It has been awhile since I wrote about a short film and there is really no excuse for it. Short films are my favorite movies to watch, especially when I am busy with correcting papers or other school-related work. And it is not as if there are any shortage of them. While a few years ago, viewing shorts was difficult to do outside of film festivals or the rare DVD compliation, but then the INDIEFILM television channel became available here in Jeonju. As the name implies, it airs solely independent and art films and among its offerings are numerous short films. A surprising number of these have English subtitles including the movie I caught by chance last night, The Postcard. This touching tale was directed by Kim Joon-pyo aka Josh Kim and after watching this movie, I wish he would do more. He put an incredible amount of characterization and emotion into a film which was no mean feat considering that the entire running time he had to work with was 14 minutes. Unfortunately, up until now, his only other work in films has been a bit part in the 2007 comedy Master Kims– a movie I forgot existed until today. The Postcard is really a moving film, bringing me close to tears twice in its short running time. The first time was when the mailman’s hopes are crushed. He goes from happiness to utter despair in the blink of an eye an it is truly heartbreaking. The second time was at the end. It is a film that shows a lot of sensitivity about a delicate topic without maudlin or unduly sentimental and it mixes in a heavy dose of humor. It is really a movie in need of a wider audience
Actually, I had initially written a full-review of the plot and the points I liked as I had assumed most readers of this blog would not be able to see the movie. Then I did a quick search and found that this movie had been posted, presumably legally, on Youtube with the English subtitles. I erased my summary and embedded the film below. Enjoy the movie and judge it for yourself.
A television crew filming a weekly program that tracks down supernatural activity and ghosts is called to the house of Geum-ja. There they meet the tense woman and learn why she has come to believe her house is haunted by the spirit of her younger sister. During an interview, the crew learns that some time not too long ago, Geum-ja’s sister and husband were killed in a car accident. The interview quickly sours however when the producer questions the relationship between the two dead people. Rather than continue and upset their host further, the television crew sets up cameras and mikes in the hopes of catching a ghostly visitor or hearing any unexplained sounds. However, after hours of filming and sound recording, the team packs up without hearing a thing. As they pack up their equipment, Geum-ja is left alone with her dark thoughts and in a foul mood because of the insinuations and suspicians of the camera crew. Then she hears a sound.. a voice… and she knows that she is not alone. She recognizes the voice of her sister whom she feels has a message of forgiveness for her. However, she cannot make out the words. She screams for the television crew who answer her call and they immediately begin making EVPs– however when they analyze the sounds, they can only make out five syllables which apparently have no meaning. The crew gives up but leaves Geum-ja with a copy of the recording which she listens to..until she realizes that the syllables are actually the scrambled words. She quickly goes to work unscrambling the sentence not realizing the horror she about to unleash….
The English title of this film fails to take into account the full Korean title which, if translated, would be Invisible 2: Chasing the Ghost Sound. What then was Invisible 1? It was a short film made back in 2004 by director Yoo Joon-seok, who also created this film. It’s full title was Invisible 1: Chasing the Hidden Sound… it really was called Invisible 1. Apparently Yoo has been planning this sequel for quite a while. The first movie screened at the 5th Jeonju International Film Festival and it was about a tape recorder found at the scene of a murder. The detectives attempt to unravel the crime based only on the sounds caught on tape. However, they learn that sound alone is an incomplete and inaccurate method of painting a picture and can easily be manipulated… as done by the spirit in Chasing the Ghost Sound. When Invisible 1 screened in Jeonju, critic Yoo Eun-seong called it ’stale’ as it relied on twists and reversals as seen in movies like Usual Suspects, but “the director’s witty way of dealing with images and sound is definitely something viewers will want to keep seeing.” The same might be said for Invisible 2. It definitely lacked originality with its faux-documentary style filming that we have seen a lot of recently in horror movies since The Blair Witch Project. However, the use of sound was very interesting and as Geum-ja was unscrambling the sentence, I found myself becoming increasingly engrossed as I was trying to unravel the mystery with her.
