Saturday, August 29, 2015

Memories of the Sword

I mentioned it in the preview post, but the scheduling for this at Boston Common really ticks me off. You're either coming in very early or staying up very late for this one, and as you can see from the 2am posting time here, I'm staying up very late.

Not a bad movie at all, though Well Go sliding it into the slot where the Weinstein Company and Netflix were previously going to release Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2 really does highlight how similar this seems to the first Crouching Tiger on a superficial level. It's an odd coincidence, but the story thankfully goes to its own place.

Impressive cast on it, too. I was kind of amused by how the previews I saw in theaters highlighted Lee Byung-hun's English-language work, especially with Terminator Genisys given prominent space. Man, was he wasted in that. On the other hand, Kim Go-eun had Coin Locker Girl specified, and it doesn't look like that's available in the US yet, nor is anything else she's done. Crying shame, that, because she's kind of great here, and her other movies at the very least look interesting. I also remember quite liking Jeon Do-yeon in The Housemaid.

Based on previews, it looks like a relatively quiet few weeks for Asian films coming up, so yo might as well catch this. It's not perfect, but it's not bad either, and the quick import (it started playing Korea just a couple of weeks ago) is appreciated.

Hyubnyeo: Kalui Kieok (Memories of the Sword)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 28 August 2015 in AMC Boston Common #4 (first-run, DCP)

A sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was supposed to open on Imax screens this weekend, but that seems to have fallen into some bizarre limbo. As South Korea's Memories of the Sword begins, one might naturally think that this Korean film fills the gap rather precisely. Despite the strong surface resemblance, it's not the modern classic that Crouching Tiger is, but it knits its melodramatic pieces into something quite enjoyable by the end.

It starts off by introducing the audience to Hong-yi (Kim Go-eun), an exuberant peasant girl with gravity-defying swordfighting skills, who upon leaping over the garden's highest sunflower races into town to challenge Yool (Lee Jun-ho), the local champion in the combat games presided over by General Yu-baek (Lee Byung-hun), capturing a bit more attention than she probably should. That's why when she returns home, her blind foster mother Wol-su (Jeon Do-yeon) gives her a dressing down - she has not raised and trained Hong-yi since infancy just for fun, but so that she can, upon turning twenty, kill two people, traitors from the day when "The Three Great Swords" - her father Pung-chun and lovers Sul-rang and Duk-gi, fought their last battle.

There are lies in that description. There have to be, as the screenplay by director Park Heung-sik and co-writer Choi Ah-reum is built on deception, secret identities, and other things that would genuinely qualify as spoilers if the early scenes of this movie were described honestly. Piling deception and revelation on top of one another like that has brought many, many films to the brink of collapse, but Memories of the Sword seems to tacitly acknowledge that this setup is the work of people not in their right minds, so warped by greed, guilt, and rage that their true selves are hidden not just as a practical thing but as an almost natural response to their corruption. By the end, it makes an odd kind of sense, and the operatic sweep of the story has a very appealing grandeur.

Full review on EFC.

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