Kim Ji-woon: Be still, my beating heart and further thoughts on growing up.

A couple of months ago, when we took the teachers' trip to the middle of nowhere, on the ride out there was a movie playing on a giant flat screen television attached to the front windshield of the bus. I don't know how long it took me to notice the movie, but I know that once I did, I was instantly captivated. I interupted Mr. K's monologue about something or another and simply blurted out, "That's beautiful."

Mr. Kwan traced my distracted gaze to the screen at the front of the bus. "Oh. This movie? Very famous Korean movie."

"What is it?"

"First Korean Western."

"Western? Who made it?"

"Uh... actually I cannot remember the name."

I sat quietly staring at the screen for a few more moments. Mr. K interrupted: "But... you cannot understand. It's in Korean."

"Yeah I know. But you can, sort of."


My constant use of the universal you always throws him off. "I mean, I can. Sort of understand. Just the images. The pictures, I mean. Anyway, it's really beautifully shot...."

"Oh. Yeah." I could feel him giving me one of those confused gazes of his for a few minutes, before he realized I wasn't going to be turning back to our conversation, and settled back in his seat to sleep.

I didn't get to watch all of the film that day, due to the fact that we arrived at a temple or a jjimjilbang or a fucking scenic lake or something, but I did notice that it was on the list of films I could watch (with English subtitles) on my return flight from Dubai. And watch it, I did.

The beauty of the film wasn't in anyway encumbered by the fact that it starred (in my opinion) Lee Byung-hun as The Bad.

Hubba hubba. Ahem.

Nor was my interest in the film negated by the fact that I grew up watching Westerns, and I thought the very idea of making a Korean Western was just about the best one I had come across in a great deal of time.

But still, what with the dialogue included this time and all, I was mostly still captured by the beautiful cinematography.

This Kim Ji-woon guy... what's that all about?

Well, I'm going out of my mind desk-warming at work again this week, although the boys are back around to drop in every now and then and liven things up, but I am locked downstairs in the office (ongoing construction of the new, ridiculously posh English Zone), where I can't play music or pace around like a mad person to release energy. I ended up reading an interview with Kim Ji-woon, mostly about the film that came before The Good, the Bad, the Weird -- A Bittersweet Life, also staring Lee Byung-hun.

Seeing the title, one can't help but instantly reference that god awful piece of overrated trash, La Dolce Vita. But I decided to give the whole thing the benefit of the doubt, given the fact that the whole point (as I see it, anyway) of Fellini's The Sweet Life was to point out just how fucking quaint life is -- that we're all bastards and bitches and nothing really matters, but hey, it's okay, because look at all the pretty things. Which is precisely why I hate that film with a kind of passion that can't even be placed into words, and why I hate Fellini just as much.

Kim's film is called The Bittersweet Life, however.

Mr. Kim, please be getting at what I think you're getting at.

What can you say about the emblematic composition where Sun-woo and his boss face each other in front of the writing La Dolce Vita ? [A reference to Federico Fellini's classic, winner of Cannes' Palme d'Or in 1960 -- the title translates in English as The Sweet Life, just as Dalkomhan Insaeng, the original Korean title of A Bittersweet Life]

It is clearly intended as an ironic touch. It is a blatant irony that in between these two people, who are perhaps at the most dramatic and unfortunate point in their lives, there stands writing saying
La Dolce Vita or the sweet life. Of course, life is not sweet at all, and the effect created by the juxtaposition of the characters and the writing in this peculiar situation is one of distancing, perhaps of cynicism highlighting the incongruity.

By the time I got to the part where he quoted Derrida on the suffering of the love that only looks, I was head over heels. His fascination is what people fail to communicate to one another? Fuck off.

Needless to say, I'm downloading A Bittersweet Life right this very now. And, as a matter of honor, I will be looking for an actual copy of it high and low every time I'm in and out of any kind of store over the next couple of weekends.

This is a really round-about way of saying you should see these films. So you know. You should see these films.

By the way, there is a Kim Ji-hoon out there who I don't know anything about, but who appears to be a bit shit. When in doubt, go with the Jee-hoon spelling. Stupid confusing romanizations.

This would be the guy you're looking out for:

Not whatever the hell this is:


Last night was one where you're just about to get to sleep and suddenly this whole damn thing comes awake in your mind -- something you'd really rather not be thinking about. Like a levee breaks or something. Of course, that's something I'm definitely not going into here, but suffice it to say, some things have become very clear, in the sense that I've realized that others are very, very unclear at the moment. Now I know why I've been inclined in certain ways, lately, though and I can watch myself to make sure that I keep those inclinations at bay -- now that I know what's at the heart of them.

It was another sleepless night, though.

Spent the day working diligently on the Korean, as much as I can without being able to pronounce things out loud. Sorted out what seems to be a decent Korean class -- it will either begin in March, or if I've missed the deadline (confusingly translated website), April. I think that's the best move to make now.

Mike doesn't know this yet, but I've also decided to drag him to Sangsang Madang this weekend. It's time to get back focused on the important things in life, and stop fooling around with nonsense. I miss record shops, book stores, galleries and theaters. I don't mind a beer every now and then, but it's not good when boozey nonsense behavior starts to stand in the places where you're missing something else -- something much more important.


MikejGrey said...

But you told me about the market already.....

Can I request Thai food?

I'm no Picasso said...

Yeah, I told you about it, but I didn't really confirm whether or not you wanted to go....

Thai food, okay. But we gotta do TexMex soon. Next weekend.

Also, you up for coffee house Korean/clothes nonsense in your 'hood today?

MikejGrey said...

I promiseee tex mex next weekend liz-uh.

Coffee house and or korean clothes nonsense if your up to it.

MikejGrey said...


I'm no Picasso said...

I really do think the Grim Reaper must have visited Letterman in his dreams or something. This is so bizarre to just come out with, 15 years after the fact. But I'm glad that he did it.

Kosaru said...

it's such a great movie! I watched about 5 times in theatres so I could try to figure out the dialogue a little bit more every time. Very exciting cinematography.