I had reviewed one of Yoo’s films earlier on this site, it was Coma: The Necklace, the third chapter of that story. At the time, I was disappointed with his effort on the film saying that it derailed the suspense and mystery set up by the two earlier chapters. I also said that the step away from the supernatural in that portion of the story may have been because the main character in that segment was not prone to flights of fancy and this theory was subsequently backed up by the fourth chapter which featured an unstable artist who saw ghosts everywhere she looked.
As far as the ghost in Chasing the Ghost Sound, I have to admit that she made me jump. However, there was nothing original or unique about her– I jumped more out of surprise than fear. I watched this film on Hana Tv–my internet tv provider –and it does not seem to be available anywhere else at this time. There were no subtitles and frankly I don’t know if it would be possible to provide subs on this film as the key to the mystery hinges on unscrambling syllables to form a sentence in Korean. As a final evaluation, I guess I would say that this film is nothing new, but not a bad way to spend a spare 40 minutes.
When most people think of Yoo Ji-tae, the think of the actor who debuted in Bye, June back in 1998, made a name for himself in Attack the Gas Station in ‘99 and followed that up with major roles in a trio of films (Ditto, One Fine Spring Day and Oldboy) that landed him a permanent place among the top stars of Korea. What most people don’t realize is that Yoo also has a passion for directing and has helmed a number of award-winning short films. The first of these was the 40-minute short Bike Boy in 2003 which won an Audience Pick award for short films at the Pusan International Film Festival where it originally screened and it went on to open in festivals Hong Kong and Japan. It is the story of a boy named Min-soo who is in his final year of elementary school. He stands on the brink of adolescence but he is not quite ready to cross over. He is a child confused by forces within and people without that are trying to force him to change and to grow up. One of these forces in Ki-ran, a girl in his class. She also is experiencing changes in her feelings as well as she grows into young womanhood. She is also unsure how to express her feelings, but she seems to handle them in a more mature way than Min-soo whom she likes. Min-soo may like her as well, but he is unwilling to address how he feels and it makes him moody and sullen except when he is playing with his friends or riding his beloved bike.
The bike becomes a refuge, a way to hold on to the familar while setting new challenges for himself– such as attempting to outrace the bus. He takes time to train himself for this task, fixes his bike up, gets a haircut and even does something that makes him feel guilty and proud at the same time. When the time is right, he sets off to accomplish his goal without telling a soul and the finish of his personal race is timed to coincide with the arrival of Ki-ran at her home. However, her response to him and his new look completely robs him of any sense of victory and he walks home with a vague sense of having lost something. However, that is not the end. The final scene of the movie and the dialogue spoken therein brought a smile to my face and sweetened the story, letting the viewer that everything is going to be alright and that he can remain a child for just a little longer.
That final scene is simple, but beautiful and shows Yoo’s potential as a director that would be better realized in some of his later shorts. What happened in that scene? You’ll have to watch it yourself– I only give spoilers to endings of movies not available on DVD. You can see Bike Boy along with How Do the Blind Dream? (2005), Out of My Intention (2007) and Invitation (2009) as part of the Yoo Ji-Tae Collection. Search for it. You will find that it shows another, unexpected side of a man we have come to know as a great actor.
I received Nice Shorts yesterday. Nice Shorts is a collection of short films from 2008 and 2009. It consists of 4 movies, Shall We Take a Walk?,Girl, Mates and the longest short on the disc,pictured on the right, Don’t Step Out of the House. I originally bought the movie for Mates. I had seen it previously at the Jeonju International Film Festival a year or two ago and remember it being very good. My opinion of it has not changed. When I first saw Shall We Take a Walk? I thought it was a nice, sweet movie. But after mulling it over for the past twenty-four before writing this, I have a somewhat different opinion of it. Frankly, it was too sweet. If I want to see something like that, all I have to do is turn on KBS tv at 5 or 6 when elementary school kids are watching television. It feels the directors are slightly childish–and that is from a man who watched Vectorman (1999) this week. Again, it is a nice movie–but I won’t remember it in a month. Hong Seong-hoon’s film, Girl, I could have done without all together. I am over movies trying to make abortion an issue. I was annoyed with both characters- the girl is completely unlikable and the father of her boyfriend is written poorly. He could have been a sympathetic figure–a failed father trying to seeing a second chance in his unborn grandchild which is what his motive probably was–but it does not come across that way at all. Don’t Step Out of the House, however, is excellent. It alone is worth the price of the DVD.
