PIFF Report: A trio of Korean films

I was determined at this year’s PIFF to watch more Korean films than I did last year. Over the past two days I saw three films that were completely different from one another.

Into The Breeze
This is a documentary about independent film in South Korea. More accurately, it’s about the lives of the people who work in independent film. It was structured very nicely. Six people in the industry were followed around by friends and collaborators (themselves filmmakers) with videocameras. So it resulted in a revealing and honest examination of their lives. Since they were filmed and interviewed by people close to them, the thoughts and fears and laughs felt very real.

I really liked this movie. I felt like I got to know these artists. There was a lot of humor, a lot of soul-searching, a lot of self-doubt. The overall theme was a universal concern among artists regardless of culture and upbringing: Is all this effort worth it? Is my life worthwhile or am I wasting my time?

This is a pseudo-horror film based on a Russian story (with which I’m not familiar). The approach was very creative. We get three settings that couldn’t be more distinct from each other. I was fully into it in the first act, but the second was a theatrical presentation that really bogged things down. Then we shift radically again and we’re finally given something closer to the “real” story.

There are some major continuity issues. Maybe this was the intention, but when we finally figure out what’s going on, the lead character’s previous impressions seem impossible to, well, I’ll use the word “visualize.” (I don’t want to give anything away.) The other problem is that VIY is too clean and it reveals too much. As a result, it’s not scary. The lead actress, Lim Ji-young, is mesmirizing with a magnetic presence about her (the opening scene is fantastic). But when she’s scary, the shots linger too long and the lighting is too strong. We get too familiar with her in that state, which takes away the fear factor. But it was well made, with some very good acting and some nice sound design.

Sisters On The Road
This is a total chick flick. This is fine, I sometimes like movies like this if they’re well made and have something interesting going on. Plus, I thought it would be interesting to see a cinematic depiction of Korean family life. For the first hour I liked it fine. It seemed fairly typical. Then the twist came. Wow, I was not expecting that one bit. All of a sudden all those simple little moments that came before took on much deeper significance.

In the end, I was so wrapped up in the situation and the characters I started getting a little choked up. This is a great film. The acting is sensational, but I give most of the credit to the director. This is a story that in less capable hands could have failed in an embarrassing way. But it didn’t. It completely worked. Sisters On The Road, along with Empty Chair, are the standouts for me of the films I’ve seen so far.


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