Tag Archives: Korean

Silenced: Korean Courtroom Drama

So, stereotypically, when it comes to Korean films, I watch horror and thrillers. It’s not often I stray from that path and end up watching something unique and beautiful like I did with this. Based on a true story, Silenced is a film about the injustice and legal accusations of a school of deaf children against their abusive and molesting faculty. This movie hits you hard with its brutality and tugs at your heartstrings with the emotions the child actors show in their voiceless anguish. Not what I was expecting, and so wonderfully done I don’t want to forget it. This movie could very well impact your life.

The basic premise of this film. Kang In-Ho (Gong Yoo) is a mild mannered teacher of

The utter grace of sign language, in all languages.

the deaf who comes to a new school. Working for his daughter with severe asthma and his mother (his wife has passed on), Kang In-Ho is forced to pay 50 million Won (50,000 in American dough) in order to work at the school, “without complications”. After noticing some strange activities, including the beating of a young male student, Kang In-Ho must do something.

And do something he shall. Enlisting the help of a civil rights worker named Yoo-Jin (Jung Yu-Mi), the duo brings to court the cases of three students, all tragically tainted by their experiences at school, and without the power to voice their cries. The added element of sign language in this film creates more of an impact when silent tears roll down the children’s faces.

Shocked into silence.

The acting in this film was phenomenal (as might be expected from the film festival reviews) and the dark atmosphere was superbly coupled with the cinematography. The subject matter is heavy and troubling, but you really get a chance to connect to the characters in the film and care about their well being. Hats off to any child actor who can deal with a role like this in a professional context. It has been a while since I’ve seen this, but I always enjoy a courtroom drama, and this one delivered on so many levels. The outcome is surprising as well.

What really sums up this movie is the message at the end. This being about real events, this movie was out to make people aware of the atrocities mankind commits on mankind. The troubling scenes and the feelings of hatred and injustice that spill throughout this movie make it for an emotional watch, but it is well worth it if you care about the issues at hand in this film. (It helps if you like Asian films as well.) Don’t know much else to say about this, other than to watch it ASAP. I’ll give Silenced more than a whisper on my rating scale: 8.4 out of 10.

Heartbreaking.

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Face: How Clay Can Be Evil

I always thought the idea of facial reconstruction was used for recreating the faces of cavemen and our ancestors. In this movie, the skulls and recreated muscles in clay are used to identify murder victims who have been destroyed beyond recognition. A useful idea I may add (and actually done). But who knew that recreating somebody’s face could awaken an evil demon of the victim. And much more.

With two seemingly parallel story lines intertwining this film into one thread, Face is a horror movie about very specific diseases and using clay to remake a face. The star of

A bit of the fright?

the film, Lee Hyeon-min (Hyeon-jun Shin), is a face recreator who works for the police to catch whoever is murdering people past the point of recognition. Running along this is the fact that Hyeon-min’s daughter is in the hospital for a heart transplant from a very specific donor. Only able to accept Beta donors with similar to identical organs, this movies draws black market organ collecting with a facial recreation expert. When a fellow face creator named Jeong Seon-yeong (Yuh-ah Song) gets involved, things get creepy and horrific.

I’ll make this face to look like me. The Penguin. Muhahaha.

I was thoroughly confused at parts of this movie. Nobody was really given a name and the main actor looked like The Penguin from Batman. By the end, when everything is coming together, you feel you missed some part because the haunting ghost has something to do with something else, and it just all doesn’t make sense. There were some plot holes in this film when it came to the payoff twist.

As far as fright, this film delivered on a distant cousin with the American version of The Grudge. Now that movie is the only Asian horror film whose remake scared me more than the original. The long black hair and pale face with red eyes was reused in this one and was accompanied by some sort of scratching noise or something. But it is kinda sad when you can call every time and how they’re going to

What’s going on here?

deliver a jumpy scene. Through the mirror? Girl looks out the window? Eye in the box? Yep. It lacked a little bit of “Boo.”