In the movie, a five year old girl and her slightly older brother are alone in their house. The girl is playing dress up and the boy is trying to finish his homework before his tutor comes. Their house is very dirty and the children also seem as if they have been properly taken care of for a while. We soon start getting hints that something is not quite right. Some of these hints don’t raise red flags at first–like the boy quickly turning off the tv when his sister comes into the room or his earasing and re-writing of his homework so many times that the paper has almost worn through. Gradually the hints we are given of something is wrong become more ominous. It is not merely that their father is not coming back and they are running out of food, which is bad enough. Instead we are led to believe that there is something very wrong and there is a very concrete reason why the children should not open the door.
Eventually though, the kind-hearted nature of the children means that they do open the door to someone who claims he wants a drink of water. He is then joined by his friends. The atmosphere of the film takes on the feeling of a true horror movie as the tension builds around the unpredictable strangers. One, his face blackened as though overly exposed to a tanning lamp, is clearly the leader of the three and says that they may go hunting later. In Seoul? One of his companions face is red and scarred as if he were recently burned and all his hair is missing. He is subject to sudden boughts of violence and then nearly overwhelmed by his guilt. The third is nearly blind and his corrective lenses are shattered. He displays the tendencies of a pedaphile and makes some hair-raising comments to the young five-year old girl that she does not understand, though her brother is quick to get between them. The horror builds as we learn what has happened beyond the walls of their basement apartment and what exactly it is that the men have come for. Believe me, whatever you are thinking is probably wrong. This is one of the most innovative, creative and satisfying films I have seen in a while.
Director Jo Seong-hee has crafted an exceptional, albiet dark, tale and I really look forward to seeing what else he can do. I see that he is currently working on a feature length fantasy/horror film entitled End of Animal starring Park Hae-il. No release date on the project, but it is one that I will be anticipating. I think this new director will be capable of some great work in the future.
I got home a little later than I thought I would last night due to a delicious duck dinner and didn’t think I would have time to watch a whole movie before I slept. Turning on the tv, I saw that Hyperbole of Youthwas showing on KTV but it was well into the movie, or at least past the singing nurse scene, and since I own the DVD, I kept looking. I started watching a British movie called Doomsday on another channel, but found it to be unwatchable. It seemed like it ripped off every movie from 28 Days Later to Alien 2 to Braveheart. After thirty minutes of that, I turned it off and had even less time. I decided to watch a short film instead. Earlier in the week I had recieved an order of DVDs. Among them was a collection of shorts I had been hesitant to buy because of the price. The four disk set was on sale for 40,000 won–down from 60,000–and I figured the price would not go lower than that I bought it. There was no English title on the collection, but it translates as ‘Short Films Like a Jewel in my Heart’ and consists of 25 movies–all subtitled. Among them was the film I chose to watch, Bread & Milk.
Bread & Milk is not the first film of the collection, but I remembered the title from years ago. It had won several awards at film festivals when it debuted in 2003. And after watching the story, it is easy to see why. It is the story of man, the only person we see during the entire film, and his struggle against the universe. At the beginning of the movie, he is at the end of his rope and believes he is finished. He has taken out a huge insurance policy that will help his family in the case he has an accident, and then proceeds to try to arrange a suicide that will look like an accident. However, fate has other plans for him and the man finds that his struggles with the forces of the universe are far from over. It is really an excellent film and has made me excited to see what else is in the collection.
