Monday, September 26, 2005

when I was a child I believed I could fly



















I'm 22 now, and I'm firmly stuck on the ground.

When I was a child, I was just a kid living day to day, wondering whether I would get a new toy tomorrow. Today, I'm living the dream of the archetype worker slave of Western Civilization. Live, Learn, Conform, Get a Job, Contribute, Die. Every day of my living existence I submit to the wiles and whims of my teachers, my superiors, my bosses. One large heirarchic tree stretching to infinity, with God at one end.

Congratulations to me - I am one year closer to my death. My hair's getting whiter by the day. I'm loading up on crap and toxic substances with every breath and every bite and every sip. I'm living my life, while dying at the same time, in every single second of my existence. It's a wonder what aging can do for you. When you were a child you believed in a great number of things, and as you grew older every one of those beliefs was thrown out of the window.

When I was a child I believed that tongue was spelled T-A-N-G. When I was a child I believed you can get pregnant from oral sex. When I was a child I believed that the SNES was the pinnacle of video game entertainment. I believed that whenever I watched Unsolved Mysteries or Inhumanoids an invisible hand would abduct me. I believed I was from Venus and was the reincarnation of a 600 year old person.

What I believed was nothing compared to what I learned. I learned that when you opened up yourself to another person you would get the world. I learned that friendliness and companionship are things not all people seek. I learned that when you opened up your feelings to different kinds of people, they shun you. I learned that one perfectly timed bad moment screws up everything. I learned that things like love are really amoral, and that people can do evil things in the name of love, while at the same time people can do the greatest things in the world because of the same reasons. I learned that there are some things that cannot be fixed. I learned that miracles do happen, despite that. I learned not to close my mind. I learned that Samm Schwartz died years ago, and I will never see another original Jughead strip from him again. I learned that time is relative, fleeting, precious.

I learned that even if I could never truly fly, I could try.

Here's to one more year of existence. Happy birthday to me b(^_^)d

Friday, September 23, 2005

WORD LIFE!

I made this.

I had a really, really bad day today, and I have no one else but myself to blame. So I made this as therapy.

I think I may need psychiatric help...













WORD LIFE!

till next time.

p.s. I'm getting addicted to the theme song of Samurai 7, Nanase Aikawa's UNLIMITED. It has a really cool tune.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A love not so ordinary

One of the specialties of Korean filmmakers is genre cinema, and one of their most liked genres (at least by mainstream audiences) is the romance film. Be it a rom com or a straight melodrama, Korean films have been tugging the heartstrings of people for quite a while.

The premise is so commonplace it's almost formulaic. Take rom-coms for example: A person who looks absolutely fantabulous (handsome or cute, depending on the situation,) who may or may not be sassy, befriends a person of the opposite gender in an incident that may be attributed to chance. The actor/actress portraying this character may have acted in numerous pretty boy roles, or in the case of a woman, may have a great number of cosmetic commercials. Slapstick may or may not ensue, which often involves the slapping of heads (we call this batok) and other inventive situations. After a long segue of fun interactions, which may consist of trips to some place of amusement, a freak melodramatic moment completely reverses the tone of the film at the last 2/3, which eventually resolves itself in a more or less happy ending thanks to a resolution. Oh, and 4 times out of 5, the two leads have known each other somewhere before, either as childhood friends or highschool classmates.

You've seen that, right?

What if someone screwed all of that up?

What if actor NOT known for playing pretty boy roles (Jeong Jae-yeong) is the male lead? What if the actress in the female lead, albeit pretty, looks like some normal person you can see in the street? (Although she still looks great in some shots.) What if the freak melodramatic moment happens in the first 10 or so minutes of the movie?

Director Jang Jin, who would later go on to have a hand in two of the biggest movies of 2005 (Welcome to Dongmakgol, which he wrote, and The Big Scene, which he directed) posed this question. The product is Someone Special (a.k.a. A Woman I Know,) a quirky, fun satire of the romantic comedies that have plagued Korea since the advent of My Sassy Girl.

Jeong Jae-yeong is Chi-sung, a down and out baseball player who has faced rejection one too many times. When he finds out he has lung cancer, he lives his life with abandon, since nothing really matters. He meets Yi-yeon, a slightly nervous, quirky bartender at a bar near his house. It's obvious that Yi-yeon is into him (she even carries him to a motel - stuffed into a box) but he doesn't care, since he's going to die. Eventually they get into various unconventional situations of their own, as Chi-sung tries to find out what love really is.

The film's parody of the Korean rom com genre is evident, especially in it's "Movie-within-a-movie" sequence, which I like to call "Telephone Pole," where Chi-sung frequently berates the movie, perhaps also due to his own disenchantment. Later on in the movie, when faced with a dramatic situation, Chi-sung does the same thing the guy in that movie did, hoping that somehow a miracle will happen, which is typical of many movies of this type. After a few moments however, it is apparent that nothing will happen... or are we led to think that way?

