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stephen129
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This sounds damn good as well.

An ice-cool enforcer pays a horrendous penalty for a moment of emotional weakness in "A Bittersweet Life," a tour de force of noirish style and Korean ultra-violence that will have genre fans nailed to their seats. More sensitive souls, and anyone looking for deep psychological insights, may head for the exit well before the end, though on its own level pic does sport sufficient emotional motivation to justify the carnage. With the name of writer-director Kim Jee-woon ("The Quiet Family," "A Tale of Two Sisters") attached, film has strong chances as a cult item, with ancillary looking particularly meaty.

Even by Korean standards of movie brutality, "Bittersweet Life" raises the bar to a new level, way above pics like "Old Boy" or "Nowhere to Hide." But the violence, apart from having an unreal, manga-like quality, is part and parcel of the film's overall stylization, from the use of chilly, David Lynch-like colors (gangreney greens, sanguinary magentas, stygian blacks) to the whole generic catalog of rain and chiaroscuro lighting.

Story spirals out from a single event, when Seon-woo (Lee Byeong-cheol, the young soldier in "JSA") comes to sort out a problem in the noirish hotel he manages. Three gangsters are drunk and disorderly in a private room, and when they refuse to leave Seon-woo whips ass in a spectacular display of martial arts. The men's boss, Baek (Hwang Jeong-min), demands payback, but Seon-woo doesn't seem bothered.

In reality, Seon-woo is a cold-blooded enforcer for gang leader Kang (Kim Yeong-cheol), who looks upon him as a rising star in the org but warns him that careers can often be irreparably damaged by a single mistake. Due to go away on a short business trip, Kang asks Seon-woo to keep an eye on his latest squeeze, Huei-su (Kim Min-ah), whom he suspects is seeing someone else. If true, Kang tells Seon-woo to fix the problem.

Seon-woo spends time with Heui-su, and falls for the gentle young cellist's charms. When he catches her canoodling with another guy, Seon-woo hesitates at the last moment from killing him and offers to hush the affair up if the guy disappears forever. It's a decision that changes his life.

Baek, meanwhile, recruits the leader of another gang, Oh Mu-sung (Lee Gi-yeong), to help out in getting Seon-woo to apologize. In one long night of appalling violence, Seon-woo is beaten to a pulp, strung up in a warehouse, has his hand smashed with a wrench, and is buried alive in a muddy grave. And that's just for starters.

As Seon-woo crawls out of the grave, he finds Kang has discovered his subterfuge over Heui-su's affair. But as Kang's men get ready to bury him alive again, Seon-woo manages to escape in the pic's action highlight, a superbly staged, one-against-many fight in a tumbledown warehouse, with firebrands as weapons.

Now it's Seon-woo who wants payback, and at the 70-minute mark the movie radically changes tack with the introduction of guns. After a semi-comic interlude in which Seon-woo does business with a Russian supplier, the stage is set for ballistic bedlam.

Lee Byeong-cheol's tightly coiled performance as the arrogant, hair-trigger Seon-woo, who'll go all the way to defend a moment of beauty in his loveless life, is the key to the whole movie, recalling Hong Kong thesp Jimmy Wang Yu's lonesome, masochistic heroes in swordplay pics of the late '60s and early '70s. On-screen almost the whole time, Lee holds his own against a raft of strong character actors, including Kim Yeong-cheol as the avuncular but ruthless Kang, Lee Gi-yeong as the psychopathic Oh, and Jin Gu as cocky underling Min-gil.

By the final act, the film has long left the realm of reality as Seon-woo battles on despite crippling wounds. But this won't bother fans of Far East manga and swordplay movies.

Tech and artistic package is immaculate, with mood piled on by every department. Martial arts choreography by Korean maestro Jeong Du-hong is skillfully edited by Choi Jae-geun, with music and sound effects thwacking home the action.

Camera (color, widescreen), Kim Ji-yong; editor, Choi Jae-geun; music, Dalpalan, Jang Yeong-gyu; production designer, Ryu Seong-heui; costume designer, Jo Sang-gyeong; sound (Dolby Digital), Kim Gyeong-tae, Choi Tae-yeong; action choreographer, Jeong Du-hong. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (non-competing), May 14, 2005. Running time: 118 MIN.

http://www.variety.com

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Finally got round to watching this last night.

Thought it was utterly brilliant. Fantastically shot, edited perfectly, wonderful soundtrack and a gripping plot.

One scene I loved, was in the hotel room. They were both asleep on the bed, and the room gets gassed. Woojin comes in and just lies on the bed with them, stroking Mildo. That imagery, with just the sound of his breathing through the gas mask was beautifully eerie.

If that squid scene was real... :o

Definitely in my top 10 of favourite films, and I'll be watching it again sometime soon, along with the special features.

I loved it, loads.

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I've got Oldboy on DVD, not seen it yet though, and Ichi the Killer which I think is the uncut version, fun times for me then. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring, I have been told, is very good and I really want to see it, is it on DVD yet?

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I've got Oldboy on DVD, not seen it yet though, and Ichi the Killer which I think is the uncut version, fun times for me then.  Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring, I have been told, is very good and I really want to see it, is it on DVD yet?