Bread and Milk was directed by Won Shin-yeon. Won began his career, not as a director, but as a minor actor. He debuted in a children’s film in 1991 and did not direct until 2001 with a feature length film called Jeok that never saw a release. This was followed by the very successful short film Cradle Song in 2002 and then Bread & Milk the next year. In 2005, Won tried his hand at another feature length film The Wig and then followed these with Bloody Aria and Seven Days. Director Won is currently working on a live action version of Robot Taekwon V.
The first image in this article is that of the DVD collection. If you are interested in seeing Bread & Milk or other shorts, then you should check with where you buy your DVDs to see if they can get it for you. Pricey, but worth it.
Originally posted September 27, 2007–It is a sad fact that there are simply not enough ways to view short films. Scores of films are made each year but unless you are able to attend every film festival out there, then you probably will not see many of these. And someone who just watches their films in a multiplex will probably never see these films at all. That is a tragedy because some of the best films to come around each year are not feature length films made by famous directors with bundles of money, but small films made on shoestring budget that probably run less than an hour long. Today something jogged my memory and I recalled the film Home Sweet Home directed by Uhm Hye-jeong that I saw back in 2004. Although I have not seen the film since then, the story and feelings I made such an impression that I am still able to remember the entire film and can say with confidence that it is one of my favorites.
The scene opens with a family in tears. The father, mother and elder daughter have been watching tv and saw that their was a fire at the preschool that the youngest member of the family attends. It is now quite dark outside as the news shows bodies being pulled from the wreckage of the school and the family’s wailing fills their small apartment. Then the doorbell rings.
Standing at the door is the little girl, hair disheveld, blackend with soot and cuts on her leg. She says nothing and is clearly in shock or….A ghost!! Ok–that was the first thing I thought and it was certainly the director’s intention. The family members seem skittish around her and her silence is terrifying. Even when she is dropped into a hot bath, she makes no sound or movement. It is not until the elder daughter intentionally hurts her that the little girl suddenly starts screaming and you realize that she was just in shock after all.
You would think that would please the family but instead it seems to have the opposite effect. Although they clearly love her–reading her favorite story, dancing around the house together–the family all believes that it would have been better for them and for her if she had died. The explanation is even more terrifying than the supernatural, the conclusion is quite macabre and the thoughts of what must surely follow is horrifying, but together they combine to make one of the most memorable short films I have ever seen.
I sincerely hope that someone, somewhere adds this film to a collection of shorts. I would love to see it again.
Orininally posted October 11, 2007–Nematomorph was a short film released at the most recent Jeonju International Film Festival. Directed by a new director, Choi Seung-min, it features a scene that is far creepier and more suspenseful than any found in most recent full length horror films and demonstrates this young man’s potential to be an innovative director in a genre that is in dire need of fresh ideas.
Running only 15 minutes, the film is very dark starting off with a slew of images depicting the aftermath of various suicides. Oddly, every scene of death is accompanied by a great deal of water–even when it seems unneeded. For example, you would expect to see water in a case where someone has jumped off a bridge or killed themselves in a bathtub, but why is there water all over the floor in the case of a hanging? The radio we hear in the background also indicates that suicide is rising to an almost epidemic proportion. What is causing this?
The movie then quickly settles on the character shown above, actor Ju Seong-min playing Seon-jae, as he drifts emotionlessly through his day. It is clear that he is very depressed and his parents are not the most understanding of people so the audience soon comes to fear for this man and what his actions may be. Seon-jae’s room is very disturbing. He raises lizards and he keeps his room dark except for the light needed for his vivarium. The light seems quite harsh as is the incessant sound of crickets that he is using for his pets’ food. The room is anything but inviting–and then there is the bathroom scene.
Seon-jae goes to take a bath in his house which has a huge, extremely well-lit bathroom. Despite its size, it is very bare except for the tub and a mirror that stretches the entire length and height of the wall where the bathtub is. Just looking at it, you know something is going to happen. In a standard horror film, a ghost would pass by seen only in the mirror or something would reach through and grab the hero. But this is not a standard film and what happens original and suspeneful.
