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August 13th, 2005

Aug. 13th, 2005

I'm desperately trying to refrain from posting an anti-agent rant (ya just had to go and ask why they weren't shopping Grrlz Nite Out, didn'tcha, Mr. O?!), so instead I'll turn you on to a film you'll thank me for:

MOVIE: Kim Ji-woon has followed up his masterpiece A Tale of Two Sisters with the surprise hit of the Cannes festival this year, A Bittersweet Life, and the worst thing I can say about it is that it bears as much resemblance to Park Chan-wook's Old Boy as Kim's previous work. Lee Byung-hun (who, maybe not so coincidentally, seemed to be playing a director based on Kim in Park Chan-wook's segment of last year's anthology film Three: Extremes) stars as a young gangster who is assigned to terminate his boss'es young girlfriend if she's fooling around (of course she is). He gets caught in a lie, nearly killed, and comes back for revenge. That's it; yes, you've seen this story done a million times, and it's to both the film's advantage and disadvantage that has neither Old Boy's convoluted plot nor twists...but you've never seen the simple revenge story done quite like this. The lovely, burnished lighting Kim employed so well in Two Sisters is here again, as is the brilliant production design, unusual score and fine acting. Kim has also come up with a couple of action set pieces that will be talked about for years, especially a fight in a firelit warehouse that (at one point) involves an out-of-control car; and his fine young lead Lee handles some pretty impressive martial arts moves like a champ. The action does suffer from some confusion in its climax, but that could certainly be due to watching it on a small screen (when we ran one scene back, we found the character we'd missed before). Kim also adds a surprising subtext of Zen awareness and poignancy to his film, providing both ultraviolence and pathos. Oh, and be warned: I'm serious about the "ultravi" here - A Bittersweet Life gushes more blood than any other film I've seen in ages....but it's well worth every beautiful crimson drop.