Seen in Jeonju

Archive for the '2000s' Category

Bread & Milk (2003)

19th February 2010

short films like a jewel in my heartI 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 Youth was 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 and milkBread & 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.

Posted in 2000s, Review, short films | Comments Off

Sorum (2001)

29th January 2010

sorumRecovered post: Originally posted March 28, 2009–Sorum is a movie I have been wanting to see for a long time. I do not know why I missed it when it was released in theaters back in August of 2001 but the dvd has been out of print until recently when it was re-issued. I had high expectations when I sat down to view the movie and, for the most part, I was not disappointed. The story is interesting, each of the small cast of characters is engrossing, and the atmosphere eerie. Not eerie enough to justify the title ‘Sorum’ which in English means ‘goosebumps’ but eerie enough to keep me in suspense. The movie is described as a thriller/horror film but the actual horror elements are minimal. Barring the re-animated hamster (which is itself a questionable event as the only witness to it is completely insane) and in any case is not especially horrifying) and the grieving Eun-soo’s dream discussions with her dead boyfriend there is little to indicated any supernatural activity save for the ramblings of a failed author with an overactive imagination. Instead, the movie should be thought of as a mystery/thriller. The viewer is not handed the answers to anything and is instead expected to work everything out for themselves.  However, I expect that this movie has not been more popular because there are no clear answers and the very sudden ending that leaves even more questions than when we began.

The movie begins with taxi driver Yong-hyeon moving into room 504 of a run down apartment. To call the place a dump is the understatement of the decade. It is nearly unliveable and filled with junk that the stingy owner has stored in there. The room has mismatched wallpaper and an odd scorch mark in the center of the ceiling. None of this is disturbing to Yong-hyeon as he settles in. He does not believe in ghosts although his neighbors tell him of a death that occurred in his room. But that may be because Yong-hyeon is more than a little strange himself. This makes him fit right in with the rest of the residents of the building. These include Seon-yeong, a young wife who endures endless, savage beatings by her husband and is full of grief for her lost child. She does not take care of her appearance and appears to be barely fuctioning at all even as she works at her overnight job at a Seven 11. 

Another important character is Eun-soo who is mourning the death of her whom we learn perished in a fire. She is also barely clinging to reality as her nights are haunted by dreams of her dead lover, Kwang-tae who predicted something bad would happen to him if he stayed in his apartment. She is jealous of relationship forming between Yong-hyeon and Seon-yeong as it takes time away from the time she can spend with her best friend who was her only shelter from her nights of terror. We also learn that she had been pregnant at the time her lover died but what happened after that is left unspoken although she is definitely childless. Then there is Mr. Lee who had formly owned a publishing company. After it went under, his wife left him taking his kids and he has been struggling to write a great horror novel based on events in the apartments past ever since. However, there is some suspicion cast as to how he got the idea for the novel…

What I found very interesting was the fact that many characters important to the plot are people we never meet. The missing Min-jeong, the lost son of Seon-yeong, the long absent parents of Yong-hwan and the dead Kwang-tae. The viewer will often find him/herself asking “Did so-and-so kill so-and so?”  This is a question that can be asked at least seven times by my calculations (eight if you include the hamster). Do not expect answers from the movie though. All the answers must come from your own suppositions. There are only two deaths we are sure of the cause and one of these happened years ago as part of one character’s drunken confession.

If you are going to watch this movie, I suggest you do so with a friend. Not because it is too frightening to watch alone, but because it is the kind of movie that is fun to talk about after the credits roll. Comparing notes and working through the plot points with my friends raised many interesting theories that I would love to discuss here but I do not want to give away too much of the story.  The only thing I can say is track down the DVD and watch this film. The sudden ending may leave some feeling unfulfilled, but I found it fodder for long discussions and the perfect end for a film filled with questions.

Posted in 2000s, Review | Comments Off

Lifting King Kong (2009)

20th January 2010

lifting king kongIn the summer of 2009, Take Off opened and quickly proved itself to beone of the surprises of the season. That film, about Olympic ski-jumping, followed not too far behind Forever the Moment which dramatized the true story of the Korean Olympic women’s handball team… But during the course of the summer, a second movie based on an Olympic team was released–Lifting King Kong (which was erroneously called Bronze Medalist by the Korean Times).  It is the story of the coach who trained the athletes of Korea’s Olympic women’s weightlifting team. But this film was far less successful than either of the other’s previously mentioned.

