Some movies I watched recently that expressed things better than I ever would or will –
1. One Fine Spring Day, 2001, Hur Jin Ho
An extraordinarily plain movie about two individuals who meet, fall in love, fall out of love, and reflect on what it meant for them to be in love. By plain, I mean how relatable the content is to many of the viewers who empathize with either the guy – or the girl – character. Hur paints his characters as complex agents of emotions. I empathized with the male character more, but in the end, I understood both side of their stories. Love does not meet eye to eye, and that’s okay.
2. Annie Hall, 1977, Woody Allen
I know, Woody Allen’s personal life has been scrutinized, criticized, and vilified by the public. And it’s understandable why that’s the case – he ended up marrying Soon Yi Previn, a woman more than two decades younger than him and who was an adopted child of Allen’s ex wife. Despite this disclaimer, Allen’s Annie Hall is one of the most innovative romantic comedy movies I have watched recently. It’s kind of like the 70s’ 500 Days of Summer. I was particularly enamored by the character Allen played – a cynical, self-deprecating, self-loathing pseudo-intellectual comedian named Alvy Singer. Alvy frequently breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience, and while these moments of cinematic rupture may feel intrusive to the movie-watching experience, I found it to be an effective film technique. I’m also moving to New York in July, so the fact that the mise-en-scene of the movie took place mostly in Manhattan was a plus. I should probably watch Allen’s other tribute to his favorite city, fittingly titled Manhattan (1977).
3. The King of Pigs, 2011, Yeon Sang Ho
I won’t lie, this movie made me feel uncomfortable the entire time I was watching it. First off, the animation was amateurish – the characters moved like marionettes, as if they were being controlled by some invisible puppeteer. The voice-over job sounded like it was done by a ventriloquist. Many moments during the movie, I cringed.
Despite the movie’s cinematographic shortcomings, it does address some important issues surrounding the state of Korean society. The director does not hesitate to collide head-on with the problem of debilitating social hierarchy thriving in every sector of Korean society. Instead of portraying the problem as a black-and-white, weak versus strong type of deal, the director complicates the narrative by focusing intently on the psyche of the weak. Do they choose to stand their ground and not curb under the strong’s demand? Or do they comply, hoping that their compliance manifests as some form of favor in the long run? The last sequence of the movie will surely leave many viewers agitated, but rightfully so.
4. Josee, The Tiger, and the Fish, 2003, Isshin Inudo
I’m realizing more and more that I am intimately drawn to calm movies that focus on the interpersonal interactions between two main characters rather than blockbuster action movies. The movies that fit my predilection, by default, then, are almost always romance movies. It makes sense: two main characters + deep conversations = some form of budding romance.
Josee, The Tiger, and the Fish is no exception to this groundbreaking formula I have just developed. The movie narrates the story of Tsuneo, a loose-moralled undergraduate student who falls in love with a disabled stay-at-home girl named Josee. Despite having a disability that hinders Josee from walking, the movie does not treat the romance between the two as an able-bodied person developing feelings for a disabled person out of pity. Rather, it is through and through a story of two people who, like any other couple, fall in love, endure hardship of being in a relationship, and part ways when things don’t work out the way they wish it did.
It’s also prudent to pay attention to what the tiger and the fish mean to both Josee and Tsuneo in the movie. Josee and Tsuneo both succeed in going to see the tiger in the zoo; however, when they go to see the fish, they realize the aquarium is closed, much to their dismay. The tiger and the fish represent different tropes in the life of Josee and Tsuneo (I won’t give away what they are), and likewise, we all live with our own inner tiger and fish. We’re just not sure what they are – and maybe we won’t know for a while.
*I also watched A Beautiful Mind and Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, but I’m too lazy to write stuff on them. Maybe later.