Poll

What's your favorite film from Jee-woon Kim?

haven't seen any
3 (20%)
don't like any
3 (20%)
other
0 (0%)
The Quiet Family
0 (0%)
The Foul King
0 (0%)
A Tale of Two Sisters
2 (13.3%)
A Bittersweet Life
4 (26.7%)
The Good, The Bad, The Weird
3 (20%)
I Saw the Devil
0 (0%)
The Last Stand
0 (0%)
The Age of Shadows
0 (0%)
Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 15

Author Topic: Kim, Jee-woon  (Read 1659 times)

1SO

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Re: Kim, Jee-woon
« Reply #20 on: December 21, 2017, 11:03:59 PM »

A Bittersweet Life (2005)
"Apologize, then nothing will happen. "I. Was. Wrong." Three little words. If you say those three words,
nothing horrible will happen. "I. Was. Wrong." Just three words."
"F**k. Off. Asshole."


My original plan was to modify my other review from a thread less travelled. Then I hit on a particular moment of style involving shots edited to a light switch clicking on and off, thinking I could isolate that for my post. However, MartinTeller's review sticks out as something deserving of a longer response because he hits upon what is probably the most common criticism against this film.

Quote
It's a very familiar and fairly predictable gangster/revenge tale without much nuance.  But like the John Woo and Quentin Tarantino films (and maybe Johnnie To? I dunno) it seems to draw inspiration from, it gets by on style.

While this is the moment where Kim became my favorite South Korean filmmaker, I keep returning not to re-experience all the cool highlights, but to strip away the sheen and dig deeper into the character types. The entire back half is only about revenge on the surface. It's also about Sun-woo taking on the difficulty of walking away from what he does best, and does better than anyone, to live a life of uncertainty where his finely-honed skills will only pull him back in.

Towards the end is the only moment that breaks a linear chronology. It reveals what sets him on his path - and the way it's removed from the scene where it actually takes place is just another of Life's masterful edits - but there are also his scenes with fellow mobsters, living it up with food, clothes and the company of loose women or the boss' more violent enforcers, committing sadistic beatings without a moral code.

Each sequence folds beautifully into the journey. There are a pair of scenes in the first half where Sun-woo roughs up innocent people. In the first, he is filled with guilt and confusion. In the very next scene, he is more violent than necessary given the banal situation, becoming more like... the gangster who confronts him in the very next scene. Each step in developing the character also moves the story forward to that second half, where Sun-woo is surviving more on his wits, making him as sloppy as the gangsters he used to look down on.

So, to Martin and others that share his view I say that there's way more to this film than initially meets the eye. The first viewing gets by on style, but there is a lot more meat to bite into past that initial rush.
RATING: * * *
« Last Edit: December 21, 2017, 11:06:34 PM by 1SO »

1SO

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Re: Kim, Jee-woon
« Reply #21 on: December 22, 2017, 09:23:36 AM »

The Good the Bad the Weird (2008)

This is the Kim film that gets by on style. I'm glad I re-watched it for all the cool action beats, but seeing it after Bittersweet Life is like when Soderbergh followed Traffic with Ocean's Eleven. There's nothing to these characters beyond the clothes, the haircuts and the charisma of the stars, and on that level Kang-ho Song steals the film as The Weird.
 
There is a fascination watching someone take what Leone created and reworking it through a South Korean filter rather than directly stealing all of the master's best moments. It's also an impressive stunt show, with trains, jeeps, motorcycles and horses all colliding like a pre-apocolyptic Mad Max film. However, any direct comparisons to Leone's films, or Fury Road (or Oceans Eleven) and this is the lesser film, because the actors playing The Good and The Bad aren't able to bring the necessary gravitas to their archetypal roles.
RATING: * * * - Good

1SO

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Re: Kim, Jee-woon
« Reply #22 on: December 22, 2017, 11:26:34 PM »

I Saw the Devil (2010)

This remains one of the most difficult films to discuss because on the surface it appears to be nothing more than a stylized parade of graphic violence, and if you start going into depth, you come off like a fanboy defender of either the director or violent cinema. Since I'm known to be both, anything I say can be used against me. The Spoiler Thread covers my conflicted opinion about this film very well. The best part from me is this.