It’s not one of those remarkable films you see that are made by Asian directors (this one was Korean) that has more than just fright, it has substance. This one fell short on script and delivery. For me I can never tell how good the foreign actors are, but you could kinda tell in this one. The whole film was pretty much lackluster. It took uninteresting scientific ideas and made them mix somehow. Oh well, better luck next time, Sang-gon Yoo. 4.5 out of 10.

 


Oldboy: Doesn’t Get Much Better Than This

Based on the Japanese manga (where all good stories come from) written by Nobuaki Minegishi, what incredible things can I say about Oldboy? Considered the best in the Revenge trilogy, Oldboy comes from a very visceral place combining elements of all

Hammer time.

kinds of storytelling into one film. It’s got revenge and tragedy, theatrical protestations and all the heart and music of an opera. People have said (CNN has said) that it is one of the 10 best Asian films ever made. Let’s back that up and rephrase. There’s no need to include Asian in that statement. Ten best films ever made? Sounds good to me.

I’ve seen Oldboy twice now and I’ve been thoroughly entertained both times. The story is fresh and there’s just enough plot and action that keeps you captivated to the edge of your seat. Visually striking, poetic in the way it is formulated and the scenes are shot… Think about the snazziest guy you know that does things in such an elegant way and give him a beat-up haircut and a hammer. That’s this movie in a nutshell.

If you laugh, then the world laughs with you…

Revenge, as I’ve talked about in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is played with in this movie as well. Just when you think you have the good and bad guy figured out, it turns itself on its head. Sympathy is the keyword in all these films. You are meant to feel sympathetic towards all characters in this film. Nobody is spared a reason for doing what they do, and that makes it all the easier to see this as a truly brutally honest humanistic film.

Basic plot, shall we? Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) was kidnapped after a drunken night out around his daughter’s birthday. He vanishes from society for 15 years and we get to see a montaged version of that process. Through Oh Dae-su’s diaries, we see the tortured mind that has no idea of his crimes or who he wronged. He writes down every name he can remember in case he has to seek

I forgot to mention Ji-tae Yu, but he did some great work in this movie too.

revenge or beg forgiveness, it’s all up in the air at this point. But, with no reason or rhyme, Oh Dae-su is released after 15 long years of seeing no one and having no company other than a T.V. This leads him on a calculated and cold chase for the man who put him away for seemingly no reason.

Choi Min-sik is a theatrical master in this film. I’m pretty sure Park Chan-wook liked him so much that he brought him back for Lady Vengeance for that reason (different character, just as good). He has a great sense of theatrical, dramatic moments, and he takes his time in delivering lines. That’s what I found interesting about this movie (and Lady Vengeance). Choi Min-sik gathers his thoughts (as a person not on camera would) and says things as if he is choosing his words carefully (no script style). It’s a very unique and non-traditional way of acting, and I enjoy it every time I see him (i.e. watch I Saw The Devil).

The cinematography in this film is a bit more fluid, but you see the same basic ideas come across in this one that you saw in Sympathy for Mr. Revenge. Long shots, wide angles, an extreme focus on the bigger picture. This movie has a fight scene from a side angle that is about 5 minutes long and took 17 takes in 3 days to make. Uncut and visceral, it’s realistic fight scenes like this that make martial arts films being made today possible. (You can see a similar scene in Tony Jaa’s The Protector.)

The plot is fantastic and the cast is great as usual. It’s movies like this that only come around once in a lifetime that everything comes together perfectly to make a film that transcends genre, style, and overall movie like quality. You feel you are watching something more real and ethereal than you expected to see with something created by man. I can’t say anything bad about this movie and I feel, for all audiences (above 13, I’d say) this movie is worth watching again and

A strange sense of Korean comedy…

again. Moviemakers out there, if you don’t already have this for your collection, get it. This should change the movie industry (hopefully) for the next 20 years. And I really hope Spike Lee doesn’t remake it…

Anyways, 10 out of 10. Obviously.

