The first short of the "Ahn Sangtae Short Film Collection Vol.1" omnibus plays best to Ahn Sang-tae's natural strengths as a comedian. Undercover is about an undercover cop in a violent criminal gag who very stupidly gets his Kakao chat rooms confused and has to hypermasculine his way out of it. That Ahn Sang-tae does not look or act like either a credible cop or gangster only sharpens the absurd contrast of the situation, as his comically aggressive behavior inspires mild confusion but ultimate acceptance from his superiors.
The second short, The Pole isn't really a comedy persay. None of the rest of the short movies are really, which is why they're not as good, although 'The Pole' is the best of the bunch. It's about a housewife who takes up pole dancing. And it's cute, I guess, although the ending was a bit offputting just because the soundtrack was completely at odds with the music she's actually dancing to at the end. Also the housewife isn't pole dancing, which is equally odd.
In general "Ahn Sangtae Short Film Collection Vol.1" has fairly weak production values. I'm not sure how they were recording the voices but there's always a weird echo. They're perfectly watchable and I've definitely seen my fair share of short movies at film festivals with equally bad or even worse production values. It's just, those were not particularly good short movies, and I can only remember one or two of them because they had distinctive enough twists.
Which appropriately enough is also Ahn Sang-tae's strategy for the remaining pieces in this omnibus. Jeokgu is totally out of step tonally compared to the previous two shorts. Indeed, the tonal shift in the middle of the movie is such a deliberately jarring plot twist I can't actually describe it to you without ruining the entire movie. Although I can tell you this much- while scary and effective to start out with, there's no serious follow-up. And the second plot twist at the end was just silly.
Both are still better twists than Beast Talker, which I'm pretty sure was a machine translation gone wrong, with the intended title being Stalker but it's honestly hard to tell. The twist kind of makes it plausible, yet "Ahn Sangtae Short Film Collection Vol.1" is exactly the kind of low budget flick that would do a machine translation. Anyway, a woman is harassed for awhile then we get the twist. Yep, not much to say there.
Nor is there much to say about the final movie, Synchro Man, which is the longest and most involved story of the bunch yet also the most boring. It's about some guy who does crimes with...mental synchronization? I mean, sure? Except that much like a previous story in the omnibus that involved crime, without clear motivation it's hard to get invested in a character. This is why Undercover was so good while the rest of the omnibus falls flat. The premise is set up quick, then we dive right into the funny.
Review by William Schwartz
"Ahn Sangtae Short Film Collection Vol.1" is directed by Ahn Sang-tae, and features Ahn Sang-tae, Ahn Il-kwon, Jung Yoon-ho, Lee Chang-ho, Hong Sung-hyun, Lee Ho-won-I. Release date in Korea: No release date in Korea yet.
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Ahn Sangtae Short Film Collection Vol.1""
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