REVIEW: In the Absence [2019]

I should have told her to escape quickly. This is what happens when your government leaders are inept, indifferent, and opportunistic. This is what happens when people are given jobs well above their abilities and thus become expected to make decisions rather than follow them. Not only was everyone holding a seat of power in the South Korean Coast Guard unwilling to act as they reported situations to bosses in the hopes of passing the buck, those paid to be heroes when called upon weren’t experienced enough to fulfill that…

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REVIEW: 기생충 [Gisaengchung] [Parasite] [2019]

This is so metaphorical. Min (Seo-joon Park) arrives unannounced at the semi-basement dwelling of his old friend Kim Ki-woo (Woo-sik Choi). The former is a college student about to study abroad, the latter an unemployed high school graduate doing his best to leech free wifi by the bathroom window since he, his sister (So-dam Park‘s Ki-jung), father (Kang-ho Song‘s Ki-taek), and mother (Hye-jin Jang‘s Chung-sook) have all fallen on hard times. Relegated to getting low-balled by a pizza joint for poorly folding their boxes on the cheap, the Kim family…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: 우상 [Woo-sang] [Idol] [2019]

You take the fault. Two fathers and two sons are embroiled in the aftermath of a cover-up wherein one boy winds up dead and the other imprisoned. Su-jin Lee could have spun his tale with little else since the perpetrator’s (Jo Byeong-gyu‘s Yo-han was behind the wheel, drunk and speeding down a quiet service street) father (Han Suk-kyu‘s Koo Myung-hui) is a political messiah running for governor while the victim’s dad (Sol Kyung-gu‘s Yoo Joong-sik) possesses just enough desperation and desire for retribution to go to court and make certain…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: 메기 [Maggie] [2019]

Let’s believe in people from now on. How would a movie narrated by a catfish feel? While the animal probably has a good view of what’s going on, would it understand? And when people use it as a stand-in for their conscience—knowing (yet not wanting to accept) the voice responding was still his/her own—would it retain the context of what it had heard? This fish would be an objective third party observer trying to parse the world around it through those few kind souls that pay it the time of…

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REVIEW: 버닝 [Beoning] [Burning] [2018]

Should I forget it ‘isn’t’ here? Jong-su (Ah-In Yoo) never tells Hae-mi (Jong-seo Jeon) what “metaphor” means. They’re standing in Ben’s (Steven Yeun) kitchen as he chops ingredients for a pasta dish and talks philosophically with a smug smile until the question comes up. He defers answering her to Jong-su since he’s the writer of the group, but he decides to ask where the bathroom is instead of supplying one. It’s ironic since the entirety of Chang-dong Lee‘s Beoning [Burning] proves one giant metaphor for the anger, uncertainty, and entitlement…

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FANTASIA18 REVIEW: 소공녀 [So-gong-nyeo] [Microhabitat] [2018]

Seems like you’re living a fantasy. What do you need to survive? It’s a common question we all ask ourselves—one that goes beyond the basic tenets of food, water, shelter, and human interaction. I’m talking about the things we cherish enough to put them before everything else. It could be freedom, hobbies, love, or art. It could be a feeling achieved by one specific song sung in one specific place. These are what we cling to and wrestle with when confronted by change because losing them is a sacrifice not…

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REVIEW: 아가씨 [Ah-ga-ssi] [The Handmaiden] [2016]

“The snake marks the bounds of knowledge” As soon as I began walking out of the theater after 아가씨 [Ah-ga-ssi] [The Handmaiden], a friend and fellow critic asked if I was the one laughing. I said, “Yes.” Parts Two and Three (of three) were legitimately funny—I’d say intentionally so. All of Chan-wook Park‘s films are out of necessity considering how dark, twisted, and violent his subject matter proves. I’d argue Korean cinema on the whole has an inherently unavoidable humor if only because the acting always seems to possess a…

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REVIEW: 부산행 [Busanhaeng] [Train to Busan] [2016]

“Until we meet again” There’s an abundance of sentimentality in Sang-ho Yeon‘s 부산행 [Busanhaeng] [Train to Busan], a trait you don’t necessarily attribute to a zombie action thriller. That’s not to say “The Walking Dead” doesn’t touch upon familial relationships and catharsis too, but the level of personal and emotional growth on display in these two-hours is somewhat astounding. Zombies wreaking havoc hardly prove the main impetus to the story as they originate in the fringes. Our focus is instead a broken home led by Seok-woo’s (Yoo Gong) fund manager,…

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FANTASIA15 REVIEW: Hwasangorae [Crimson Whale] [2014]

“It is an offense to feed the apes” A product of the Korean Academy of Film Arts’ Advanced Program, writer/director Park Hye-mi‘s Hwasangorae [Crimson Whale] is a fascinating little sci-fi adventure. The hand-drawn character design is cutesy with young faces and oversized clothing dwarfing stature, but the 2070 Busan in which they reside is brutally dilapidated. Looking at young Ha-Jin or even older, bumbling explosives expert Lee carries presumptions that this might be a kid’s film, but that’s definitely not the case once the first f-bomb is delivered. Just because…

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REVIEW: 뫼비우스 [Moebiuseu] [Moebius] [2013]

“Whole body is genital” If the whole “you’ll go blind” line doesn’t detract your kid from masturbating, controversial writer/director Ki-duk Kim has the solution. Just because the son in뫼비우스 [Moebiuseu] [Moebius] attracts the ire of his mother specifically due to his coveting the woman his father is having an affair with doesn’t lessen its impact. I assure you. The effect of watching said mother slice off said son’s penis remains the same. Well, at least until he discovers the sensual pleasures of pain. Hell, that might cause him to sever…

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NYAFF13 REVIEW: 은교 [A Muse] [2012]

“How do you know what he means to me?” Breeding our youth to dream of happily ever afters with an allure of fairy tale romance may do them a disservice by completely ignoring love’s equally prevalent loneliness. We hope to shelter their innocence until they discover the truth themselves, but maybe the pain would be less if they knew. Those we desire won’t always feel the same as platonic affection can be mistaken with sexual flirtation, our fantasies finding themselves scandalous or worse. Such barriers may even increase our feelings…

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