 

 


Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

I feel that deep down, if anyone has ever been wronged or hurt in some way by another, they seek revenge in some form on that person. So, you could say, that revenge is a very human thing to pursue and wish to deal out. I would say that’s why these films have been so successful (although box offices mighy say pshaw). After having seen Oldboy in a film class a few years ago, I knew I had to see more of Park Chan-wook’s films. He has a great sense of story and emotion coupled with a visual style you don’t often see in action films.

So I started off Park Chan-wook’s Revenge series at its logical point, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. This story follows a deaf mute man named Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun) who is down on his luck. His sister (Lim Ji-eun) has kidney failure and is in dire need of a new one. Ryu is fired from his job at the factory and now seeks a new way in which to raise the

This was an interesting scene involving a mirror.

money. In finding a black market organ gang, Ryu is swindled and left without a kidney himself. With no other way to raise the money after not being a suitable donor himself, Ryu must turn to desperate measures with his anarchist girlfriend, Cha Yeong-mi (Bae Doona).

Stunning visuals.

What’s most interesting about this movie is the way that revenge and its plot in the film shifts from character to character. You think it’s all about Ryu and seeking revenge against the organ dealers (and to a point, it is). But it turns into something bigger when Ryu’s ex-boss gets involved. What is intriguing about this movie is that everyone has a motive, and usually for good reason. Ryu wants to save his sister and others want to correct past wrongs (don’t wanna spoil the movie). So there’s no definitive bad and good character, and this is even apparent in Oldboy. (Haven’t watched Lady Vengeance yet, we’ll cross that bridge soon.)

Another thing that leaps out at you in this film is an insanely new way of dictating tempo and focus with camera angles and amount of time spent on one shot. Kim Byung-il and the director, Park Chan-wook must have collaborated together to get such a unique style of story telling through showing. In dealing with a deaf mute character, sound was at times taken for granted. At others, sound played an important part, more

Song Kang-ho is one legitimate actor.

importantly what couldn’t be heard. The story fluctuates in such a way that plot mixes with circumstances, and chance happenings lead to development.

More about the visual style. Amazing work with angles you wouldn’t think of. This movie can take a simple handshake shot to a new extreme. It leaves on things you wouldn’t think of as the events unfold from a single angle (one take shots are hard to do…) and tilts the cameras to gain new perspectives. Light and dark shows its place when the characters walk up an abandoned parking structure in an almost comical way. I think the creators of this film really took a brand of their own outlandishly dark comedy and injected it into their film with just visual aspects.

Also touching.

And another important part of this movie. Song Kang-ho who plays Park Dong-jin, Ryu’s ex-boss. When he gets roped into this story, things start happening. It’s not such a quirky action film anymore. The emotions come out and you see the true face of vengeance. Song Kang-ho is an incredible actor, especially by American Cinema actors. You don’t feel like he’s fooling you with his emotions and actions on camera. You feel like you’re actually feeling for another human being. He didn’t have any classical acting training before he started getting involved with acting, but he has done such a wide range of characters that it shows he has depth. A comedic, bumbling, good hearted Dad in The Host. A bloodthirsty vampire priest that I’d like to see in Park Chan-wook’s other film, Thirst. A comedic and tormented thief in The Good, The Bad, and the Weird. And he’s won awards for his work. Get a load of that.

You bring together excellent acting (and I’m talking to the whole cast about this), stunning visuals, and a bit of violence

Who is seeking vengeance on who?

and revenge, and you have an American A+ caliber action film. What’s different though? This one has heart and emotions that put it at drama level. And so far, with having watched this and Oldboy, Park Chan-wook has hit all the good points on the head. He even puts a bit of violence and gore in there for me too. Violence and a great foreign action film? I think this was made for me. 9.3 out of 10.