I have been a little slow at adding new comments recently, although I have probably never watched more movies. There are a couple of films I want to discuss at length, so I thought I would put together a little set of short reviews to move things forward.
Three of these films would probably get the full treatment under normal circumstances, so I reserve the right to re-comment on them later.
Starting with the weakest of the bunch, Open City is a glossy Korean crime thriller. It looks great, but lacks a certain something. The most interesting aspect is the casting of Son Ye-jin rather against type as a femme fatale. She leads a gang of rather ruthless pickpockets, and is hunted down by a Policeman (Kim Myeong-min), who it turns out has rather a personal tie to her gang. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the film, other than it is rather predictable. Every twist is pretty much as you would expect, and let’s face it – pick pocketing can only be jazzed up so far. Certainly worth a view, but not a keeper.
I watched this movie a long time ago, and I seem to remember I rather enjoyed it. However, time has not been kind to Koma. Taking the urban legend of being drugged and waking up in an ice bath with one of your kidneys removed, it is an interesting, and at times very exciting thriller. However, once again, the twists are not THAT shocking, and one key story element is introduced about 45 minutes too late. There is one scene of utter genius, but as it is barely referenced again, it seems a little pointless. Karena Lam and Angelica Lee are as watchable as always, so again, certainly worth watching, but probably not as good as it thinks it is.
Home Sweet Home
On the other hand, this is a little gem. Pou-Soi Cheang has crafted a little gem of a movie here. Home Sweet Home starts off as a horror movie, using some by the book horror tropes, but after 25 minutes this has turned into a very interesting and very dark psychological drama. An unrecognisable Karena Lam and a very strong Shu Qi, play women who deal with the loss of their families (and especially their young sons) amazingly. With a subtext of how the underclass of society get lost during periods of economic growth and change, there is a lot going on here. My only quibbles are that a good deal of the plot is moved on by exposition rather than the forward movement of the movie, and that the husband is moved off camera very quickly and never referenced again. However, this is brilliant and highly recommended.
Take Care of My Cat
A lovely little movie following five young girls adapting to live in the Korean City of Incheon after leaving High School. Take Care of My Cat is especially interesting as it explores a city usually ignored (usually we are left in Seoul or the countryside) in Korean cinema. It comments on the place of women in modern Korean society, and is just delightfully subtle. Not a coming of age film about sex, drink and drugs, but one about real life. It also uses a really smart technique in displaying txt messaging on screen – the only downside is that my subtitles did not say what was being written. Well played by all the main characters, special praise has to go to Bae Du-na, who is one of my favourite Korean actresses.
Linda Linda Linda
Bae Du-na appears again in this little treat. Linda Linda Linda is an excellent Japanese movie, following a group of Japanese girls attempting to get a band together to play in the high school festival. We interestingly join the plot part-way through, dealing with a break up in some of the friendships. Bae Du-na is somewhat accidently enrolled as a vocalist in the band, even though she is a Korean exchange student with a very limited grasp of Japanese. There are at least two laugh out loud moments dealing with this culture clash, but the film is so much more than a culture clash comedy. It is also so much more than a “bring the band together” movie.
All the girls get their time in the spotlight – it really is delightfully played by all involved – kudos to Yu Kashii, Aki Maeda and Shiori Sekine (who is a real-life J-Rock star rather than an actress) who all get time to shine in this movie.
It might move a little slowly for some, but it is well worth the effort.
And I guarantee you will be humming along the the J-Rock songs covered by the girls by the end.