One of the reasons for this may be the sport itself. Handball can be exciting and ski-junmping is breathtaking. Weightlifting is a static in comparison. It is truely difficult to thrill to someone lifting a barbell.  I think the director realized this and spent much more time on the training process and the relationship between the young athletes and their trainer, 1988 bronze medal winner Lee Ji-bong.

However, the movie differs from Take Off in another aspect. It lacks the humor that was injected into Take Off’s story and what humor there is seems extremely forced. Without that added touch, Lifting King Kong comes off a little weepy. Each of the students has a burden to bear and their coach is chock full of problems guarenteed to tug at the heartstrings–perhaps too much.

Yes, I had tears in my eyes several times during the film, so the movie successful if that was its purpose. However it fails in a key area.  It lacks any sort of tension. In other Korean sports films, (Champion, Superstar Mr. Gam in addition to the ones mentioned at thebeginning of this review), I knew the end of the movie before it started because they are based on well-known events.  Yet somehow these films managed to generate suspense. But that was not the case with Lifting King Kong which, although is also based on an actual event, I did not know how would end.

While Lifting King Kong is not a bad film, it is not the best the genre has to offer.

Posted in 2000s, Review | Comments Off

Modern Boy (2008)

10th January 2010

modern boyOriginally posted April 26, 2009–I was really expecting to like this movie. It has two actors I really enjoy watching (Park Hae-il and Kim Hye-soo), it was directed by a man with a track record for making good films (Jeong Ji-woo of Happy End and Boy With a Knapsack from If You Were Me 2) and it is set in a time period that I usually find very interesting. Unfortunately, it is the story that ultimately brings this movie down and, while I don’t regret watching it, the movie cannot be considered more than a pleasant waste of time. It definitely will not leave a last impression once I stop trying to figure out the gaping plot holes that really have no explanation.

The story revolves around the self-proclaimed ‘god of romance’ Lee Hae-myeong (Park Hae-il). Lee s living the high life in 1937. He is a collaborator, working with the Japanese Colonial Government as a City Planner. He also helps his father earn a small fortune by supplying him with insider tips for land speculation. With his powerful friend Shinsuke (Kim Nam-gil), Lee knows that he lives and mingles among the richest and most influential people in Korea.

One night, while entertaining Shinsuke, Lee is introduced to a singer named ‘Laura’ (Kim Hye-soo).  Hae-myeong falls for her at first sight. Using a complex scheme which involves kidnapping her manager/cousin, Lee is able to ingratiate his way into her life. He works his way into her affection well enough so that even when his deception is discovered, Laura, whose real name is Cho Nam-shil, still agrees to be with him. In the morning, she packs a lunch for him and sends him off to work in the government building. Later that same day, an explosion rocks the building which Lee soon learns was centered in his office and the remains of his lunch box seemed to have been the source.

Hurrying home to find all of his expensive clothes have been stolen, Hae-yeong  is off on an extended search for Nam-shil, now using the names Natasha and the-voice-of-Yoko. This brings him into conflict with both the Korean Independence Army and Japanese police who come to suspect that Lee has met Nam-shil husband, ‘Terror Park’ whom they believe responsible for a deadly terrorist attack in Shanghai.  He tracks down Nam-shil who denies that she had anything to do with the explosion and apologizes for selling his clothes claiming that she had no choice. He takes her home again prior to his being arrested by police and when he returns later that day, he finds all his belongs missing.

Supposedly, Hae-myeong’s actions in the film are to show how much he loves Nam-shil. In fact, they only serve to prove how gullible and foolish he is. That he would fall for her charms once is easy to believe. That he would be tricked twice is impossible.  Also, we asked to believe Lee’s transformation into a patriotic freedom fighter. At one point in the film he mentions that he had always dreamed of being Japanese because of the wealth he associated with them. Afterwards, it seems at every point in the movie, including the end, that he would throw his newfound patriotism away to live quietly in another country with Nam-shil as his wife.  A scene at the end has Lee ‘remembering’ a conversation with Nam-shil in which he professes that he wishes to see Korea free as well. However, this does not fit into the continuity of the film and is more likely a fantasy discussion which helps Lee rationalize his current situation.

