Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"Breathless" will take your breath away

by Dan Bloom

Ik-joon Yang is a South Korean actor and director, and his gangster
film "Breathless" is a marvel of Korean cinema. Yang wrote the script
and plays the lead, and of course, he sat in the directo'rs chair as
well. The theme: love and betrayal. The setting: Gangster life.

South Korean actress Kot-bi Kim plays the role of a sassy high school girl who
is not afraid of standing up -- and talking back! -- to Yang's
tough-guy gangster role.
While this film could have been set in Japan or Taiwan as well, where
gangster culture
is also part of the very fabric life, the South Korea setting gives it
a special touch. Only
in South Korea, one might say! It's that good of a movie and the fight
scenes and violence
are not for the tender-hearted.

And the language! Don't get me started! This movie is so foul-mouthed,
it's beyond words!

The cast of characters include Yang as a petty gangster who works for
a loan shark with a very short fuse, Kim as the high-school coed with
some heavy domestic violence issues at home, and a half dozen other
people with stories to tell as well. It's not a pretty picture, and
won't leave the theater with a smile on your face, and if you're
watching the DVD at home, be prepared for a very violent show.

Yang's directorial style is visceral, no-holds-barred, and it goes for
your gut. According to Yang, the film is partly autobiographical, and
that might be why the movie packs such an emotional wallop. It's more
than cinematic posturing, and it's not Hollywood violence. This is
South Korea
on speed on celluloid! Ouch!

To make the highly personal film, Yang had to beg, borrow and steal
(and use as many credit cards as he could to finance it), but the
was worth every ounce of sweat he used in setting the entire project up.

South Koreans were have seen the film were reported to be deeply
affected by it, and due to the realistic depictions of domestic
violence incidents in the story, many viewers were moved to tears,
according to director Yang. While domestic violence is a terrible
cultural malaise in the West,
from Germany to the USA, it is especially violent in a society like
South Korea, where women are considered second-class people.

The Korean-language title of the movie is "Shit Fly", and the more
gentle "Breathless" title in English does not really do the film
"Shit fly" says it all: a man who would do anything to get through the
day as gangster insect with little connection to the real world of
love and feelings. Godard this movie is not. This is Ik-joon Yang all the way!

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