Spring, Summer.. is a very different film, and is odd given the director's previous films (The Isle for one). It's basically a story about the four ages of man, following a trainee (apprentice/Padawan/whatever) monk at an isolated floating temple. Every time a season changes, we skip forward a decade.

It's a very beautiful film and it's made me want to visit some of Korea's national parks. I doubt I'll find a floating temple like the one in the film, but walking around the park itself would be more than adequate.

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  • 4 months later...

Arrrr! My brain!

Conflicting views, well, confusing views more like:

Someone mentioned that Oh Daesu was sleeping with his daughter, but it was Woojin sleeping with his sister? And if she isn't pregnant, how would phantom preganancy bring Mido to be born?

Originally I thought Mido was Woojin's daughter, then my girl said it was Oh Daesu and Woojin's sister's daughter, and all along had been sleeping with is own daughter.

Other than that confusion, I think it was a great film, but I'm still undecided - I'm never one to watch a film more than once (only did it with Amelie because I never take it all in fully), but it may require it with some others too.

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Mr Spew:

Oh Daesu had a wife and a daughter at the beginning of the film. You never see the wife other than photographs at the end, but his daughter turns out to be Mido.

So yes, he sleeps with his own daughter (Mido) at one point in the film but doesn't realise who she is due to the hypnosis thing.

But no, he never did it with Soojin's sister. Soojin had his sister all to himself if you see what I mean.

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Mr Spew:

Oh Daesu had a wife and a daughter at the beginning of the film. You never see the wife other than photographs at the end, but his daughter turns out to be Mido.

So yes, he sleeps with his own daughter (Mido) at one point in the film but doesn't realise who she is due to the hypnosis thing.

But no, he never did it with Soojin's sister. Soojin had his sister all to himself if you see what I mean.

Yeah

Soojin's sister had a phantom pregnancy, ladies bellies can swell with them and everything!.

What gets me is the hypnosis at the end, which Oh Daesu is left? The one who is unaware that Mido is his daughter and are we too assume that he is going to continue to have a relationship with his daughter?! I mean she doesn't know he's her dad?

There's something about the footprints in the snow at the end that make me think maybe Mido had been hypnitised to forget about falling in love with him and to know he was her father but they could have made it clearer by having her call him 'dad' or something at the end.

I'm I getting it totally wrong?

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Saw it yesterday.

Apart from the plot (which was pretty easy to understand if you ask me, and by far not unbelievable enough to spoil the pleasure), I thought it was beautifully shot. The photography is splendid too. A pleasure to watch, and I regret not seeing it in a theatre.

And listen to Kerraig : JSA an MoM are great.

For another Korean movie, Phantom the Sumbarine is less great than some critics want you to believe.

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Miffed:

In my opinion you can just tell from the look on his face that he still knows it's his daughter.

Don't you think?

This is factually correct the direction he walks in and where he walked from make the meaning clear, but the director's intention was purposefully ambiguous (said so himself)

p.s. film really lost it's way towards the end where the plot devices became rather clear and that over-done scene where he begged whats-his-face (aaages since I saw it).

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And listen to Kerraig : JSA an MoM are great.

MoM? Memories of Murder? Yeah, it is good.. but its by an entirely different director and I can't quite see the linkage, considering Oldboy wasn't loosely based on a play or real events ;)

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This is factually correct the direction he walks in and where he walked from make the meaning clear, but the director's intention was purposefully ambiguous (said so himself)

p.s. film really lost it's way towards the end where the plot devices became rather clear and that over-done scene where he begged whats-his-face (aaages since I saw it).

Yeah

Why would you just cut off your tongue like that without him asking you to? Cut of his tongue, the prick.

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well sure, that was clear.

But you don't have to cut your tongue out to keep a secret

...

have you...you know...used this method yourself?

Woo-jin says to Dae-su that it was his tongue that caused all of his problems. His tongue told the tale of what he saw and it was his tongue that made Woo-jin's sister pregnant (as opposed to the obvious reason of sex without contraception).

Cutting out his own tongue was the only way in which Dae-su could appease Woo-jin, and for him to prevent Woo-jin telling Mi-do the whole truth. It was nasty, but it had to be done.

On another note, Sympathy For Lady Vengeance was good, but somewhat bizarre. In fact, it was downright hilarious at times, which was at odds with the rest of the story.

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Bought the 2 disc DVD for £8 and watched it just the other night after having missed it at the cinema.

Thought provoking and very disturbing at the same time.

I understand why he did what he did by cutting off his tongue but it was a lilttle lame if that. But hey he found solace in the end and found some kinda happiness within himself.

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Woo-jin says to Dae-su that it was his tongue that caused all of his problems. His tongue told the tale of what he saw and it was his tongue that made Woo-jin's sister pregnant (as opposed to the obvious reason of sex without contraception).

Cutting out his own tongue was the only way in which Dae-su could appease Woo-jin, and for him to prevent Woo-jin telling Mi-do the whole truth. It was nasty, but it had to be done.

Guess that makes sense.

So what was with the whole acting-like-a-dog thing?

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  • 6 months later...

Erm...what was the ending about?

Seriously, it's about whether it's morally right/acceptable to live on happily in ignorance of the events and the true relationship between Dae-su and Mi-do, or whether it's better to know the truth even though that would completely devastate Mi-do. The film ends on the notion that ignorance may be bliss in this case, and we assume the sexual relationship between father and daughter will continue.

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