The script also asks us to believe that Nam-shil eventually falls in love with Hae-myeong. I found that equally implausible. She is a woman possessed by her cause. He is a pleasure loving simpleton. Her apology to him for putting a bomb in his lunch rings hollow: “After you left for work with the lunchbox, I regretted that all I would be to you was a bad memory.” Excuse me?  If the bomb had worked as she planned, he would be dead!

As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest problems with this movie were the plot holes. Chief among these is why Shinsuke set his friend up with a woman he believes to be the wife of a terrorist? Their friendship is extremely close. It seems to me that if the purpose was to seduce ‘Laura’ for information on her husband, Hae-myeong would have done it for the asking.  It would have made for a more believable, and more interesting movie. And did Shinsuke forget that he was the one who introduced them? Why did he act as he did in the prison? The whole interrogation sequence was hard to swallow.

The acting in this film is very good and the sets are extremely well made. However, the movie itself was fairly forgettable. Watch it if you can, just don’t go in expecting too much. 2 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Posted in 2000s, Review | 1 Comment »

Coma 1: Birthday Party (2005)

10th January 2010

coma 1Originally posted May 17, 2009–In 2006, the Jeonju International Film Festival screened a five-part film entitled Coma. Although produced by OCN-TV and Sio to air on television later that year, the festival’s directors felt it worthy of showing as part of their Korean Cinema on the Move section.  The project was overseen by director Kong Su-chang (R-Point, GP-506) who also directed the first and final chapters, Birthday Party, Doctor Jang Seo-Won).  The second chapter was directed by Jo Gyu-ok (who has only done short films to date). The third, Necklace, by Yoo Joon-seok (Invisible 1–a short film) and the fourth chapter, Crimson Red, by Kim Jeong-gu, original author of Resurrection of the Little Match Girl, comprise the other 50-minutes chapters of the film.

Birthday Party opens with terrified members of the hospital staff trying to prevent a wall from being taken down. The wall reveals a sealed room. Although the demolition crew seem unimpressed by the dusty operating room they find behind it, the nurse is clearly terrified and hurridly backs out of the hall. The other member of the hospital staff shakily re-attaches a paper charm meant to keep ghosts at bay to the bed. As he leaves, he sees something that sends him screaming from the building shouting “They opened the room! It’s still alive! It’s alive!”   All-in-all a very effective beginning that sets a creepy atmosphere.

The man’s hystronics are witnessed by insurance representative Yoon Yeong. She has come there to oversee the transfer of a coma patient, So-hee, unclaimed by relatives. The insurance company has been paying for her care as whatever happened to to So-hee was said to be the hospital’s fault. However, with the hospital closing, the obligation of the insurance company has come to an end.  Yoon Yeong visits the patient and cross-references the hospital records and discovers several discrepencies that get her very suspicious as to the identity of the coma patient.

Ten years earlier, Yoon Yeong’s sister Hye-yeong disappeared from the same hospital. Numerous flashbacks reveal that Yeong was partially responisble for the disappearance and during the times she was with her sister, Yeong was downright cruel. In her defense, Yeong was just a child and behaved selfishly as children do. However, the vengenful spirit haunting the deserted hospital walls does not agree that Yeong was not to blame. Left alone in the empty building, Yeong experiences terror like she has never known as something tries to help her celebrate her birthday.

The Birthday Party is an interesting chapter and can be watched as a movie unto itself even as it sets up mysteries to be explored by later chapters.. Kong Su-chang’s characteristic time-jumping flashbacks, seen in both of his feature length films, are prominent here and cause may cause some confusion–especially in the scene where Yeong is locked in the empty morgue–but it all sorts itself out. 

Coming next: Coma 2: Crack

Posted in 2000s, Review | Comments Off

Coma 2: Crack (2005)

10th January 2010

coma 2Originally posted May 17, 2009–The mystery continues. Previously we witnessed the events leading up to the disappearance of Hye-yeong. At the start of the chapter, we witnessed demolition and salvage workers opening up a mysterious sealed room in the basement of the hospital. In the second chapter we are witness to a horrific tragedy that occured therein and how events in the past are related to the future.

Nurse Kang, who had little if anything to do in the first chapter, is the focus of this film. She knows  a lot about the workings of the hospital. For example, she knows that the director of the hospital is addicted to morphine. She knows where he keeps a great deal of money. She knows that she has handsome doctor Jang under her thumb as long as she keeps his secrets. And she knows that his patient, So-hee is standing in her way.