Even though the director certainly did not have a large budget for this–it was he senior project as part of his final year at university majoring in Film–the sets are good and atmosphere that he manages to create rival or surpass any of the big budget movies that we have seen in recent days. Remember the name Choi Seung-min. I would not be at all surprised to see him directing feature length horror films in the coming years.
Originally posted November 13, 2007–High school student Na-yeong comes from a troubled family. Her mother often comes home late and leaves Na-yeong to fend for herself. Her father is frequently drunk and loudly boasts of his time in Vietnam. When her parents are together, there is continuous, sometimes violent, fighting. Perhaps this is the reason that she seems so withdrawn from her friends in school. While all the other students are socializing between classes, Na-yeong sits alone reading or composing letters. She has developed a crush on singing star Shin Dae-cheol (second from left in the picture above), a singer in the popular hard rock band Shinawe. In one horribly embarassing moment, a letter she has written to her idol is taken from her and read in the front of the class. But Na-yeong doesn’t really care as long as she knows that her idol, or as she calls him her ‘god’, understands her and possibly even loves her.
Knowing, as rabid fans often due, when her favorite stars birthday is, she makes her way down to the recording studio where she believes he will be with a present for Dae-cheol. She meets the band’s manager who informs her that the singers are not there at the moment. While he is looking at her, the manager is polite, but as soon as he turns his back–not even waiting to be out of earshot–he starts complaining about fanatical fans and wondering out loud where the security is in the building. Although she does not leave the present at that time, Na-yeong receives an invitation to a concert that appears to have been sent by Dae-cheol whom she has written frequently. On the day of the concert, Na-yeong dresses beautifully and prepares to go out to expecting to meet the man she loves from afar.
Invited Pinocchio, (misspelled Pinokio on the box of the newly released DVD, My Beautiful Short Films 3 but accurately spelled in the credits of the film where the original English title is revealed to be Pinocchio Gets An Invitation–why was it changed? I don’ t know), was directed by Oh Seok-geun who would go on to make such films as The 101st Proposal (1991) and Love Is A Crazy Thing (2004). The film is easily understood by anyone who has gone through their teens and developed impossible crushes on celebrities. It features the band Shinawe which was formed in 1986 and continues to play to this day–nearly a third of this film’s 15 minute running time is devoted to footage of an actual concert by the group.
The film itself is not bad but there is one thing that has kept me wondering. Why is Na-yeong refered to as ‘Pinocchio’? After thinking about it, I decided that it must be because the heroine does not feel as if she is a real girl. Her actions at school are wooden and mechanical and the care she puts into her preparations to meet Dae-cheol show how much she really does yearn to be real. But though Na-yeong is ‘Pinocchio’, it is up to you to watch it to see if Dae-cheol is her ‘Blue Fairy’ that will make her dreams come true.
Originally posted June 24, 2009–In 1994, acclaimed director Bong Jun-ho debuted with two films. The first was an 18-minute film which translates as White-Colored Man and which featured some very impressive actors. The second was the film which I will review today, Incoherence. I had forgotten that I owned this 30-minute short as part of the My Beautiful Short Films II collection (available on DVD) but rediscovered it as I was screening shorts for a student workshop I had to teach.
Incoherence is divided into three episodes and a rather long epilogue. Episode one is entitled Cockroach. It is the story of a professor who has sexual fantasies about his students. Between classes he reads pornography in his office. One day, he forgets the handouts he had prepared for class and sends his favorite student to get it..only to remember that he has left his porn out in the open on his desk. He calls a short break as he races after the student. Although she beats him to the office, he hurls a book across the room which lands squarely on top of the magazine, effectively concealing it. When the surprised student asks him why he threw the book, he makes up a lie about killing a cockroach.
