Roleplay (2012)

“I cried out endlessly!”

Words: Desmond Childs

 The main players in this one.

Jung-ho (played by Lee Dong-kyu) is a novelist willing to do whatever it takes to write a best-seller. His wife Ji-Soo is a teacher who often questions her husband’s commitment to their marriage. In fact, she begins to suspect he’s cheating on her. Is she onto something? Or can Jung-ho’s distant personality be explained by his commitment to the success of his novel? And what about the questions of infidelity? And just when it all begins to come together like a good romantic novel–it becomes an erotic-thriller.

 

This movie really sort of messed with my head at times. I understood the basic elements presented here, but for some reason the film still felt the need to backtrack. Let me explain my problem with backtracking or as I like to call it: doubling up on exposition: Whenever a movie makes the choice to backtrack to divulge more information about the story or a specific character–I think delivering that extra information in an almost completely incomprehensible, ambiguous way is unfair to the audience. Not in a “you fail at cinema” sort of way, but because as a member of the audience–I feel like I’m being teased. Like there’s an itch I can never scratch and not just because I can’t reach it–but each time I itch, it’s a different part of my body. I felt that level of confusion with Roleplay.

Jung-ho lived through a very traumatic experience. The sexual violence the movie flashes back to did not happen to him personally, but being beaten up and forced to watch it take place can be just as scarring, I get that. However, the movie wants me to believe the girl who was sexually molested was Jung-ho’s first ‘love’ where in reality she seemed more like the key to his sexual awakening. He realized she had boobs, that he liked how beautiful her legs were, and her being able to recite poetry was a plus. I understand that many first-loves double as a lot of our sexual awakenings, but for some reason Jung-ho never really showed anything more than an almost carnal desire for the young woman. In fact, it kind of creeped me out. With that being said, I was willing to run with the notion (at least) that this man lost someone he cared deeply about. So I begin to see Jung-ho, not necessarily as a depressed, middle-aged guy desperately missing his one true love. I instead saw him as a deranged, sexually charged person who got off on mistreating his wife (indifference) and having his sexual partners dress up as the first girl who ever gave him a boner. Maybe I’m coming down as a little crass, and a bit too harsh when it comes to the film’s intentions–but Jung-ho’s personality came off way more sleazy than earnest. He was detached from reality most of the time, and spent hours rolling around on the floor daydreaming about this poor girl who was raped and killed. It’s almost as if the only way Jung-ho could deal with that pain and loss–was to inflict sexual violence himself, which we do see in a scene or two with his wife, Ji-Soo. The movie also shows us that Jung-ho was simply using his mistress Hye-In (played by Han Ha-Yoo) to fulfill any sexual desire he had reserved for his long-lost first love. Hye-In apparently resembled her in looks, and although the personality didn’t match–Jung-ho demanded her to become more ‘timid’ and ‘shy’. Gross. Just gross, disturbing, and sad.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are some aspects of what I’ve interpreted from this picture that the filmmakers intentionally put in–but Jung-ho’s psyche was so much more interesting to me than his story. The film rattles along from his planning and plotting (in his novel and in his reality) toward a horrifying finish that didn’t necessarily stun me. Besides, one can only be ignored for so long, right?

At any rate, the three characters in this one did a solid job, and while director Baek Sang-Yeol’s hand seemed to muddle the already grainy characterization of Jung-ho–I was still entertained. And as I always say about movies–what’s the goal, if not to entertain the audience?

You can find Roleplay on Hulu.com as of July 4, 2014, watch it for free with no subscription required

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

L.N.D.N Marathon Movie #4: Romantic Island (2008)

Won’t you join me?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Words by : Desmond “Neo” Childs

You look like you’ve had a rough week. Do you need a vacation or something, because you look a little out of it. Wow, you need to use some of your vacation hours–about a month’s worth.

The three couples featured in this film all need a break. Not from each other but the life that’s dealing them a rough break. The premise of the movie puts these people somewhere in the Philippines (Boracay Islands) where they began the process of ‘healing’.

