화장 (Revivre)

A Myung Films Production
Distribution: Little Big Pictures
Rating: 18 and Over
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 94 Min
Shooting Time: 2014/Jan/01~Mar/08 (43 Dates)
Release: 2015/Apr/09

WITH 안성기 (Ahn Sung-Gi) as Oh Jung-Seok; 김규리 (Kim Gyu-Ri) as Chu Eun-Joo; 김호정 (Kim Ho-Jung) as Jung-Seok's Wife; 전혜진 (Jeon Hye-Jin) as Jung-Seok's Daughter; 연우진 (Yeon Woo-Jin) as Jung-Seok's Son-In-Law; 신영진 (Shin Young-Jin) as Jung-Seok's Sister-in-Law; 김병춘 (Kim Byung-Choon) as Chief Jo; 김영훈 (Kim Young-Hoon) as Chief Jung; 서영주 (Seo Young-Joo) as So-Young;

CREW Director 임권택 (Im Kwon-Taek) Executive Producer 심재명 (Shim Jae-Myeong) 이은 (Lee Eun) | Screenplay 송윤희 (Song Yoon-Hee) Adaptation 육상효 (Yook Sang-Hyo) | Director of Photography 김형구 (Kim Hyung-Gu) Lighting 정영민 (Jung Young-Min) Editor 박순덕 (Park Sun-Deok) 최민영 (Choi Min-Young) Music 김수철 (Kim Su-Cheol) Art Director 주병도 (Ju Byeong-Do) | Assistant Director 박성진 (Park Sung-Jin) 신수아 (Shin Soo-Ah)
Based Upon Kim Hoon's 화장 (Cremation)

AWARDS
[2015] 백상예술대상 (Baeksang Art Awards) BEST FILM
[2015] 백상예술대상 (Baeksang Art Awards) BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS 김호정 (Kim Ho-Jung)

BOX OFFICE
KOFIC Nationwide
TOTAL REVENUE: 1,062,051,600 Won
TOTAL ADMISSIONS: 140,926
BUDGET: N/A

Photo ⓒ Myung Film, Little Big Pictures

SYNOPSIS

Mr. OH, who is in his mid-fifties, loses his wife after a four-year battle with cancer and proceeds with the funeral arrangements. His daughter’s long and unrelenting weeping has Mr. OH recall the same kind of outburst his wife let out when she was informed of a relapse. An executive at a major cosmetics company, Mr. OH was an extremely devoted husband who took great care of his sick wife. Soon, the funeral home becomes filled with guests including his corporate staff who are obliged to bring authorization- required documents for Mr. OH with them despite the occasion. With the upcoming winter collection release, there are too many issues for him to decide, but Mr. OH is distracted, not by the funeral but by a guest clad in black: his female staff member whom he carries feelings for. [KoBiz]

IN SHORT

Before he eventually passed away at the age of 106, you could sense in the last few films of Manoel de Oliveira's 88 year long career as a director a certain sense of wisdom, of inner peace. I know that it sounds like a cliché considering his age at the time (he was the oldest active filmmaker in the world, honour which has now passed on to Sri Lanka's Lester James Peries), but it's not the kind of observation you could make for all his fellow directors. Some just quietly wither away, losing their passion and flair in the final moments of their careers – I'm thinking Charlie Chaplin, Kurosawa Akira, and especially Francis Ford Coppola. For others, like Im Kwon-Taek, it's a slightly more complicated situation: they haven't lost their flair, but it doesn't quite have the resonance you'd hope it could and should have.

Arguably (but not excessively so), Im's last great film is 1993's 서편제 (Seopyeonje), although I'd say it's more iconic than great, especially with over twenty years of hindsight on our side. The nine films he's directed since have ranged from the ideologically inflamed but dramatically anemic adaptation 태백산맥 (The Taebaek Mountains) to 80s erotica a decade too late, like 창 (Downfall); straight in the middle was a brand of generally accomplished (and acclaimed) but far too overtly orientalist exotica that ranged from 춘향 (Chunhyang) to 달빛 길어올리기 (Hanji). His latest is yet another adaptation – Kim Hoon's 화장 (Cremation) – but from the very beginning you feel another vibe permeating it.

Kim's concise yet powerful prose becomes an at times glorious exercise in substance and message over style by Im, with a very endearing minimalism that goes from his directing aplomb all the way to the restrained performances (particularly that of a tremendously inspired Ahn Sung-Gi and Kim Ho-Jung). It's so easy to empathize with Jung-Seok's re-awakened youthful spirit, even though you could barely see a hint of lust in his gestures – exactly because Im doesn't try to pontificate about Eun-Joo as a character, depicting her as nothing more than a beautiful spark that ignites Jung-Seok's instincts. Juxtaposing the almost fantastic aura she carries with the extreme (at times even gritty) realism of his wife's last remaining days makes sure we understand what motivates his behavior in the third, beautifully suggestive act; what helps deliver the message in an even stronger way. And you can find such rich subtext all throughout the film, down to the care given to the fine details (Jung-Seok's work environment doesn't feel like the fruit of your ordinary workplace TV drama's hackneyed research, for instance).

And yet I doubt this will be seen for what it truly is: an 80 year old veteran showing great wisdom and ridding himself of all the unnecessary “fluff” (even if it was of a festival-friendly, government-approved nature) to focus on a few core elements delivered with great honesty and intelligence, like the ambiguous title suggests – it both translates as cremation (representing death) and putting on a new face, as if experiencing a rebirth (hence the International title). Most of the attention of the press was instead focused on Kim Ho-Jung and Kim Gyu-Ri's copious nudity, since film criticism in Korea has degenerated into an army of voraciously complacent cheerleaders who when necessary will turn into the Korean equivalent of Mr. Skin. I'm not sure if with all the shallow “titty talk” that surrounded the release of this film (in spite of its good festival rep) the significance of what's potentially one of Im's final works will manage to survive past a meager run at the box office and a quick digital release. It would be a shame, because this is the strongest cinematic statement the veteran director has made in a decade. And one of his most deceptively energetic.

ACTING GRADES

77 안성기 (Ahn Sung-Gi)
77 김호정 (Kim Ho-Jung)
68 전혜진 (Jeon Hye-Jin)
64 김규리 (Kim Gyu-Ri)
63 서영주 (Seo Young-Joo)
60 김병춘 (Kim Byung-Choon)
60 연우진 (Yeon Woo-Jin)
60 신영진 (Shin Young-Jin)
59 김영훈 (Kim Young-Hoon)

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