Monday, June 18, 2012

THE SWORD WITH NO NAME - Korean Cultural Service screening tomorrow *FREE*

Director: Kim Yong-Gyun
Stars: Joo Seung-Woo, Soo-Ae
Genre: Period piece, martial arts - romance


My initial perception of THE SWORD WITH NO NAME was that it must be a South Korean version of Jet Li’s HERO or maybe FEARLESS but my intuity was wrong again as it turned out to be a very refreshing period piece romance/fantasy with a heapful of epic martial art swordplay with minimal use of high flying wireworks & wire-fu but with a heavy assist from CG.  Did I just say refreshing? I don’t usually give the lovey-dovey films too much airtime but something about this movie had me watching for more. For one thing, the film was beautifully shot with a variety of stunning landscapes in the background and the swordplay sequences was pure eye-candy as computer graphics enhanced the fight scenes to make the soldiers video game like complete with slow motion and with stylized movements. The romance part of the story seemed to be very far fetched though but intriguing enough to make you want to hang with the film. The politics, nationalism, & patriotism added some sugar and spice to the mix!

THE SWORD WITH NO NAME is loosely based on the historical Empress of Korea - Myeongseong from the Joseon Dynasty in the late 19th century. The Empress was an important figure in Korean History as she was known to be heavily involved with politics, foreign affairs, and for her valiant fight against the Japanese invasion.  The romanticizing portion of the film is where the creative imagination from the director came into play.

Ja Young (Soo Ae), the soon to be Queen of Joseon is enroute to the Royal Kingdom to wed the King in a few days.  Unfortunately, there is a bounty on her head with assassins on the loose to hunt her down! This is where our young hero Moo-Myoung, a bounty hunter himself is introduced. Not knowing of her background, he is hired by Ja-Young to escort her by boat to a serene location by the sea.  This is were the love follies begin as assassination attempts on the future queen and a meetup with Noi-Jeon, the assigned bodyguard to the Queen who is known as the best swordsman of Korea will determine Moo-Myoung’s destiny of vowing to be the protector of Ja-Young.  After an intense battle between the bodyguard and Moo, everything goes on as planned - Ja Young becomes the Queen of Joseon leaving Moo-Myoung with an empty heart but determined soul.  To be continued in the film!

The other more interesting aspect of the movie which is based on historical fact shows the Queen exchanging political pleasantries with the west as well as laying down the groundwork for a diplomatic agreement with Russia. A more personal and human side of the Empress shows her entertaining the wives of the Ambassadors while showing interest in their dress and culture!

This open-minded trait of the Empress to create allies & embrace technology instead of shutting down everything not Korean would help fuel the insecurities of the King and his father even with the prospects of the Japanese invasion staring at them. What they did not realize was that a low ranking soldier by the name of Moo-Myoung would prove to be a pivotal character in the story!

“My sword has chosen a purpose - to protect you, my highness.”

The fight scenes in the film were aesthetically pleasing with a “300” like vibe as well as offering a touch of holistic symbolism with butterflies and fishes floating on air in slo-mo amongst the carnage!  

Even with flaws in the movie including Moo-Myoung’s sudden obsession with love and the desire to protect the Queen - THE SWORD WITH NO NAME delivers the message of the Empress in a very poetic and tender fashion. A lot of emotions exchanged between the characters and then ultimately to us, the viewers seem to happen on the quieter scenes in the film. The fierceness of the characters in the film are exemplified through integrity, honor, compassion, and loyalty - not just warrior mentality!  This is definitely the type of movie to watch in a theater!


THE SWORD WITH NO NAME screens at the Korean Cultural Service for FREE at the Tribeca Cinemas TUESDAY, June 19TH, 2012 7:00PM


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