As in the first film, there are many flashbacks. Nurse Kang’s flashback’s reveal that she was part of a coverup that partially explains the fate of Hye-yeong.  The girl was discovered, already bloodied (how?–that is not yet revealed) and Kang rushes her to the operating theater, assuring the still-conscious girl that everything is going to be ok. When next she enters the theater, the young nurse Kang is horrified to see the un-anesthesized child screaming in terror and pain as a fountain of blood erupts from her stomach. The hospital director and Dr. Jang are present and it is strongly implied that the director’s drug use is responsible for the accident. Kang wraps the girl’s body, clothes, and a creepy laughing doll in plastic and gives them to the strange old janitor Choi for disposal. What she does not know is that the girl is still alive and calls out to Choi to save her. Nor does she know that the scary doll will be making appearnace again..and again..and again.

The knowledge that Hye-yeong survived leads us to believe what most viewers of chapter one may have already suspected, that coma patient So-hee is actually Hye-yeong. But it does seem to be so simple.  Something has been freed from the hospital basement when the seal was cracked (hence the title of this film). There is a brief glimpse of an experiment being conducted on So-hee by Dr. Jang in which he tells her that he is sending her “to Heaven again and this time she must tell him what it is like when she returns.!”  There is another mystery as well. Insurance agent Yeong discovers that a settlement was paid on her sister–something she had never heard about. Had her debt-ridden mother simply taken the money and agreed to keep quiet, or did someone else file a claim on her sister and take the money?

In the present, Kang views the re-opened room in horror. We can also see that the protective shields written on paper are not only on the bed as we saw in the first movie, but are on all the walls and the remaining equipment as well. Kang backs out of the room as the papers flutter from the walls and she knows that she is not alone. Although we cannot know for certain yet, it seems possible that on one of her trips to the afterlife, ‘So-hee’ brought something back with her.

Although scared of what is now lurking the hospital, Kang knows exactly where she is going to place the blame–on So-hee. For being one of the hospital’s darkest secrets, for driving a wedge between the nurse and her lover, and for being responsible for whatever is now haunting her, Nurse Kang decides to end it. Filling syringe after syringe with various drugs, she pumps the comatose patient–but if you think that is the end of So-hee, keep watching. Apparently, she has been dead before–why should an overdose stop her now?

Unlike Chapter I, the Birthday Party, Chapter 2 cannot be watched on its own. Nor is it as atmospheric as the first. Nevertheless, it does a good job in answering some questions left dangling in Chapter 1 but with solutions that leave even bigger questions. I am now looking forward to Chapter 3: The Necklace

Posted in 2000s, Review | Comments Off

Coma 3: The Necklace (2005)

10th January 2010

coma 3Im Won-hee, star of The Cut and Dajjimawa Lee, leads the cast in The Necklace, the third chapter of the Coma omnibus.  He is the police detective assigned many years ago to the case of the missing Hye-yeong. During that time he has been carrying  the girl’s necklace around calling it his cash card.  Clearly he has been blackmailing the hospital’s director.

At the start of this chapter, he gets a call from the director but when he arrives at the hospital, he discovers that the man is dead. Sensibly he calls the police and locks up the hospital so no one can get in or out. He did this because he met a crazy woman in the hall who warns him to leave the hospital before it is too late. Now he wants to find her. Not so-sensibly he ties up the receptionist, the only other person who knows the director’s dead.

Searching the hospital, he finds a bloody scalpal, probaby used to kill the director alongside the bed of the coma patient. The scalpals belong to Dr. Jang and the detective’s mind puts together a plausible scenario where Jang could have killed the director after an argument they had earlier in the day (as we see in the Birthday Party).  However, now he finds himself in a bit of a dilemna. If he arrests the doctor, he will reveal the coverup from long ago. Instead he decides that Jang will be his new ‘client’ and cut him a deal. However, upon closer investigation of the fingerprints, he notices a cut on the tip that he also noticed on the comatose patient…

A flashback now takes us to ten years earlier. We learn that what happened to Hye-sook between being lost by her sister and found by the nurse.  We also learn that the detective had no clear evidence of a crime. He was just blackimailing on a hunch.  He is awakened from his memories by his daughter calling him.  With his daughter threatened, he is movied to action.  He sees the girls struck by a car as she flees the hospital grounds. Trying to get his daughter to safety, he finds that they cannot escape the first floor–their elevator goes up–but comes right back down. About to give up, the dark elevator opens behind him .