In short, this is the Best Directed film from one of the Best Director's Working Today. However, I don't know what compelled him to make this picture. Had I read the script first, I'd be completely against anybody filming it. The skill of the filmmaker is the one and only reason to watch. (Even the actors are adequate but not exceptional.)  I say that's reason enough.


In terms of crafting individual scenes, this may be Kim's best work to date. There are moments where the lighting, sound and camera are as perfect as The Coen Brothers at the top of their game. A shot towards the beginning of water turning from clear to crimson, the beautiful reveal of a submerged head, the light-up angel wings on the killer's rear view mirror. Even some of the harshest reviews admire the way this is filmed. So it becomes a question of substance and here's where I get into trouble.

Like A Bittersweet Life I think the film is simple on the surface, but it does go places other revenge films haven't. Mainly, it looks to go deeper and darker than any similar film. While others bring you up to smash you back down, I Saw the Devil just keeps plunging further and further into the deep, center of hell, and the horror/thriller style is the only thing that keeps it from being a depressing experience.
RATING: * * * - Very Good, but not recommended lightly

1SO

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Re: Kim, Jee-woon
« Reply #23 on: December 23, 2017, 12:46:07 PM »
Everything in front of me to watch will be new. I have Doomsday Book and will be searching for his other two short films before ending with The Age of Shadows. Meanwhile...

My brain keeps connecting Kim's technique to Michael Mann, and I had a hard time figuring out why because I have not been a fan of Mann since he went digital. Then I remembered Heat. On the surface, Heat is a routine Cops vs. Criminals story. Negative reviews on Kim often use the same "routine" label. With both directors (who also write most of their projects), they take these familiar types and then layer them with fresh ideas. They dig much deeper than was even thought possible for the genre. I've been hung up on the calculated craftsmanship of the two filmmakers, but their real connection is in their writing. You could easily imagine a Michael Mann remake of A Bittersweet Life and if Jee-woon Kim were to remake Collateral, viewers would recognize it as a sanitized version of I Saw the Devil.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2017, 12:49:17 PM by 1SO »

1SO

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Re: Kim, Jee-woon
« Reply #24 on: December 24, 2017, 12:25:14 AM »

The Heavenly Creature (2012)

Segment of a feature called Doomsday Book is about a robot found hiding in a monastery where Buddhist Monks believe it has reached enlightenment. A philosophical battle begins between the robot, the corporation that created it, a socially isolated and emotionally closed off robot repairman and a passionate Buddhist woman. A number of great shots, but this is a talky affair with no real solution. So it just throws out deep thoughts, proving one side of the argument and then the other. Reminded me of the not-so-good scenes in Matrix: Reloaded.
RATING: * *




One Perfect Day (2013)

A not-very-lovable loser is looking way too hard for love. This short is Kim's first and so far only romantic comedy. There's a lot of silly talk about life's wisdom in Rock-Paper-Scissors, and I was starting to feel this wasn't short enough. Everything is saved by a beautiful closing segment, shot with lush colors, that manages to prove me wrong by demonstrating the wisdom of R-P-S in a practical situation that's quite romantic. Reminded me of Makoto Shinkai's films, 5 Centimeters Per Second and Your Name.
RATING: * * * - Okay

1SO

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Re: Kim, Jee-woon
« Reply #25 on: December 25, 2017, 12:58:29 AM »

The Age of Shadows (2016)

Spies and espionage in 1920s Korea. A Korean officer with sympathies towards the resistance (Kang-ho Song, appearing for the 4th time in this thread) is partnered with a coldly efficient Japanese agent to capture a terrorist ring (led by Train to Busan's Yoo Gong) planning a bombing attack on Seoul. It's a lot more complicated than it sounds because there are a number of people working as double agents as well as people being persuaded to switch sides along the way.

I don't know the history of the tensions between Japan and Korea and we're given very little backstory on the characters, to make it tougher to detect who might be willing to betray their side. Because of this and in spite of some superior action scenes, I had a hard time staying invested in the story. There is a lengthy sequence on a train where Kim builds a lot of suspense and the production design overall is extremely atmospheric, but this never fully kicks in like Kim's better, earlier work.
RATING: * *

philip918

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Re: Kim, Jee-woon
« Reply #26 on: December 26, 2017, 11:08:50 AM »
The Good, The Bad, and the Weird
Tale of Two Sisters

The Last Stand


Not a huge fan, but still want to see Bittersweet Life and Age of Shadows.
"If God gives you lemons find a new God."