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Arthouse films warm cold season

2008/02/13 Source

Except for the Lunar New Year holidays, February and March are regarded as a slow season for movie theaters. No wonder top production houses are reluctant to release their major films with greater box-office potential.

But the lull in the competition for ticket sales does not mean an absence of high-quality films. In fact, movie buffs might prefer the post-Seollal period because they can sit back comfortably in a not-so-crowded theater and enjoy more artistic films.

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", to be released tomorrow, lays out a vision of freedom that transcends figurative boundaries and entrapments in life. The movie involves the Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffers a stroke which paralyzes his entire body, except for his left eye, which guides his communication with the outside world.

With the help of an intermediary, Bauby uses that eye to express what he wants in his memoir, detailing his work, love and life in a style that is meditative and inspiring.

"Juno", set to hit theaters on Feb. 21, also exudes a sense of inspiration -- humorously. This offbeat comedy deals with the very unfunny subject of teen pregnancy in a story set in suburban North America.

Ellen Page plays sassy Juno MacGuff, a quick-witted, 16-year-old girl who decides to have sex with her geeky friend Paulie Bleeker (played by Michael Cera). Though they only do it once, Juno gets pregnant. With the movie grabbing awards and raking in the bucks, Page has pulled off a Best Actress nomination at this year's Oscars.

"4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days", which was screened at the 2007 Pusan International Film Festival, also involves a clueless young woman who has to deal with an unwanted pregnancy.

Set in Romania in the late 1980s, Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) wants an abortion, which was then illegal. She seeks help from her roommate Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), and the movie, in a period of 24 hours, tracks the two friends in a journey of frustration and desperation.

"Beautiful" (Areumdapda), to be released tomorrow, is an artsy film that follows the extremist tradition nurtured by Kim Ki-duk. Directed by his protege Juhn Jai-hong, the film has been invited to the Panorama section of the Berlin International Film Festival, which is now under way in Germany.

The movie portrays Eun-young (Cha Soo-yeon) who has the misfortune of being a salient beauty and has to go through traumatic experiences due to her irresistible appearance and men's uncontrollable sexual desire.

Despite -- or because of -- the artistic credentials, "Beautiful" has secured just five theaters in Seoul for its limited screening.

Following a similar arthouse line of Kim Ki-duk is none other than Hong Sang-soo, whose provocative films have many fans outside of Korea. His latest feature "Night and Day" (Bamgwa nat) has joined the competition section of the current Berlin International Film Festival.

The movie, to be released on Feb. 28, is Hong's first film to be shot mostly outside of Korea. Director Hong uses HD video to portray a painter who flees from Korea to Paris after getting caught smoking marijuana. Hong's ardent fans will delight in his trademark filmmaking style.

By Yang Sung-jin

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