 Of course, his daughter is not really there and all his actions have succeeded in doing is bringing one of the characters back into the hospital.

Overall, this is the most disappointing of the chapters so far. The first two did a good job setting things up and building a sense of mystery. Here, while we solve one small mystery, there is nothing new added.  No new sense of menace–in fact, the menace and supernatural atmosphere built in the first two installments are actually decreased in this chapter as we get the feeling there is a more human element involved. Perhaps this is because the main character is a very practical man, not given to flights of fantasy about ghosts and spirits nor even considering for a minute that the unmoving patient upstairs could be responible for what is happening.

I’m hoping that this was just a fluke and the atmosphere of the first two chapters can be recaptured in chapter 4: Crimson Red

Posted in 2000s, Review | 1 Comment »

Coma 4: Crimson Red (2005)

10th January 2010

coma 4Ha! Remember how I complained about how the pragmatic view of the policeman seemed to drag the story away from the supernatural. Well, this chapter brings the story back into the realm of ghosts with a vengeance. We are introduced to Hong-ah, an artist who sees visions of ghosts as part of her daily life. She wear headphones to avoid hearing them. She wears sunglasses and keeps her head down to avoid seeing them. But it is not enough. One particular ghost has been reaching out… her with the plea of “Kill me.”

Perhaps I should rephrase what I said earlier. We are not introduced to Hong-ah here. She was the crazy woman who warned the detective out of the hospital…a warning he ignored. She arrives at the hospital and begins wandering around the building allowing her sensitive nature to guide her. Spooky music follows her every move, but nothing reaches out to harm her..perhaps because she is the first one to come with good intentions towards So-hee.  Or perhaps it is because she was smart enough to come in the middle of the day…

To my absolute surprise, I learned that my theory about So-hee being Hye-yeong seems to be wrong. Hong-ah new her when she was younger. The accident that sent So-hee into a coma came when she was trying to cross the street to visit Hong-ah–who witnessed it out the windown and did nothing to help her this young woman who wanted to be friends…

She now realizes that So-hee wants to be disconnected from the life support and her please are becoming more desperate. Added to the mix now are the ghosts of the hospital director who just tells Hong-ah to go and the little girl Hye-yeong who proves that she really doesn’t care who she takes her wrath out on–although in her haunting of Hong-ah, it seems not to be motivated by malice.

Hong-ah makes her way back to So-hee’s room to see the mess left behind by Nurse Kang’s attack. She starts to trail the bloody footprints hoping to discover her friend. Unfortunately, what she finds is quite terrifying–I swear I’m going to have nightmares after watching this bizarre scene. I’m not really sure what is happening–or why it’s happening, but I am sure it will be explained.  But first we get another flashback…

Dr Jang is forcing the weakened So-hee to tell him about her near-death experience and what she saw on the other side. She tells him about what might have been Heaven but she is too feeble to speak for long. The doctor takes her to the basement operating room to perform an experiment to end her life and then pull her back one again so he can learn more about what happens after death. He does this not through an injection but by draining all the blood from her body. He leaves her like that for a full minute before reintroducing the blood to her system. Something goes wrong–she does not wake up.

Well, so much for my theory that So-hee brought something back from the afterlife. Before going under for the final time, So-hee sees a ghost in the operating room but the ending of this film makes it clear.  Whoever is inhabiting So-hee’s body after Nurse Kang poisoned it is clearly NOT So-hee. Hong-ah gives us the evidence we need to make that deduction.

Chapter 5: Doctor Jang Seo-Won will conclude the series.

Posted in 2000s, Review | Comments Off

Coma 5: Doctor Jang Seo-won (2005)

10th January 2010

coma 5Originally posted May 17, 2009–This is the final chapter of a five part series. If you are reading this after all the reviews have been posted, you might want to go down and start with episode one.  There are some spoilers in these but I am trying to avoid ruining the film for anyone who decides they want to track down the DVDs.

We learn more about what Doctor Jang was up to in this episode. He seems less like a lunatic now than an obsessed researcher…what we might have called a ‘mad scientist’ if this was a B-movie. He doesn’t believe that So-hee saw heaven when she had her near-death experience. He believes it was a chemical reaction in her brain to take away pain and erase her fear of dying. If he can find which chemicals are responsible then he can administer it to terminal patients. His plan would “allow one to see heaven without having to die.”  Well…it’s good to have a goal in life…

Jang experiences a mnor haunting in his car that somehow makes him wind up back at the hospital again and sends him back into several flashbacks of how various patients started seeing an angry ghost in his operating room and how the hospital staff held a failed exorcism to drive the spirit away. As a last recourse, they seal the operating theater.