One couple (the middle-aged one) take a trip together to get away from their steady, mundane jobs. However, after a while it’s revealed that the man is suffering from a disease. He’s contemplating suicide, and sees death as a way to make amends–for something.

Our second couple comes together through circumstance. A tall, lanky loser meets an idol singer who is traveling around incognito. They spend the film bonding, developing their relationship and having a blast.

The third and last couple also happen to meet by happenstance. A young businessman whose job may be in jeopardy and a young woman who has ‘run away’ from her family and responsibilities.

The men and woman in this picture our seeking a release. They are all stressed out in one way or another, and the film seems to serve as a vehicle for its characters to wind down and relax. Which is fine. I enjoyed watching them be silly, go sight-seeing and dine at expensive restaurants. There were three different writers and all of them added some depth to the couples. Dealing with the loss of a parent you didn’t get to know? Come to the Boracay Islands! Tired of the idol singer lifestyle? Head on over to Boracay Islands! Running away from responsibility?

Well.

You get the idea.

Anyway, the sub-plots aren’t heavy-handed and lightly touch on the humanity of a few individuals in the group. Nothing too deep, but just for us to understand the actions of said people. While I don’t really have anything negative to mention here I’ll admit that the film is predictable. But I didn’t have a problem and I was entertained by the gentle, romantic comedy director Kang Cheol-Woo delivered here. As of now, this movie is my second favorite behind Love in a Puff–both films truly feel like movies you’d like to enjoy with that special someone.

Aside from this picture, Kang Cheol-Woo directed Real Fiction  (2000). He’s done some work as a screenwriter and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he also did some writing for Romantic Island in addition to directing it. With that being said, the location doesn’t call for a lot of extra toward sprucing up the picture. The Boracay Islands are gorgeous. It truly does look like the vacation ads I’ll receive every now and then in the mail. The actors probably had a blast being able to not only film on location, but then go out and party.

With only one movie left to go in the marathon–I’m looking forward to seeing the last film (Rainbow Eyes). As always you can watch Romantic Island yourself by clicking on the link below. Check out the trailer too.

[CLICK HERE TO WATCH ‘ROMANTIC ISLAND’]

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

“You mean you don’t already know!?”

words: desmond childs

new

Two sisters returning home to their parents. But from where? The children are acting strange, both toward their step-mother and father. What happened to Janghwa and Hongryeon?

Continue reading

More Than Blue (2009)

“My wish is for you to grow up and marry a great guy.”

blue1

words: Desmond Childs

What are the things in life you most treasure, but for whatever reason, are unobtainable? Now what are some of the things that are keeping you from being able to pursue those treasures? It’s probably safe to say most of us all have goals, hopes, and dreams. We often have a picture in our head of how best to pursue them too. One thing we all probably take for granted when considering our best-laid plans? Time. No one truly knows the day or hour of their own demise. It can be predicted, however, down to the most accurate possibility. Take diseases for example: Doctors can predict when a patient with cancer will pass away. It’s up to the patient, to decide on what to do with their life until then. And what about those dreams?

What about the people you like?

“I like you”

The great thing about this movie is the relationship between the two main characters. The two kids embraced one another in a weird, brother/sister type of relationship, and grow up together off of the money K is left. They even gave each other names, to which I still do not fully understand the reasons or humor behind “K” and “Cream”. I find it even more intriguing that K’s mom (who abandoned him) was able to budget out money for her son to last him 10 to 15 years. While each of them seem to have been traumatized as kids, the movie implies that both K and Cream (Sang-woo Kwon and Bo-young Lee, respectively) have carved out respectable lives for themselves. The pair work as radio producers at a local station, and K seems to be regarded as one of the best producers. We also see a lot of scenes that continue to build on the dynamic between K and Cream. Remember these two characters are the best part of the movie, and director Tae-Yeon Won seems to understand that. So early in the film we really get to spend time with these two characters. Cream is the eccentric, awkward, sweetheart who really does seem content with her life and K. Then there’s K, whose quiet, awkward, and sincere to everyone he meets. He’s a respectable young man, who has the face of someone who knows more than their willing to tell you.

