Thursday, April 15, 2010

Breathless (2008)

I'm going to do something a bit weird here. I'm going to reprint what was essentialy my review for this film that I posted at the Internet Movie Database. Its a very ambivilent review that kind of is a turn off. In it I like the film, but I don't love it. Its not the sort of thing that really will make you want to see the film. And strangely its still exactly how I feel about the film.

So, you're wondering, why am I mentioning the film?

Because I've seen the film, I think three, maybe four times and I find that even though as a whole it kind of doesn't add up the pieces, particularly the characters stay with you. Frankly, the end of the film affects me everytime, which is reason enough in my book to recommend the film. For all the ambivilence there is something about the film I return to and revisit.

And with that in mind, I present my thoughts on Breathless from after I saw it the first time:

Foul mouthed and violent and yet extremely conventional story of a collector for a gang that finds that things begin to change once he runs across a high school senior who won’t put up with his crap. The pair bonds and become friends. We also meet the other people in their lives, his sister, father, nephew and friends; and her brother, father and teachers. It’s an often funny occasionally shocking look at the violence we do and is done to us. Everyone in this film is damaged and a victim of some form of violence In most cases the tough guy stance of all of the characters is stripped away as they themselves are abused in others. It’s the classic struggle of people to try and fight the violence in their lives or to go with it.

Made as a poke in the eye to the Korean film industry by the star who felt he had nothing to lose (he wrote and directed). The film has won numerous awards around the globe and contains some very realistic violence and some raw performances. I can see how the film rocks some people’s worlds (for all my reservations about the film it does have a definite power in its conclusion) but at the same time this is a rambling, often unfocused, film that seems very conventional. This is ultimately the story of an odd couple of misfits, neither whom belong really anywhere, who find some catalyst for change in each other. Granted this is set in their violent world where families abuse and even kill other family members, nonpayment of debts will get you hit in the head with a hammer or worse, and the slightest mood shift will end up with broken heads but it is at its (bleak but hopeful) heart a well worn story.

To be honest I wasn’t blown away. I liked the film a great deal. I love the performances, the two leads are stunning. I love the witty repartee between the characters, which is often very funny and real in the way that you bust on friends. But at the same time I found the film much too unfocused. Its good, its just too long and too rambling.

A note of sorts- of all of the films I saw at the New York Asian Film Festival this was the one film that I made the most notes concerning. Sitting in a restaurant after the film I scribbled numerous pages about the film and its meanings and the things it did, and now that it comes time to actually write it up I find that the film isn’t worth elaborating on the numerous pages and that abbreviating them to the preceding entry was enough. Somehow 24 hours after seeing it the film no longer matters.

Currently out on DVD elsewhere in the world, the film is still playing screenings in the US. Its a film to keep an eye out for.

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