Jang walks through the hospital and discovers the unconscious Yeong, from the first chapter.  The man we saw in his own memories with noble causes disappears and the Dr. Jang we see in Chapter 4 returns in full lunatic mode.  Yeong, who has finally discovered in full detail what has happened to her sister, must avoid both the doctor and the thing haunting the hospital if she is to survive.

Conclusions to horror films are often disappointing, especially ones that succeed in building up a good story with so much potential. However, in the final chapter, all the potential is lost. It falls into pretty much a standard horror/serial killer format. Even worse, chunks of film involving the ghost of Hye-yeong could have been swiped frame for frame from either Ring or Juon–for about fifteen minutes I could have sworn that I was watching one or the other of those films. Sorry Director Kong, I saw those films already. They were scary once–but not rehashed.

What a shame–The first two episodes are quite good. The third took a different tone, but in its own way was not bad. Episode four gave us a ghost back but somehow, with the revelations about Dr Jang in that film, limited the outcome of the final. I personally think that my earlier idea that he was experimenting with the afterlife ala Jacob’s Ladder, might have been more interesting.   A disappointing, predictable end what could have been a good story..

Posted in 2000s, Review | Comments Off

Daytime Drinking (2008)

9th January 2010

daytime drinkingOriginally posted July 12, 2009–Daytime Drinking is yet more proof that a huge budget and well-known actors are NOT needed to create an excellent, entertaining film.  The poster indicates that it has won several prizes at film festivals including the 2008 Jeonju International Film Festival’s JJ Star Award and the 2008 Locarno International Film Festival’s Netpac Award as well as being invited to compete at the Toronto and Thessaloniki International Film Festivals which indicates a high degree of critical acclaim as well. It is well-deserved. Director NoYeong-seok is a name to watch for in the future. Calling him merely ‘director’ is not really fair to Mr. No because he didn’t only direct this film. He was the producer, the cinematographer, the editor, the writer…he even wrote the music.  What is equally amazing is that he, and all the actors in this film, have no other movie credits to their names. This is the first film for all involved and I hope to see more in the near future.

The story centers around Hyeok-jin (played by Song Sam-dong), a man who has just broken up with his girlfriend. His friends invite him out for dinner and drinks to try to take his mind off his problems, but Hyeok-jin spends the night staring at the photos of his ex-girlfriend on his cellphone.  His friends make plans to take a road trip together to Jeongsan (a remote town in the eastern mountains).  Against his better judgement, Hyeok-jin agrees to meet his friends there, only to discover when he arrives, that his friends have just dim memories of making the plans as they had too much to drink and are actually  unable to go at all because of their work schedules.  That is but the first setback in a series of possible events that spiral out of control and combine to make the worst road trip ever for Hyeok-jin.

Actually Hyeok-jin is ready to turn around he go home on the spot, but he allows himself once more, against his better judgement, to be ‘helped’ by his friend Ki-sang (Yook Sang-yeob) into continuing his journey and to spend the night at an inn run by a friend of Ki-sang.  Unfortunately, anytime he is helped by someone, his situation becomes increasingly worse. One thing leads to another and eventually, when things seem to be looking up, he finds himself stranded in the middle of the mountains, without pants, money and phone, forced to rely on help from strangers. And as with every other time in the movie–help from anyone leads to an even worse situation.

I found Daytime Drinking to be a wonderful film. The casting and writing worked well together–although the characters are quirky, they are not over-the-top and could actually be people you might meet in real life. Hyeok-jin’s passive befuddlement is fun to watch as both the viewer realizes  Hyeok-jin’s mistakes long before his short-sighted nature allows him to do so. (This is especially well-demonstrated by the hilarious ending). Also deserving mention is the odd Ran-hee (played by Lee Ran-hee), the creepy truck driver (Shin Woon-seob) and the unusually friendly couple next door at the inn played by Tak Seong-joon and Kim Kang-hee.

Daytime Drinking had opened in general theaters back in February 2009 and is now available on DVD.  This is one you should watch for and see when you get the chance

Posted in 2000s, Review | Comments Off