I do not wish to spoil the rest of the movie, but I’m sure the trailer kind of implies what happens to Cream and K. One of them is terminally ill, and spends the rest of the movie trying to hookup the other with someone. The movie becomes depressing as it edges toward the end. I really felt awful having to watch the two characters I had come to love suffer through what they do. However, there is a twist at the end, and it’s so unnecessary. It’s the kind of twist that doesn’t necessarily ruin the movie, but it is simply there so either to further drive home a point, redeem a character, or give hope. In this case, the twist is really just there to reiterate how horrible the situation is for K and Cream. Not only was the twist not needed, but it adds like another 15 to 20 minutes to a film that had already struck close to home. To use a metaphor: “Killing my rabies-infested pet was hard enough, but I have to kill him while he’s barking angrily at me?”

I recommend this movie! It’s not perfect, but it really excelled at its character building. It also manged to do so in a way that didn’t’ involve verbal exposition. We got to see flashbacks, and subtle references. The movie also forces us to form our own opinions about the characters and the decisions they make. There are a few supporting characters that take advantage of the misfortune that has befallen K and Cream. Should we think they’re heartless? That they lack compassion? Or do we thank them for doing our heroes a favor? And I even wondered about K and Cream. Was it okay for one to be selfish and carry a huge burden alone? Should the other one have spoken up and offered their full support even without being asked too? If you truly love someone, wouldn’t you want to see them do well, knowing you won’t be a part of their future?

Failan (2001)

I’m not gonna lie, South Korean films are fast becoming my favorite. I just feel like they tend to take me as an audience to places I’d wanna go, they tell stories with more creativity, flair, and a sort of real-world “edginess” that I have yet to find in Chinese or Japanese films. In my latest blog project, I’ve only reviewed about 20-25 films (watched about 30), and when I choose a film, I always choose it without any knowledge of the people who worked on it. The fact that the majority of them have been South Korean films is coincidence. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that South Korean films are the ones I seem to remember the most. If your considering checking out an asian film on Netflix, let me be the first to recommend a South Korean film. The genre doesn’t necessarily matter either. South Korean filmmakers have a knack for mixing different types of tones and emotions together. Case in point: Failan. Well actually, it’s not a great example, but it does carry some elements of different genres within. Alright, now for some information about the director (pictured above).

(For all who don’t know, I blog what’s on my mind, and don’t clean up. That’s why you’ll sometimes read me stating an opinion and take it back in the same sentence. It’s just me thinking out loud.)

So Close and yet so far…

Hae-sung Song first made his mark as a writer for the film, Born to Kill, back in 1996. His directorial debut, Calla (1999) was also the second project he served as a writer on. Mr. Song would also write The Butcher, the Chef, and the Swordsman, in 2001; as his second feature-length film. As of this post, Song went on to direct three more films; Rikidozan (2004), Maundy Thursday (2006), A Better Tomorrow (2010). However he hasn’t written for any of his three most recent films. Hae-sung Song’s directing style is all things subtle. Visually there aren’t too many things to write back home about. However, the way Song is able to get the performances out of Choi Min-sik and Cecilia Cheung is something that really makes the movie special. I truly believe these two stars make the whole picture, not just because they do shine pretty brightly; but out of necessity. The film is about a lowly gangster (Choi Min-sik) who agrees to take the fall for his boss (also a childhood friend) who “rage” kills another thug outside in the rain. The movie really gets interesting when the ganster is registered as the legal husband of a chinese immigrant (Cecilia Cheung), whose goals seem to be more pure hearted and wholesome. The catch is that the two never truly get to see each other, muchless develop a working relationship in the traditional sense. However, they both began to dream about one another, and the sad, tragic ironies ring loud and true. The lowly ganster, who really cared for nothing in this world, had one friend, and no goals; falls in love (from afar) with his legal wife. As I said, tragedy befalls these two distant lovers, and I found myself caring deeply for the two people more than I expected too (especially for the lowly, gangster). This subtle, quiet film slides from beginning to middle with a sort of routine ease. Once we find out about the slow, poison like tragedy that has befallen one of the characters in the movie, I really started to dread the ending. When I say dread, I mean that in a good way. Like you know the ending will be bittersweet. See this movie for that reason. The two stars are also a great reason to see this. Especially Choi Min-sik, who I had the pleasure of seeing in other, more twisted films Oldboy and I Saw The Devil.

