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A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) April 5, 2009

Posted by ayasawada in Film.
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I wrote a couple of months ago about discovering Kim Ji-Woon and my anticipation at catching up with his back-catalogue. A Tale of Two Sisters certainly didn’t disappoint.

The third biggest grossing film  in Korea, apparently, it is a marvelous modern take on an old Korean folk tale. It masquerades as a horror movie, but isn’t actually that scary and is more of a psychological thriller.

The story follows two young teenage girls, who return home after treatment at a mental institution. This stems from emotional issues surrounding their father’s remarriage and their mother’s suicide. Tensions remain with their emotionally distant father and selfish step-mother. Moreover, there is some kind of evil presence in the house.

SPOILER ALERT

What pleased me most about this is the fact that it didn’t overplay the supernatural angle, which at first had me dreading another poor entry to the Asian horror genre. Contrary to the blood-stained cover on the DVD, there isn’t actually that much gore in it, or cheap shocks. It’s instead a really clever narrative, constantly keeping you guessing and putting the viewer in as confused and on-edge a state as the protagonists.

It’s also beautifully filmed. There are some gorgeous shots here and some fantastic tracking shots, especially one rising crane shot at the start just as the girls arrive home. Kim, the writer and director here, maintains great control over his work and is ably supported by his cinematographer, Lee Byung-Woo, and a great cast.

The only thing that lets it down is maybe the ending, which in explaining the twist seems to unfairly blame the protagonist, when the step-mother could have done more. But nevertheless, I found this really rewarding and demonstrative that Kim Ji-woon is comfortable in any genre.

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1. The lazy round up post « Canned Memory - December 29, 2009

[…] Bittersweet Life: Not quite as good as the other two Kim Ji-Woon films I’ve seen but very stylish. Perhaps the modern gangster motif is not […]


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