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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.



The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008) January 5, 2009

Posted by ayasawada in Film, Rave.
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I went to the ICA on Sunday to see a preview of the ‘oriental western’ The Good, the Bad, the Weird and boy was it excellent.

It’s a Korean production, big budget and extremely well shot. The plot builds on the basic premise of Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (of course) with three main characters mixed up in a complicated plot, this one involving a treasure map and riches in Manchuria. But it fills this out with a hint of political intrigue with it’s setting around the time of the Japanese Manchurian occupation and the clash of Korean, Chinese, Japanese and others in Asia’s equivalent of the Old West. That and lots and lots of stunning action scenes.

The first half of the movie in particular seems to be a string of actions scenes, but impressively director Kim Ji-woon doesn’t allow the characterisation to suffer. You do learn a little more about our ‘heroes’ and their way of life as the film goes on, even if they are only as three-dimensional as an action-oriented Western will allow a character to be. In terms of the action, I was blown away by two sequences in particular: the opening train robbery (particularly the one-take follow of Yoon Tae-Goo as he heads for the front car and his target) and the shoot out in Ghost Market, with the unbelievably cool Park Do-won swinging around on ropes, shotgun in hand, picking off bad guys, whilst Yoon Tae-Goo wanders around with a diver’s helmet on.

Those two sequences were exquisitely choreographed and paced, and like the rest of the movie beautifully shot. The cinematography and framing really hit home as well, as I watched the end credits accompanied by still shots of the movie. And the music was superb. Ending felt like a little bit of a cop out to me, after building to the shoot out I was hoping for, but overall I enjoyed the film immensely.

I really can’t emphasise how cool this movie is and urge any fan of action or Asian cinema to see it. It’s my first pleasant surprise of the cinematic year and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to see a Kim Ji-woon film. I’ll be seeking out A Bittersweet Life and A Tale of Two Sisters over the next few months.