Episode 2 is called Up the Alleys. It starts with a jogger of about 60-years of age in an expensive, coordinated track suit running through the quiet streets. He stops in front of a house, opens a carton of milk left by the milkman and talks with the young man who has come to deliver the paper. He offers the paperboy the second pint of milk that is sitting in front of the gate before he continues his jog. As the paperboy drinks the milk, the lady of the house comes out and is furious to find her milk gone. The stunned youth tries to explain that he thought the man who offered him the milk lived in the house, but the woman does not believe him as her milk has been disappearing daily and she cancels her subscription to the paper. The old man watches all of this from around the corner and chuckles to himself as he continues his run, only to unexpectedly encounter the paperboy again in the maze of backstreets. A chase begins, sometimes real, sometimes imagined by the old man who clearly is enjoying himself.
The Night of Pain is the title of Episode 3. In it, we meet a very drunk man trying to get home. A series of mistakes leaves him stranded somewhere far from his house in the unfortunate postition of having to use the bathroom. Although he is directed to a public toilet, he finds the door locked. He is about to perform his urgent business in a less than appropriate place when he is caught by the night guard. The short tempered guard hands him an old newspaper and tells him to crap on that in the basement, fold it up and throw it in the dumpster (like he has to do each night). When the man indignantly goes to the basement, all the while shouting “Do you know who I am,” he discovers that the cellar is where the night guard lives. There is a bed and a small kitchen set up there for him. Viewing this, the man gets a positively evil (yet funny) idea.
The Epilogue is set up to reveal exactly who each of these characters are and why their offenses are so ironic. All three appear on a talkshow discussing what is wrong with society today and offering theories as to why crime is on the rise. Although they have their televisions turned on, none of the victims of these men are watching the program carefully enough to recognize the men as the perpetrators of the crimes against them.
Incoherence is an excellent short film with some black humor sprinkled throughout and a heavy dose of irony at the end as we see who each of the characters are and what their crimes mean. The only problem with the film occurs at the end with some topical issues being discussed in the talk show clearly being dated with the passage of time. However, it is a good film and worth tracking down to see.
Does anyone remember back in 2005 when BMW hired three directors from Korea to make short films that would showcase their cars? The movies were not about the cars–they had stories–but BMWs appeared in many scenes. They had hired an impressive trio comprised of Kim Ki-duk (Spring Summer Fall Winter and Spring, Samaritan Girl), Kim Seong-soo (Musa, Please Teach Me English) and Cha Eun-taek (a television director). I remember watching them and really enjoying these short films–they were done in such way that the commercial aspect did not interfere with the movie. Unfortunately, they were only available online for a relatively short time and are now extremely difficult to find.
Well, now it is Ryu Seung-wan’s turn. Ryu, the director of such action films as Crying Fist, Arahan and City of Violence, has made a twenty minute short film with Motorola entitled Timeless. It stars Jeong Doo-hong (actor in City of Violence and reknowned stunt choreographer working on such films as Bittersweet Life and The Good The Bad And The Weird) and Japanese actor Kane Kosugi (War, DOA).
The movie is the story of Jeong, playing himself trying to put together a film with director Hwang (Hwang Byeong-guk, director of Wedding Campaign). They hire a former stunt school classmate of Jeong’s (Kosugi) who has become a big star and conflict ensues over how to make their film.
The movie does not have subtitles, but about half of it is in English–Kosugi and his staff speak fluently–and much of the film is the kind of amazing, old-school stunt action that we have come to expect from Jeong’s work.
Want to watch it? Go to www.motoklassic.com You will encounter a giant phone. Click “launch’ at the bottom and a new window opens. After a short preview of the film plays, a menu appears at the bottom of the screen. Choose “Theater” and click the first choice in the new menu. You will see options to play the full 20 minute film, a 1 minute preview or a 15 second commercial.
The principle characters and director Ryu also provided interviews. Kosugi’s is in English. Click “Theater” again and choose the third option. You will be given three choices–the first is the Ryu interview, the second is with Jeong and the third, in English, is Kosugi. Enjoy!