July 24, 2010

Marraige Is a Crazy Thing: She Pushes Love to Extremes John Donne Never Considered

Yeon-hee (Eom Jeong-hwa) shows the depth of her love for Jun-young (Kam Woo-seong) in a weird way: She stages a whole faux relationship with him from courtship to marriage, then from honeymoon to separation -- even as she marries someone else in reality. All these pretend dates and pseudo-life-stages are intended to get her dimpled, English poetry professor to realize that he's the one that she truly adores. But when you think about it, her elaborate playacting is a major turnoff. While it's easy to peg Jun-young as a selfish commitment-phobe who uses Yeon-hee for sex and money, it's just as easy to call Yeon-hee a callous two-timer who never makes herself truly vulnerable and whose stab at martyrdom is a glib one. The tortured relationship that develops between these two is exactly what each deserves. He's a jerk who doesn't deserve a pretty, self-sacrificing wife. She's a greedy manipulator who shouldn't be getting unconditional affection from her well-educated gigolo. The final moment of Yu Ha's Marriage Is a Crazy Thing suggests a reconciliation but the white picket fence ahead for these two is likely to rot and fall apart.

July 17, 2010

Old Partner: The Past Is Around Us All the Time

To some extent, every documentary is about a passing way of life. In Old Partner, the near-dead culture is farming before tractors and pesticides. Director Lee Chung-ryoul's primary subjects are a decrepit farmer, his toothless wife and their ox. As the three seed, cultivate and harvest crops repeatedly over a period of two to three years, the arthritic trio register as the faint final echo of an era that ended a century ago. There's nothing particularly nostalgic about seeing the physical toll that comes with doing everything by hand but there is something spellbindingly moving about watching an ox pull two passengers in downtown traffic as suited protesters declaim imported beef from America. And though he hasn't a line in the movie, that ox -- more than either owner -- comes to represent the bygone age most poignantly. Having worked alongside the stoic farmer and his pestering spouse for 40 years, this shaggy beast is the picture of perservering self-sacrifice. Is he a four-legged slave or a symmpathetic sidekick from another species? Whatever he is, you grow to see him as an equal partner in a brutally rigorous life that counts work as a kind of penance and a kind of reward. Understated poetry to be sure.

July 9, 2010

Tidal Wave: Cheap Laughs Then a Bucket of Cold Water

For much of writer-director-but-hardly-auteur Yun Je-gyun's Tidal Wave, I wondered... Have I been misinformed? Is this a disaster pic or a spoof? It certainly feels like a spoof. No complaints for my part. To the contrary, I'll gladly laugh and snort in derision on cue. The comic antics of the losers who live, love, and loaf at the beach resort of Haeundae serve two purposes too. 1. They make you chuckle. 2. They make you oh-so-eager for that big wave that's going to wipe all that goofy ineptitude away. And yet when the tsunami strikes -- albeit a little late in the game for my taste -- I inexplicably found myself swept up in the various survivor stories. How the hell did that happen? Maybe, just maybe, that guilt-ridden drunk Man-sik (Sol Kyung-gu), that shrewish bitch Yu-jin (Eom Jeong-hwa), and even that psychotic girlfriend Yeon-heui (Ha Ji-won) deserve to live. Oh, hell no. I take that back. Rise, ocean, rise! Non sequitir: I don't usually watch the DVD extras but this time, I decided to check out the gag reel and boy was it NOT funny. There are a few very disturbing excerpts of a child actor getting smacked and later, that same kid not wanting to simulate drowning no matter what his pay scale. Easily the scariest part of the movie.