The first episode of the three-part "Cinema with You" omnibus features Seon-mi (played by Kim Ye-eun), a woman who works at the guide desk in a large building somewhere in Daegu. Her existence is meaningless, and portrayed in black-and-white. Every morning she reaches a gangly arm out of a tiny hole in her door to grab her daily milk delivery. As opposed to just, you know, opening the door.
This kind of weird imagery predominates throughout "Cinema with You" and is the film's main attractive sticking point. In the third episode, which details the quest of Eun-jeong (played by Park Hyun-young) to find a very specific person, two members of her entourage are otakus. One of them wears a horribly gaudy anime t-shirt, and the other one is constantly taking pictures of him, while both take constant breaks to act lovey-dovey with one another.
In the second episode, the absurdity is more of a flow than a pronounced moment. The story consists entirely of Director Lee Tae-kyoung doing a guest visit with people who watched her film, and struggling to deal with nonsensical queries from people who are asking questions mostly for the sake of asking questions. Director Lee Tae-kyoung's agony is intended to represent how actual directors feel about these meet-and-greets.
Actual directors like, say, Jeong Ka-young, who wrote and directed "A Thought at the Theater" or Yoo Ji-young, who directed "To the Theater" or the director of "Our Paradise", Kim Tae-jin-I. Note how the titles aren't all that helpful when it comes to identifying which movie is which. "Cinema with You" is a more of a baseline prompt, where the three writer/directors were given the opportunity to make whatever story they like.
This easily explains the weirdly offbeat content that I imagine most people not involved with South Korea's independent film scene will have trouble grasping. The entire sequence regarding the 55 Cinema in Daegu, for example, is a very accurate representation of independent film theater culture. So it's a struggle trying to figure out why the owner 55 Cinema would allow the theater to be described in this way. Why would anyone want to go a small movie theater filled with weirdos and con artists, where the movies are incomprehensible and the very neighborhood itself appears to exist beyond the normal space time continuum?
Don't let that desccription fool you. The ending to "To the Theater" is quite a bit more mundane than the surreal antipenultimate back alley sequence would imply. Likewise, "A Thought at the Theater" gives us a pretty obvious ouroboros styled clue to the ending- but it seems like that mostly in retrospect, since the actual content of director Lee Tae-kyoung's film is left quite vague. And lastly, while Eun-jeong does eventually find what she is looking for literally, metaphorically, learning that a person only has an identity relative to film is...a bit depressing actually. Although oddly enough that's still the closest "To The Theater" gets to any notion of romanticism.
Review by William Schwartz
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.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Cinema with You""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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