The quick-fire reviews featured here are from the Asian Short Film and Video Competition (아시아 단편경선):
BRA (브라자) – 7/10
Director Won Jan-di’s (원잔디) coming-of-age drama is a lovely and compelling story about a young girl called Da-young on the verge of entering adolescence The tale encapsulates a wide spectrum of human emotion as Da-hyung desires to be seen as a woman by the boy she likes, and as such focuses on breasts as the sign of womanhood. As Da-young steals her grandmother’s bra and attempts to create breasts of her own, the film becomes a heart-warming tale of innocence with sweet moments of genuine comedy and drama. Director Won also seeks to create a comparison between Da-young and her grandmother, who is going through similar trials of her own. Yet as the grandmother’s story isn’t as developed as Da-young’s it serves to detract from the main story, although their discussion about entering womanhood is poignant and insightful. Certainly one of the better short films in the competition.
Chunjung (춘정) – 4/10
To be honest, it’s quite difficult to accurately review Chunjung as the English subtitles were so awful that the story was difficult to follow. Director Lee Mi-rang’s (이미랑) entry follows Chinese immigrant Chunjung, who joins an agency which cons elderly Korean people into parting with their money. It’s illegal of course, yet she forms relationships with the other women working there. It’s an odd film, as Chunjung appears to be mentally ill as well as illiterate, while the women at the agency always seem to talk about finding a man. Ultimately the film does very little to explore either the immigrant experience or Chunjung as a character, although hints of such may have been missed due to the terrible subtitles.
Fitting Room (피팅룸) – 4/10
Fitting Room is concerned with a mother who wishes to have a life of freedom, but can’t due to her young daughter. It is extremely difficult to empathise with the mother as she treats her daughter terribly throughout, never talking to her or attempting to understand the youngster. The turning point comes when the mother hides the sleeping girl in a closet in order to have sex with her boyfriend, which seems to be the catalyst for wishing to be a better mum. Director Oh Jung-mi (오정미) is clearly attempting to explore the evolving relationship between a bad single mother and her innocent daughter, but there is little depth due to the lack of dialogue and restriction within an apartment.
Mija (미자) – 6/10
Director Jeon Hyo-jeong’s (전효정) examination of lonely middle-aged woman Mija is an insightful, poignant, and often comedic short film. Her secret lover is a younger Nepalese man – a feature which sadly instigated gasps amongst the audience – and Mija decides to purchase tickets for them both to visit his homeland. The real power of the film lies in Mija’s desire to overcome her jealousies and her age through cosmetics and other methods, yet is ultimately unable to do so. The film is a poignant and moving depiction of a single middle-aged woman who wishes to change her life, with just enough comedy to keep the narrative from becoming bleak.
Mira’s Will (미라의 의지) – 5/10
One of the more straightforward comedy offerings, Mira’s Will tells the story of a lonely young woman who has yet to experience her first kiss. The film is often more mildly amusing rather than funny, although the advice given by a friend to enhance her sex appeal – not to wear underwear on a date – adds some laughs. Director Lee Eun-jeong’s (이은정) entry is entertaining, especially witnessing Mira take control of her sexuality in order to seduce a man, but suffers as she is so desperate she’s willing to accept anyone. The film also doesn’t end well as wearing no panties on a date leads to a predictable outcome. However it is refreshing to see a female character take control of her sexuality – and to desire sex – without any connotations of shame, and as such is an enjoyable tale.
The Room of Drink (살롱 드 보아) – 3/10
The Room of Drink is an exploration of the way in which women are exploited in hostess bars by wealthy men. The premise is full of potential, as the hostess bar culture in Korea highlights one of the more accepted forms of misogyny within the country. However the film fails to scratch any of the surfaces that are so ripe for examination. When a pretty, young office worker is asked to drop by such a bar to provide documents for her boss, she is ushered into acting like a hostess, pouring drinks for her boss’ companion and allowing him to touch her. The unease is palpable, although never moves into the realm of tension, while the glares passed between the office worker and the real hostess convey an odd mix of jealousy and judgement that are not really explored. A missed opportunity by director Sohn Hae-sook (손해숙).