off like a simpleton and the male lead is even more unlikable than the real male lead (because his big changeover). However, the direction is such it does more than just hold Art Museum together, it makes the experience a pleasurable one. Director Lee Jeong-hyang shoots the film through a high contrast, amber filter–but never manages to lose lush greenness–and the film’s look, coupled with her composition, makes Art Museum… well, I was going to say a visual feast, but that description’s going a little far. But only a little.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Lee Jeong-hyang; director of photography, Jo Yeong-gyu; edited by Kim Sang-beom; music by Kim Yang-hee; produced by Lee Choon-yeon; released by Cinema Service.

Starring Shim Eun-ha (Chun-Hi), Lee Sung-jae (Chul-su), Ahn Sung-kee (In-Gong) and Song Seon-mi (Da-Hye).


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