The São Paulo International Film Festival ended last weekend and I’m glad to say that I managed to see all four Korean movies being shown, yay! I was afraid of not being able to see The Yellow Sea because the movie got stuck in Customs when entering Brazil, but things were sorted out and the organization scheduled three sessions so no one would be disappointed. Wanna know how it all went down? Well, I’m more than glad to share the experience with you all*!
It was the first time that I selected movies with such a specific end in mind. I usually go watch something because I like what I know of the plot or because I’m interested in the director or actor, so it was definitely interesting choosing only the Korean flicks to watch. It was like a second Korean Film Festival (read more about it here), albeit a much smaller one.
I started my “odissey” with Dance Town (댄스 타운), the third in Jeon Kyu-hwan’s trilogy of city tales (the other two are Mozart Town and Animal Town, both of which I wasn’t aware of). It shows Lee Jung-nim, a North Korean middle class woman, who defects to South Korea after being accused of watching a porn movie. In Seoul, she’s given an apartment by the government, finds a job and awaits news of her husband, who wasn’t able to go with her. It was a good start and I enjoyed the acting, but there was a sub-plot with a teenage girl which was quite unnecessary and didn’t really seem to fit or to flow well with the main story. Overall, though, it was quite good.
The second one in the queue was Haunters (초능력자), a pretty cool action flick. It revolves around a young man that can control people within his eyesight. One day, while trying to rob a pawn shop, he meets this other guy who is unfazed by his power. From this moment on, of course they get into a sort of cat and mouse game that will end badly for one of them. The action scenes were pretty good and the actors delivered good enough performances. Now, it is not perfect and there are many flaws and situations that are left unexplained, but it was highly enjoyable. My only big complaint is about the ending, which sucked big time and was very disappointing. Besides, it didn’t really seem like a likely sequence for what the director was doing ’til then, you know? The final minutes caught me unawares and left me very disappointed. But, as I said, it was great fun and I’d recommend it.
Then came The day he arrives (북촌방향), a black and white feature that shows a movie director on a quick visit to Seoul, looking for a friend and then going out with him and friends. As the days go by, things seem to repeat themselves and there’s this sort of annoying lack of real action that impregnates every single second of the movie. I read a review that said that it shows well how repetitive our daily lives are and how it is a good portrait of times when we think we’re going forward but, in fact, we’re walking on the same spot or, even worse, backwards, and it was like that for me, at least.
The last one was The Yellow Sea (황해), another action movie that left me quite depressed.The screening I attended happened after a long and tiring day and it was totally worth it! I must admit I still prefer The Chaser (추격자) – a movie by the same director and with the same main actors -, but this one was every bit as exhilarating as the former and barely lets you catch a breath. It was also quite fun to see Ha Jung-woo and Kim Yoon-suk sort of reverse the roles they played in The Chaser. The plot revolves around a taxi driver that lives in the China-North Korea border and is neck-deep in gambling debts. His wife went to Seoul to work and get money but hasn’t contacted him ever since, leaving him to pay for the money necessary for this, too. So, desperate, he accepts a job offer from a local gangster: he has to go to Seoul and kill a man. Obviously, this cannot turn out well and you already know that tense moments will follow.
The audiences for these movies were reasonably large, I’d say. Dance Town and The day he arrives were the ones in which people were more respectful, I guess. One thing that really annoys me is when something a bit absurd happens onscreen and the whole cinema comes down laughing. That happened a lot when I watched Lady Revenge and, let’s face it, that is not a light movie. It happened a bit in The Yellow Sea, too, as a result of the combination of the over the top action sequences (and I mean that in a good way, I loved them all) and the leading character’s resilience.
All in all, I thouroughly enjoyed all movies. It’s not like we have many chances to watch Korean films in Brazilian cinemas, so it was definitely a great opportunity!
* Please, keep in mind I’m not a film critic, I’m just expressing my personal and amateuristic views of what I watched! And click on the names to check more lenghty synopsises (this word looks really odd in the plural).