Pascha (파스카)

Pascha (파스카) – ★★☆☆☆

Pascha (파스카)

Pascha (파스카)

Screenwriter Ga-eul (Kim So-hee (김소희) lives a modest existence, working in dead-end jobs while she attempts to complete her screenplay. The only comforts for the lonely 40 year old are the stray cats she tends to – and often adopts – from the neighbourhood, and her boyfriend Joseph (Sung Ho-jun (성호준). Yet the relationship is quite scandalous as at 23 years her junior, Joseph has yet to complete high school let alone his required military service. Keeping a low-profile the couple continue their relationship unabated, until unexpected complications arise that threaten to drive them apart forever.

Crucial to the success of any romantic-drama is the core relationship. Audiences are fully aware that circumstances will enter the film that will challenge the protagonists, with the enjoyment derived from being so invested in the relationship that they will it to succeed despite the odds. In this sense, Pascha (파스카) falls far, far short of what is required as there is precious little romance or chemistry between Ga-eul and Joseph throughout the entire film. Director Ahn Seon-kyoung (안선경) has decided to enter the relationship well into it’s maturity, which is certainly no bad thing, as she sets up events and situations that are both natural as well as allowing for the sincerity of long-term partners to emerge. Yet even though the relationship is far from conventional such heartfelt emotions never appear, chiefly due to the awkwardness between the two lead actors which is incredibly distracting, particularly by Sung Ho-jun. There is a distance and coldness between them that conveys a mother and son relationship rather than lovers. Joseph’s Oedipal concerns are obviously an issue – hammered home with the song, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child” – but scenes such as sharing a bath just appear clumsy and indifferent rather than passionate and intimate.

Ga-eul's relationship with 17 year old Joseph is quite a scandal

Ga-eul’s relationship with 17 year old Joseph is quite a scandal

Pascha‘s most interesting moments lie within scenes involving Ga-eul’s family. When they discover her relationship with the 17 year old, the judgement and criticism Ga-eul receives conveys a deep-rooted misogyny that, even at the age of 40, she must humbly endure. The abuse she suffers is indeed shocking and it is during such moments that actress Kim So-hee shines, displaying the frailty of the nervous and unconfident screenwriter with skill. The pressure enforced upon Ga-eul also leads to film’s very strong – and very graphic – anti-abortion statement, that will likely appall the majority of audiences and outrage many others. Commentators are likely to discuss how far directors could, or rather should, go when it comes to presenting such explicit and visceral portrayals of such a sensitive topic. Yet it is also bizarrely ironic given that the film is so concerned with feminist issues only to undermine one area of debate in such an extreme manner.

It is also unfortunate that director Ahn only begins to show creative flair out of the ashes from such controversial scenes. For the vast majority of the running time the film is an incredibly bland affair featuring a static camera and very little eye-catching cinematography. The uninspiring camerawork and compositions in the early stages of the film do convey the depression, loneliness and solemnity Ga-eul endures, yet such technical issues are rather crude and also suggest directorial inexperience, further detracting from the supposed intimacy between her and Joseph. This is indeed strange as director Ahn’s capabilities are impressive and wholly apparent during the film’s final scenes, a genuine shame as the relationship sorely requires such visual prowess much much earlier to be convincing and effective. As such Pascha is a romantic-drama that is ironically not memorable for its central couple or the relationship, but for the debate on ‘how far is too far?’ in representations of sensitive subject matter.

Ga-eul must learn to endure the pain of loss

Ga-eul must learn to endure the pain of loss

Verdict:

In the attempt to convey the scandalous relationship between a 40 year old screenwriter and her 17 year old boyfriend, Pascha falls far short of other romantic dramas. The awkwardness and indifference displayed by the actors ultimately ruins any tension for when the relationship is predictably threatened. Yet director Ahn Seon-kyoung does well when examining the issues of misogyny endured by the central protagonist. Ironically however, Pascha, is not memorable for the scandalous relationship but for the explicit representation of abortion, which will likely upset critics and audiences alike.

★★☆☆☆

 

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Busan International Film Festival (제18회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Festivals 2013 Reviews
The 18th Busan International Film Festival

BIFF 2013: Gala Presentation, New Currents, and Open Cinema

The 18th Busan International Film Festival

The 18th Busan International Film Festival

With the 18th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) due to commence on October the 3rd, it’s high time to profile the Korean entries that are due to be screened.

Three of the big categories at BIFF – Gala Presentation, New Currents, and Open Cinema – showcase some of the incredible mainstream and independent films to emerge from the Korean film industry this year.

Gala Presentation focuses on a select group of important films from the Asian continent, and within this category are two Korean films – Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (설국열차) and Kim Jee-woon’s The X (더 엑스).

New Currents, meanwhile, explores some of the more powerful independent features to emerge from the continent. The manner in which the films within this category delve into social and cultural issues, often through experimentation of film form, make it one of the more fascinating areas. Three Korean films – 10 Minutes (10분), Steel Cold Winter (소녀) and Pascha (파스카) – appear, and receive their world premieres at BIFF 2013.

Rounding out the three, Open Cinema selects films to be presented on the Busan Cinema Center’s impressive outdoor screen. Two big thrillers from Korea are within the category – Cold Eyes (감시자들) and The Terror Live (더 테러 라이브).

