September 26, 2008

Bitter and Sweet: The Aftertaste of Fluorescent Lights

Film students sweating over an overdue term paper on appropriation should consider Bitter and Sweet the answer to their prayers. A prismatic comedy about office drones (Ahn Sung-kee, Choi Jong-won, Park Sang-min, Song Young-chang) who escape bleak reality via rebellious fantasies, Lee Myung-se's workplace satire overflows with easily identifiable references to Chaplin, The Three Stooges, Dr. Seuss, Singin' in the Rain, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty... The list goes on and on. It's not hard to imagine some happy undergraduate madly scribbling or typing all the ideas flooding his or her mind. Those not working on a thesis, however, will be less excited. Although intermittently amusing (a giggle, a chuckle, no laughs), Bitter and Sweet is more often overemphatic and under-rehearsed. There's nothing sublime about Lee's social critique and the acting is so unpolished you get the feeling that every scene was done in one shot with actors being handed scripts seconds before the clapper snapped and the director screamed "Action!" Visually, you'll see flashes of Hitchock, Minnelli, Tati, etc. What you won't see is something as lively as its source materials.

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