Seen in Jeonju

2001 Imagine (1994)

23rd October 2009

screen capture from 2001 Imagine (1994)The fourth installment of the My Beautiful Short Films was released earlier in October. This series of DVDs feature short films spanning the decades are a must-see for viewers who wish to watch early movies/student projects  by their favorite directors or the creations of popular directors outside of their mainstream works.  The collections could be criticized for not being cohesive–they do not have a common theme at all and the films chosen often seem random. I could also criticize them for the order in which the films are shown–my mind turned off during the intentionally confusing yet somehow boring animation on My Beautiful Shorts 4 leaving me struggling to pay attention to the later movies on the disk.  However, I won’t criticize them at all. These DVDs are one of the few places to view Korean short films outside of film festivals and with the occassional film such as 2001 Imagine appearing occassionally appearing among the collectiosn, it is definitely worth investing in owning the sets.

2001 Imagine was directed by Jang Joon-hwan with the cinematography by Bong Joon-ho.  With such a collaboration, it is any wonder that this film is engrossing?  Jang would later go on to direct the love-it-or-hate-it film Save the Green Planet (which I loved) and the short film Hair which has been declared a hit whereever it has screened.  Jang is also slated to direct the sequel to Tazza which is now being called Tazza: The Revenger (still in the scenario writing stage as of this posting) and it was announced last week that he will be directing part of the omnibus movie being created for the 2010 Pusan International Film Festival currently being called The Pusan Project.  It is a shame that we have not had more feature-length movies from this amazing director–but until we do, we will have to content ourselves with whatever we can.

2001 Imagine is the story of a man who is under the delusion that he is the reincarnation of John Lennon. He tells us in a voice-over that he has always known this but has kept it a secret. He has grown up alone with his mother after the suicide of his drunken, abusive father. However, his mother has a weak heart and she cannot continue to do the hard work required to support the two of them. She winds up in the hospital after her heart fails. The man, played by Park Hee-soon (The Scam, A Million, Hansel and Gretel…), decides it is time to reveal who is really is in order to relieve his mother’s concerns about money. However, as he whispers his secret to her, she has a heart attack and dies. 

Left alone, the man falls deeper and deeper into his delusion. Donninig a wig, sunglasses and general attire of a latter-years Lennon, he goes out to astound the world with his singing and songwriting skills. To his surprise, he is thrown out of every audition he attends. It is no surprise to the viewer though as he does not know how to play the guitar and the only song he attempts to sing has the words “I love you” repeated over and over and over again. Like any artist who does not have his ‘genius’ recognized, he does not blame himself, but society at large for being blind and/or idiots.  He then meets a young woman who bears a passing resemblance to a young Yoko Ono and stalks her.  She agrees to go out with him after he lies to her by saying his father was a wealthy diplomat but it is not long afterwards that viewers learn just how unstable he really is.

Throughout the film, the viewers’ sympathies are drawn to the man who, aside from being slightly odd, seems quite likable.  Therefore some later aspects of the film, as the man spirals deeper into insanity and desperation, we see quite a different side to him that is unexpected and terrifying. His frequent internal voice-overs no longer match the actions we can see unfolding on the screen and we can know firsthand how much he needs to lie to himself to maintain his fantasy world.  I strongly recommend this 30-minute film. It can be viewed on the My Beautiful Short Films 4 DVD and is subtitled in English for non-Korean speakers.

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