Friday, July 15, 2011

The Yellow Sea: last screening - NYAFF 2011


The 10th annual NY Asian Film Festival came in whimpering to the theme of love & being horny on the 1st day of screenings to going out with a bang on the Yellow Sea of revenge by the 14th night! Mucho thanks to the guys & gals at Subway Cinema for organizing such a fun event!


THE YELLOW SEA directed by Na Hong-Jin, part of the korean sea of vengeance themed programming was the last screening on this fortnight of NYAFF bliss! Let me highlight a few things from this festive night that made the finale quite unique before going off on a tangent with an abbreviated mr. c monarch note of the film. Trouble would lurk in the projection booth at Walter Reade Theater before the Yellow Sea screening. There were technical difficulties with projecting the subtitles and/or they didn’t have the right format of the film for the showing. The movie seemed to be of the digital projection variety as opposed to traditional film with no subtitles burned onto the image. The director, Na Hong Jin had to use power point with the english text translations on each slide to translate the dialogue for all the scenes in the movie while he tapped on the computer to forward each slide in morse code like rhythm to be in sync with the conversations in real time! The power point slide would be projected onto the digital print of the movie on the bottom of the screen where traditional burned in translations would be! Na Hong Jin did a great job with the subtitles as his timing was impeccable! There were a few instances when the subs were a millisecond or two ahead of the dialogue but better early than late, I suppose! The director told us that he had only one hour to prepare for this debacle! Kudos to Na Hong Jin for rolling with the punches to allow us to watch this film! The 2nd highlight or more accurately, lowlight of the night was the Q&A session after the screening. Some of the questions that were asked by the audience to the director were totally ridiculous & quite embarrassing in my opinion. It definitely made the Q&A awkward & sort of weirded out the night to an otherwise enthusiastic crowd for the screening! The translator also looked confused. Maybe she botched up the translations so we didn't look as bad?! The 1st question/comment posed to Na Hong-Jin from the audience was: I screened this film in China a few months ago & I liked that version better. Do you think an alliance or collaboration with East Asia is important? *WHAT?*
The 2nd question was: How many cars did you smash up on the set? Another bright question: How pertinent was North Korea in relation to the film? *WHAT?* The film had nothing to do with North Korea. It was all about South Korea, China, & the ethnic Koreans living in China. You should of seen the look on the director & translators face! One south asian film student asked: Do you think about the edited portion of the scene before you actually shoot the footage? *WHAT*
The one question that took the golden trophy was (not in these exact words): What is going on with Korea & the epidemic of recent thriller-killer-violent films like the Yellow Sea, I Saw the Devil, The Chaser, and so on! What does that say about Korean society? *STEREOTYPE* It’s called entertainment, buddy!

To be honest, I had mixed feelings about THE YELLOW SEA. The movie had big budget aesthetics written all over it and it seemed to be expertly filmed minus a little bit too much of the shaking camera syndrome & closeup shots to show intensity when under the duress of a life or death action sequence. For fans of ultra violence & blood splatter induced by a hatchet in a thriller setting which crosses over to the horror umbrella, you might find this of interest! For you realism fans, you might start out believing in the dream like Martin Luther King Jr said, but after a few twists & turns here and there, you might start questioning the script. The story starts out great, real grim, dark, & bleak! The setting of the movie takes place in Yanbian, China, a city that is not too far from the borders of north korea. Yanbian would be heavily populated by ethnic Koreans otherwise known as joseonjok who live/work there in hopes for a better opportunity outside of Korea. Our main character, Ku-nam is a cabbie, living day to day with a mah jong gambling habit. He suspects that his wife is cheating on him as she disappears into the arms of South Korea while the grandma takes care of their child. Temptations would soon grab a hold of our furry ethnic Korean friend when a proposal from a raggamuffin gangster type who is very proficient with a hatchet wants to hire him as a hitman to eliminate someone in Seoul. With a big debt on his hand, a runaway wife, and a kid to support, our joseonjok man takes up the offer to murder a professor and bring back his thumb! The only caveat is that he must complete this mission under a strict time limit or else his mother & daughter will be in harms way. The games would soon begin as a rocky boat ride of immigrants from yanbian china to south korea proves to be lethal for some. Things don’t go as planned as Ku-nam entangles with another mafioso when going for the hit. Things from here on out will get the movie realists to shake their heads. Car chases, evading police, eating dog meat off the bone, hatchet hacking, running...lots of running, & some South Korean, Benny Hill style law enforcement will all be a part of this dark thriller-horror-comedy?! The prospects of finding his wife and/or the lover will add fuel to the fire! The crazy hatchet master that hired Ku-Nam will eventually come out from Yanbian-China to play in South Korea! Both of these characters will have more than 9 lives each as death seems to elude them! Realizing that he has been framed, Ku-nam tries to unearth the story as survival & the search for his wife will make a heavy heart. This movie will be a real hit or miss for some. The story takes a bit to build up, but when it does, it gets real suspenseful offering up lots of violence to boot. The instrumental soundtrack to this film is very eery and puts you on edge when the characters start fleeing for their lives or while they are breaking down human parts for portability reasons! The movie is over 2.5 hours long & even with the unbelievable plot, I have to say that I was still engrossed in all the melee! I was completely fascinated by the ethnic Koreans aka joseonjok's that are living in Yanbian, China! I hope to see more movies on this subject!

1 comment:

  1. One south asian film student asked: Do you think about the edited portion of the scene before you actually shoot the footage? *WHAT*

    I was that film student and I didn't ask nothing like that. I asked if Na Hong Jin prepared for the visual and editing style of the movie beforehand or he figured it out on location and what was his motive to do so... He answered pretty clearly to me and I talked to him more after the movie ended. My KOrean friend translated exactly what he said and he seemed pretty impressed by my question. He even said that he wanted the editing to feel like water. If you can't understand film teachniques and language, then stay quiet. Leave this talking for us. Also I'm not South Asia (or whatever that is). I am white person. You just making up stories.