I’ve been getting relatively negative reviews about the movie Dark Water whilst I was in camp. No one seems to appreciate the movie for the very cinematic elements ( set design, camera work, editing and music, sfx ) that contribute to its moody and dark atmosphere. All my campmate’s attention were pretty much centered on “only the last part was scary” or “i was only scared when those bumbs appeared on the watertank” and in the worse case, “its a lousy show !”. Suddenly I found myself a self appointed defender of the movie as I argued for its worth, as I would argue for a thousand other movies my friends all deem to be bad. Yes, i agree its a horror movie, scares are necessary, but those few scenes are what I would label as “in your face” scares and had the least impact on me.

Which brings me to the debatable point here : Are movies in general, esoteric ? That means to say that they are only intelligible to those who have special knowledge, and in this context those who have a slightly better understanding of film aesthetics. Shouldn’t a movie be crafted in such a way that the majority of the audience would be able to appreciate its elements without prior acquired knowledge ? It certainly didn’t seem to be the case here. Or perhaps movie audiences here are just so awashed by mainstream hollywood movies that their acquired tastes are conformed to certain treatment, and they quickly reject alternate or different styles of work when they see one ?

I can’t help but relate this to the art scene in the early 20th century where the Paris Salon, the most established academy that exhibits and showcases art pieces, judges entry works by a certain predetermined standard and those not conformed to those are labelled as bad or unorthodox, unrefined. It was also here that the Impressionist painters, Cezzance, Renoir and the like bear the full brunt of the criticism by been different and it was not until much later when they recieved full acclaim for the pieces.

Jun 12th 2002
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The Japanese film Dark Water is of the more satisfying horror films i’ve seen in a long while, far surpassing its Hollywood counterparts with their cliche, cheap scares consisting of little more than its fair share of blood and gore, incessant loud and in your face special effects. Dark water succeeds with its intensely eerie combination of dank, superbly lit sets and subtle, almost unbearable camera movement that beckons your eye to follow in anticipation. I was most impressed and petrified by its well lit, or rather under lit corridors, those long arches shrouded in a dark, perpetual gloom that seem to lead to a void of indescribable horror. No one is making me walk down one of those corridors. Though in my opinion the scare factor is still below that of the Ring , Dark water have like what my friend Gatchaman has mentioned, an added dimension of emotional depth that carries the film as more than just a simple horror show, plus at the same time a more subtle social lesson in order : neglect your children, and the worst nightmares that may come to bear will surface will terrifying results.

Jun 8th 2002
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Time and again Korean films have swept me off my feet, engulfing me in megalomania, putting me back in love. The latest addition to the family is the movie “One Fine Spring Day”.

I think my emotions are most easily roused, as far as movie watching is concerned. So if a laudable movie that is imbued with all the right qualities of beauty, subtlety and emotiveness comes my way, I will break down like melting ice awashed in sunlight. One Fine Spring Day are all these qualities and more. I saw it at the SIFF, and now as i listen to the music and the visuals, hauntingly beautiful and memorable, I cannot help but express my praise for this movie through this channel.

http://www.springday.co.kr/

This review explains most of the movie expressively –

http://www.subwaycinema.com/frames/archives/nyaff02/finespringday.htm

The rest is watching it.

May 15th 2002
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My Sassy Girl ( Yeopgijeogin geunyeo ) stars the devastatingly beautiful girl Jeong Ji Hyun of Il Mare, which by and large is one of my favourite Korean movies of all time. By virtue of this alone I was bent on watching my Sassy Girl, and although it lacks the melancholic sentimentality of Il Mare, is still one heck of a funny and at times romantic movie.

The Korean word `Yupgi’ means ”to be curious about and search for creepy and uncanny things or events.” But it has become a most fashionable pop culture code word, meaning anything nonsensical and implying something creepy but cool and funny. It’s become a buzzword in Korea in recent years, especially in cyberspace. Kim Ho-Sik’s hit serial story on the Internet, [Yupgi Girl], surely played a critical role in spreading and wedging the word “yupgi” into the collective consciousness as the hippest culture code. Yupgi Girl, starring Cha Tae-Hyeon and Jeon Ji-Hyeon, is a film adaptation of Kim’s Internet serial of the same title. The movie follows Kyon-wu (Cha’s) narration, in which Jun Ji-Hyeon is called “the girl.” (This presumably lovely female principal, strangely, doesn’t even have a name, although she is the person who commits herself to all those yupgi demeanors.) Kyon-wu saves a girl who was apparently about to be crushed by an oncoming subway train. What made that sleek girl with glowing long hair and white face almost throw her life away in front of a subway train? Alcohol. As a complement to for this yupgi girl who throws up, dead drunk, on the wig and then on the very bald head of an elderly man in the subway, who becomes angry, hits him with her fists and shouts abusive words at him, Kyon-wu is a light-as-air character who is ready to serve this too high- spirited but pretty girl. The lively, sprightly, refreshingly charming actors, Cha and Jun, are the reasons to go to see this film, which is full of light-hearted laughter for the first 100 minutes before jumping ahead three years into a farfetched leap of plot for the last 20 minutes.

Just to let you in a little on the details of this movie; many of the scenes, costumes, lines were borrowed heavily from a few other korean movies, Il Mare itself included, as sort of comedic parodies. If you pay close attention to what’s actually happening throughout the movie, you’d be sure to spot one many spoofs, connections and hints that would allow you to better understand the somewhat ambiguous ending. There’s a 2 disc dvd set on sale at dvdasian.com, which promises more secrets and easter eggs, and I’m going weak at the knees already.

Apr 15th 2002
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The movie No Man’s Land was a smorgasbord of various debatable issues and human emotions. At the height of the Bosnian war, Ciki, a Bosnian soldier, hides in a trench in No Man?s Land. Nino, a Serb, is wounded in the same trench, while Cera, a Bosnian soldier, lies unconscious on a spring mine. Both men attract the attention of their respective sides in an attempt to survive their predicament. Soon, the UN troops are called in… This movie is about the casualties of war, for right from the start of the show displays a massacre of troops as they battle at the bloody frontline. This movie is about satire, mocking the stiff and dogmatic bureaucracy of the UN as they stood and gaze in brazen shame as the wounded lay unaided. This movie is about deep poignancy, for as the last shot in the movie slowly tracks out you feel the disconcerting solitude and despair of the wounded as he lies helpless, bereft of any aid. To have envisioned all this ideas and presented them in such a witty, humourous and yet sad movie, I for once agree with the Oscar nomination panel that it truely deserves the award of best foreign film.

( apologies for those who haven’t watched the film ) My favourite shot in the film must be where the Serbian commander decided that to “play safe”, had the entire trench area bombarded by artillery and at this juncture, the two wounded soldiers taking cover in a shelter. The framing was such that each of them were leaning on either side of the entrance of the shelter and henced divided on the left and right of the screen, with the entrance in the middle of the shot and artillery bombing away ouside as they argued on the fault of the party who started the war first. I personally interpretated the framing of the shot with them been divided in the middle as the separation of the Serb and Bosnian people as war wages outside ( the artillery bombing ). Within, the conflict can only be solved by whoever possessing the weapon, as in the case of the Serbian soldier. Cool art direction and photography.

Apr 13th 2002
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