Ironically, although the movie deconstructs the genre, it also adheres to some of the elements it satirizes. The point of the movie is then made a bit more complicated by the notion that from a simple satire of the genre the movie makes itself an (albeit strange) example.

Jang Jin shows his talent for comedy here, using well-placed editing techniques and impeccable timing from the actors for comic effect. Speaking of the actors, the two leads are nothing if not unconventional, but they show an interaction and innate chemistry that enhances your perception of the film as a whole.

By the end of the film, we are left to ask for ourselves: what is love? The movie, through Chi-sung poses that question throughout the movie, but we can easily say that all of the opinions expressed in the movie are true. When you fall in love, it just happens. Love is... just love, is it not?

Monday, September 19, 2005

La Dolce Vita


After the success of A Tale of Two Sisters, a complex psychological film with horror elements, Kim Jee-woon returns to the scene with his latest film A Bittersweet Life. Touted as an action noir film, the film is ultimately a visually lavish way to tell a deceptively simple story.

Sun-woo is calm, cool and collected. As a bodyguard in some sort of gang, he's the right hand man of Kang, the Boss. Sun-woo seems detached from the rest of the world; he's like a passenger riding along with life as the scenery. He lives a carefully ordered life, a straight line that has no diversions. The Boss likes this for obvious reasons, and one day he orders him to watch over his girlfriend. If Sun-woo finds her cheating, he must either kill her or inform him. This sets a chain of events that leads to the destruction of Sun-woo's perfectly ordered life.

The premise of the story is pretty simple, and is typical of the noir genre. The great characterization of Sun-woo shines trhough; this is truly a movie about him. When the first cracks in his life manifest, he reacts with a fury that he has hidden for perhaps all his life. He spends the next hour or so unleashing this pent up emotion in various stylish and creative scenes. This may be the film's greatest strength as it is it's weakness - it may be very well done, but the film is too typical, and when you watch it you get the feeling that it has already been done before.

The ultimate irony in the film is that Sun-woo himself doesn't know exactly why he undertook this path of bloodshed; he just committed to it, and that was that. Of course, we all know why he did the things that he did (or do we?) but Sun-woo, we theorize, has never experienced these feelings before. His conflict spans the film as well. At the end he has finally realized what it was all about, and accepts whatever comes to him.

Apart from everything else, the film is visually one of the best of the year. Big props (is there a pun in here somewhere?) to Ryu Seong-hee, who designed the sets for this film. If the visual style looks similar, she also worked on Oldboy. Kudos also goes out to the editing of certain scenes in the movie. At one point when Sun-woo looks after the Boss' girl, we see a flash of a scene of swaying trees (were those bamboo trees?) seen earlier in the movie, a kind of leitmotif similar to the cloud formations in Akira Kurosawa's Ran.

Some call this movie "The next Oldboy" or an Oldboy clone. I think that doesn't hold much ground aside from the stylistic violence or the basic plot thread. Oldboy was about revenge; A Bittersweet Life has revenge secondary to the main point of the film: "The sweet will never be sweeter without the sour."

Or something like that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Venice, Venice...

The Venice Film Festival is done, and the list of winners is interesting.

The Golden Lion for Best Film went to Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain. Played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, the movie is about a story between two cowboys living in the grasslands of Wyoming in the 60's. It's a love story as well. Yep - that's between two men. I wonder how they managed to pull this off.

The Silver Lion for Best Director went to Philippe Garrel for his work on the three-hour Les Amants réguliers, about a group of students amidst the May 1968 French riots - an idea that has been touched on by filmmakers such as Bernardo Bertolucci in his film The Dreamers and Jean Luc Godard in one of his works whose name eludes me. The film also won a technical award for its cinematographic proficiency.

The Jury Special Prize went to Mary, a film from Abel Ferrara starring Juliette Binoche and Matthew Modine. It's about how Binoche's character, an actress, turns to God after portraying Mary Magdalene in a film made by Modine's character.

George Clooney's biopic on Edward R. Murrow, entitled Good Night, and Good Luck won the Best Actor award for David Strathairn, who played Murrow, and the Best Screenplay award for Clooney and Grand Heslov.

The Best Actress went to Giovanna Mezzogiorno for her role as Sabina in Cristina Comencini's La bestia nel cuore, adapted from Comencini's own novel. I thought Lee Young-ae would clinch it, but anyway...

The Best Young Actor or Actress award went to, Ménothy Cesar in Vers le sud, by filmmaker Laurent Cantet.

Park Chan-wook's film Sympathy for Lady Vengeance won three out of competition awards, which I think was pretty impressive. Takeshi Kitano's new film Takeshis' was well received but I don't think it won anything.

Well, time to get that A Bittersweet Life review out of the closet. See ya in a few.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Feeling Lousy...

The title says it all. Thus, I have changed my title picture thingy to suit the mood. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a cold, calculating foray into the depths to which anyone can go given the right circumstances - ironically, in this movie's case, out of love. Once I've seen Sympathy for Lady Vengeance I'll do a little feature on all three of Park Chan-wook's "vengeance" movies.

Until then, let me wallow in my sorrow just a bit more...