Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cafe Noir (2009) Korean Cultural Service free screening

Tuesday is the last of the Korean Cultural Service's series of independent films. Its been a hit and miss series, with Re-Encounter coming off the best and Missing Person coming off as the worst.

The final film in the sequence is probably going to be half the audience's best film and half the audience's worst film since Cafe Noir is the sort of film that is going to divide audiences right down the middle.

The film is a two part film, the first part is in color and the second is in black and white. It's a film that examines the idea of lost or thwarted love in a style that is very much like a Russian novel but by way of Korea. Its told with long takes, long silences and frequent deeply serious conversation about things. You're either going to click with this film for you won't. For me the film took most of the first half before I clicked with it...and at that point there was still almost two hours left to go.

I forgot to mention this is a long long movie running just under three hours and twenty minutes. If you are not liking the long takes this film is going to feel even longer. (The opening credits don't appear until the film is about halfway over.)

As I said I liked the film, but I have lots of reservations.

First and foremost is the films pace is often glacial thanks to the long periods were nothing is said. Had I seen this in a theater and not as a screener I would have walked out of the film about a half hour in, possibly sooner. One of the first lines of spoken dialog is "we can't go on like this" and it comes some 8 draggy minutes into the film, and I was thinking if the remaining three hours and ten minutes are like the first 8 no we can't. (Up to that point we've watched a young woman eat a cheese burger in one continuous take and watched lots of shots of Seoul pass by from a speeding car.)

It gets better, but you have to make an effort to stick with it. Somewhere around the hour and a half mark things began to click and I was enjoying some of the quirkiness of it all.

Another problem is that the film is one of the most pretentious I've seen in along time. The film is the work of one of Korea's top film critics, and all I can say if this is the sort of thing that he likes, he must hate almost every film out of the box. Meaning bleeds off the screen. There is endless steals from other better film makers (the long takes remind me of Bela Tarr).

Lastly I have no idea why this film runs as long as it does. Pacing issues aside, why the hell is this three and a half hours long? I have no idea. Don't get me wrong, I liked it once I got to a certain point , but at the same time, there is this point where I realized that the film just was repeating itself and could be cut down to half it's length with out losing anything.

I completely see how this film has split viewers on the festival circuit, with half the audience loving it and the other half thinking its utter crap. I'm somewhere in the middle, and I'm able to see how people can love and loath the film.

What's my recommendation?

It's worth trying.

I would be more generous toward saying giving it a go if you could see it on DVD. Since that probably isn't an option, I'd give the film a try at the screening on Tuesday night at the Tribeca Cinemas. Just be willing to walk out if it doesn't thrill you. If you think you'd like to see a very long film as I've described go for it. If not, hold off and hope it gets a DVD release.

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