Please see below for more in-depth coverage of each film.

Gala Presentation

The class system on the train is kept in check by sinister matriach Mason

The class system on the train is kept in check by sinister matriach Mason

Snowpiercer (설국열차) – Director Bong Joon-ho (봉준호)

Bong Joon-ho’s science-fiction epic was released in Korea earlier this year, earning over nine million admissions and over $50 million at the box office. For many foreign visitors to BIFF 2013 this will be their first opportunity to see the film before it’s released in international markets, so it’s placement within the Gala Presentation category is quite deserved. Snowpiercer is also notable as (currently) the most expensive Korean film ever made, as well as having Hollywood behemoth The Weinstein Company on board producing. The film tells the story of the last survivors on Earth following a man-made ice age that covered the planet. The last remnants of humanity struggle to survive on a train called ‘Snowpiercer’ which circumnavigates the globe every year. Yet within the train an unfair class system has emerged, and a revolution begins between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’ For the review of Snowpiercer, please click here.

The X (더 엑스)

The X (더 엑스)

The X (더 엑스) – Director Kim Jee-woon (김지운)

New camera technology allows for a more immersive experience

New camera technology allows for a more immersive experience

Screen X technology has been employed and experimented with in Kim Jee-woon’s latest film The X. Commissioned by cinema chain CGV, director Kim has used screen x – which allows for extra space on either side of the screen for a more immersive viewing experience – to produce this new 30 minute short action/thriller film. The X also features an all-star cast with Kang Dong-won, Shin Min-ah, and E Som in the lead roles which is guaranteed to arouse interest amongst their respective fan bases.

New Currents

10 Minutes (10분)

10 Minutes (10분)

10 Minutes (10분) – Director Lee Yong-seung (이용승)

10 Minutes is concerned with examining the notoriously harsh environment of the Korean workplace. The story follows a  young intern as he enters employment at a government facility, and is promised a full-time position that will guarantee financial stability. Yet when his boss promotes someone else into the position, the young man is forced to reevaluate his options. 10 Minutes is director Lee Yong-seung’s thesis film while at the Dankook Graduate School of Cinematic Content.

Steel Cold Winter (소녀)

Steel Cold Winter (소녀)

Steel Cold Winter (소녀) – Director Choi Jin-seong (최진성)

Steel Cold Winter is Choi Jin-seong’s first fiction film, after spending years helming successful documentaries. The film depcits the story of high schooler Yoon-soo who moves to the mountains in Gangwon Province following his friend’s suicide. Yet while he attempts to start a new life, he meets a mysterious girl called Hae-won and begins to fall in love. However Hae-won has a secret and when her father suddenly disappears, Yoon-soo’s suspicions become aroused.

Ga-eul's relationship with 17 year old Joseph is quite a scandal

Ga-eul’s relationship with 17 year old Joseph is quite a scandal

Pascha (파스카) – Director Ahn Seon-kyoung (안선경)

Director Ahn’s Pascha tells the story of a lonely 40 year old screenwriter and her 17 year old boyfriend. Their unconventional relationship, and penchant for adopting stray cats, is fine until some unexpected news forces the intervention of their families. The pressure exerted on the couple results in plenty of judgement and heartache, as they must try to find a way to stay together. Pascha could perhaps be an interesting and more feminist orientated companion piece with last year’s A Muse (은교), which explored similar themes with an older man and young girl.

Open Cinema

Rookie Yoon-jo must learn to observe and recall everything on a mission

Rookie Yoon-jo must learn to observe and recall everything on a mission

Cold Eyes (감시자들) – Directors Jo Eui-seok (조의석), Kim Byeong-seo (김병서)

A remake of Hong Kong thriller Eye in the Sky (2006), cat-and-mouse cop drama Cold Eyes performed very well upon its release over the summer. The film is a slick and high-tech thrill-ride, featuring an impressively futuristic rendition of Seoul as a government surveillance team works day and night to catch professional criminals. Cold Eyes depicts the story of talented rookie Yoon-joo (Han Hyo-joo) who joins a special division headed by Chief Hwang (Sol Kyeong-gu). Their mission is to apprehend a group of professional thieves and their mastermind ‘Shadow’ (Jeong Woo-seong). The A-list cast have all been superbly cast against the types of roles they usually portray, and the result is a highly engaging thriller.

Exploiting the opportunity to become a news anchor, Yeong-hwa begins to regret his decision

Exploiting the opportunity to become a news anchor, Yeong-hwa begins to regret his decision

The Terror Live (더 테러 라이브) – Director Kim Byeong-woo (김병우)

The Terror Live was one of the surprise hits of the summer, notably going toe-to-toe with Snowpiercer and still gaining a large proportion of the audience. The reasons are quite clear as the thriller is a well-crafted and suspense-filled, as well as striking a chord with Korean audiences due to governmental criticism within. Superstar Ha Jeong-woo plays disgraced TV anchor Yeong-hwa, who has been demoted to radio due to a scandal. When a terrorist calls the radio show threatening to blow up a bridge, his bluff is called, and shortly thereafter an explosion occurs. Set entirely within a newsroom, The Terror Live is one of the more interesting thrillers in recent memory. For the review of The Terror Live, please click here.

Busan International Film Festival (제18회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Festivals 2013