Additional quick-fire reviews from the 14th Jeonju International Film Festival:
December (디셈버) – 6/10
The big winner at JIFF 2013 scoring the Grand Prize in the Korean Film Competition, December is a charming and raw exploration of the building of relationships. Structured in accordance with the months of the year, director Park Jeong-hoon (박정훈) uses the time frame to convey the burgeoning relationship between a female high school student and a male convenience store clerk, and how small moments are built into something more. The protagonists are highly compelling, particularly as the girl manipulates situations into bringing the two closer together such as buying sanitary towels in order to prove her ‘womanhood’. Yet December is also crucially missing an emotional core that stops empathy from evolving between the characters and the audience, something which greater character development would easily remedy. A compelling and interesting, although emotionally lacking, film.
My Place (마이 플레이스) – 9/10
My Place is everything a great documentary should be. The film is a wonderful and heart-filled love letter to family, one that takes an uncompromising look at wounds past and present in the forging of a person’s personality. Perhaps more surprisingly is that such a raw exploration is based on director Park Moon-chil’s (박문칠) own family, which lends further credibility and sincerity. As the documentary unfolds everyone – including director Park – changes and comes to understand each other with greater depth. The inclusion of the cultural, generational and gendered differences that have effected the family is brilliant, yet the real masterstroke comes from places the director’s sister Peace at the center of the film. As a single mum challenging every ideological form in her path, it is her character that makes for such compelling viewing. A must-watch film, recommended.
Remiges – 8/10
Japanese film Remiges, by writer/director Ozawa Masato, is a deeply poignant examination of youths who suffer from abusive parents. The fragile psychology of central protagonist Sayako is slowly conveyed throughout the course of the film, moving from simply being a bad kid to a complex, abused victim. While the teenager initially appears to be selfish and irresponsible, her actions are the ramifications of years of awful parenting. Director Masato employs non-linear editing in order to portray the torment Sayako suffered as a young child, and is far from contrived as each scene lends further information and empathy to her situation, giving credence to her anti-social behaviour. Symbolism is also used well throughout Remiges, including a parrot horrifically having it’s wings clipped, while Sayako’s plight is mirrored amongst the other characters she comes into contact with. A powerful and insightful film about youth.
Trunk (트렁크) – 5/10
Trunk is best thought of as a showcase for director Kim Hyeon-cheol’s (김현철) talents rather than a great piece of filmmaking. That’s not to say that it’s a bad film at all, as what is on display is a very competent approach to both the horror and thriller genres. Director Kim employs a host of stereotypical conventions in portraying the story of a woman whose curiosity gets the better of her when she spies an open trunk. To say more would involve spoilers, but tension is constructed well as the story progresses. Howver, the attempt to add an original spin doesn’t really work and comes off as silly, undermining the suspense generated prior. Trunk is a competent showcase, and it will be interesting to see what director Kim does next.