 

 

I Saw The Devil (2010)

2011_i_saw_the_devil_003I_saw_the_devil_141pudywaqnl

If you’re going to be gory, go all out. Right?

Words: Desmond Childs

The visual scare we get from seeing the bodily fluids, organs, skin, and bones of disembolwed characters in movies is a different type of scared. At least it is for me. This is precisely the reason, torture films are not my cup of tea. Not because their scary and I lose sleep at night; but because I’m too grossed out to continue on watching. However, I know alot of people who enjoy gore-flicks simply for the art of gore i.e. the makeup used in these types of movies. I recently developed a respect for makeup artists after watching the documentary (Starz Inside)Fantastic Flesh: The Art of Make-Up EFX. It’s truly amazing how long some actors and actresses have to sit and wait for make-up to be applied. Sometimes actors in make-up spend more time putting on their character make-up than they do filming for the day.The art of make-up plays a pretty big role in I Saw The Devil. We have a movie about a man seeking revenge through torturing the man who brutally murdered his wife.

Directed By:

Kim Ji-woon

Kim-ji-woon

Mr. Kim is a writer-director whose had the opportunity to write and direct most of the films he’s been involved in. He’s also known around Korean film buffs as the director that can do any kind of film, and he’s had success in a number of different genres. With a career spanning back 13 years, Kim’s projects have been as follows: The Quiet Family (1998), The Foul King and Coming Out (both 2000), Three (2002)(in which he directs a portion fo the film), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), and The Good, The Bad, and The Weird (2008). In fact, I Saw The Devil is the only film to-date that Mr. Kim had not written.

In I Saw The Devil, Mr. Kim and the crew are keen on letting the scene “sit and stew” for a few seconds. Whenever the tough, gritty scenes occured the audience usually got a long shot, with cinematographer Lee Mo-gae trying to fit as much as he could on screen.  The fight scenes were more tight, close up on the actors putting the audience firmly in the passenger seat. And there was plenty of in your face, bloody action to complement the camera being in so tight. One particular scene that takes place in a cab is easily one of the more violent scenes I’ve had the (pleasure?) of seeing in a film for quite some time.

Revenge vs. Entertainment

In this movie, we have two guys destined to torture one another until one or the other finally gets the upper hand and murders the other. Did that make sense? Let me try this way:

In order to avenge the death of his girlfriend/fiance(?), a government agent tracks, catches, tortures, and sets free the man responsible for killing his girlfriend. And yes, the movie’s story is nearly written around the villian of the film; which probably made the movie more intriguing in hindsight. In Kyung-chul we have our villian: a sadistic, merciless, serial killer who takes pleasure from chopping up the bodies of his victims. Even after the death of government agent Soo-hyun’s girlfriend, we get to see Kyung-chul murder like 7 more people while also facing off against Soo-hyun. The plot was a little bizarre in this way, where Kyung-chul would lure a victim somewhere kill them or be in the process of killing them; but he’s stopped buy Soo-hyun. Soo-hyun usually tortures him instead and dumps his unconscious body around various parts of the town.

The film becomes incredibly strange when we see Soo-hyun (the agent) torture Kyung-chul then leave him money. It’s at this point where their little battle becomes some sort of gross, game of h-o-r-s-e. The person able to torture a victim the worst and survive the ordeal wins, with the killer torturing innocenet bystanders, and the agent torturing the killer. Very strange indeed. The reason this film is going to make an impression, is because of the lack of emotion throughout. Killing and torture are handled so casually by these two characters that the audience can’t help but feel uneasy whenever either one is on screen. This weird, casually tone also nearly offsets the pay-off of the film. Don’t get me wrong, there is a proper conclusion, but there is definitively not a winner.

While it’s not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, I Saw A Devil does do a decent job asking and showing the answer to one question: How far are you willing to go to settle the score?

I Saw The Devil is now playing on “Instant Watch” on netflix.com