By Lee Hyo-won
's noted feature debut "LaLa Sunshine
" opens Oct. 22 ― just a week after his romantic comedy "Hello My Love
". This is the first time that a newcomer's works are being released in theaters back to back.
"Sunshine" toured several film festivals, from Jeonju to Hong Kong and Lyon, France. In short, it showcases Kim's raw style before he got his feet wet in the mainstream cinema pool.
The movie mostly succeeds in creating something highly atmospheric with a meaningful experimental structure. Weighty subject matters such as rape, revenge and redemption spin out through a deliberate sense of disjointedness.
But flaws lie in its very strengths.
Deeply affecting scenes are often diluted by anticlimactic moments that are clearly not intended to reflect the protagonist's fragmented mind. The script's rawness often leads to the realization that the movie is a student project ― albeit bonus points for crafting a very professional-looking mise-en-scene under tight budget constraints (30 million won).
The homage to famous films such as "Chungking Express", "The Piano Teacher" and "Seven" is done with surprising deft. But Kim's desperate effort to find a unique voice kick and scream ― just like "Hello My Love
" seemed blindly focused on convincing the viewer that the relatively taboo subject of homosexuality here can feed naturally into the romantic comedy genre.
Nevertheless, the movie sustains a strong mood that grips the viewer from beginning to end, and one has to wonder what Kim has to offer next.
"Sunshine" follows in the footsteps of films like "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
" that harrowingly depict the self-consuming desire for vengeance and ultimately redemption.
Indie film queen Yang Eun-yong
, who played a memorable supporting role in "Hello My Love
", is brilliant as the scriptwriter Su-jin. Beneath her cool, collected demeanor she seems to harbor unhealed wounds from a hurtful past involving a man (veteran actor Jeong In-gi
While looking for a new story, Su-jin becomes intrigued by a newspaper article about a homicide case that happens in an art gallery, where Lee Mi-ra, a female curator, kills the artist who rapes her. Mi-ra is found not guilty on grounds of self defense but Su-jin puts a spin on the story: what if it was premeditated murder?
She starts typing away, pouring out and gratifying her own thirst for revenge. Here the director blurs the line between reality and fantasy, past and present. Su-jin's character Lala sports a blonde wig, sunglasses and rain coat like the famous Wang Kar-wai heroine ― she becomes her alter ego as she struts down memory lane and imagined spaces that all lead to sexual violence and a blood splattering finale.
In the meantime Su-jin, perhaps inspired by her own creation Lala, employs hit men to take care of the man who apparently wronged her. Working on the script forces to look into her own past but she insists on making it a masochistic pursuit rather than one of self-examination and healing, by coloring the homicide case with her own imagination.
When Lee Mi-ra, the woman from the homicide case, refuses to meet her, Su-jin finally decides to share her dark secret in order to win her trust.
Su-jin's calm facade however starts breaking down when she realizes she was conned by the hit men, and she becomes increasingly fixated with finding the truth behind the homicide case. When Mi-ra finally grants her a visit, however, she ignites in Su-jin the desire to take matters into her own hands.
Opens Oct. 22 exclusively at Indiespace (Joongang Cinema-Spongehouse Myeongdong).