Friday, October 23, 2009

Cinemanila 2009 (final weekend)

Lav Diaz's Batang West Side

Cinemanila 2009 (final weekend)

The world on the big screen at Cinemanila

It’s that time of the year again, and again I’m not sure we appreciate the kind of bounty we get at Cinemanila. There are other festivals for foreign films (Cine Europa, Eiga Sai, the various embassy festivals); other festivals for independent films (Cinema One Originals, Cinemalaya), but seeing cutting-edge Filipino films screened side-by-side with the latest offerings from world cinema, that’s a different experience entirely. We see the best of what we have to offer alongside the best of what the world has to offer, and we can come to the conclusion that yes, there is much in the world that’s different and much we can learn from, the same time there’s much we can offer in return. The exchange of ideas, images, interests, cultures, stories and, above all, friendships--that’s the real value of a festival like this.

he world cinema programming in particular--it’s a relief to see programming that’s aware of what’s going on out there, instead of relying on distributors or popular hits or goodness knows what criterion to pick films for one’s festival. Here we have commercial hits (Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds), the latest from any number of exciting filmmakers (Fruit Chan and Jian Cui’s Chengdu, I Love You; Steve McQueen’s Hunger; Lukas Moodysson’s Mammoth; Francois Ozon’s Ricky). We have the latest from the finest Filipino filmmakers working at the moment (Raya Martin’s Independencia; Ralston Jover’s Bakal Boys; Pepe Diokno’s Engkwentro). We have screenings of two of Lav Diaz’s most important works, Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family), and Batang West Side (West Side Avenue).

Batang West Side is as Diaz himself put it his “first film”--or, at least, the first where he truly realized his vision (I do like his earlier efforts, however flawed he may think they are, particularly the Dostoevskian Serafin Geronimo: Kriminal ng Baryo Concepcion (Criminal of Barrio Concepcion)). Batang West Side explores the different levels of an entire community, the Filipino-American community, from its oldest to youngest generation, from its upper class to middle class to underworld. In its five-hour accumulation of detail, with a density and scope and leisurely pace very much like a novel, it achieves greatness; it even has room for deadpan humor (a gang boss’ trippy speech (“Shabu (crystal meth) is the salvation of the Philippines”) and surreal imagery (a nightmarish dream sequence). Diaz balances severe aesthetic with a novelist’s comprehensive storytelling in this film and achieves, I believe, his masterpiece.

bolusyon at eleven hours is an even bigger canvas, and admittedly more impressive (Film critic/iconoclast Olaf Moller, writing for Senses of Cinema, picked it as the Best Film of 2005 and, writing for Cinematheque Ontario just this year, as "Film of the Decade"). I would argue that Diaz had trouble validating his mix of 16 mm and video footage, and that the historical perspective doesn’t really integrate with the personal storylines that crisscross the narrative. But huge canvases and overreaching ambitions are often accompanied by considerable flaws, and there are more than enough themes and surpassingly moving moments here to make it worth one’s while--a grandmother lying among her photographs, spending her final moments in mourning; a man’s pathetic, agonizing death stretched out almost to eternity as the camera follows his dying crawl. Diaz attempts nothing more and nothing less than an epic retelling of thirty years’ of Philippine history, and the results are confusing, fascinating, altogether exhilarating.

These are difficult and essential films to see; if you are Filipino, or a lover of all things Filipino, or a film lover, or a lover of Filipino films, or a combination of any of the aforementioned, you must, must, must see these two works.

(Belated note: the Batang West Side screening apparently didn't push through, but festival director Tikoy Aguiluz hopes to have it screened at a later date)

As for the other films--Israel may not be the most morally upstanding country at the moment, but that doesn’t go for some of its filmmakers. Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir is an animated documentary about an Israeli soldier (Folman himself) trying to recover his memories of what happened during the Lebanon War, in particular the Sabra and Shatila massacre--the animation acts as another level of stylization that helps the filmmaker deal with memories too painful to remember. Bui Thac Chuyen’s Adrift (Cinema 5, Saturday 12 to 1.50 pm) is a gorgeously photographed Vietnamese film much in the tradition of French erotic dramas, only the Vietnamese do the French one better by throwing a few virgins in the mix, to help recall what a surprise and terror and wonder human sexuality can be. Chris Chong’s Karaoke is one of the best films I’ve seen recently, an understated drama about the shattering of a youth’s illusions in life, with a great wordless sequence in the middle that reveals what it’s all about and why nothing the youth can say or do really matters.

First published in Businessworld, 10.23.09

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More on Jang Kun-Jae's "Eighteen" and Ralston Jover's "Bakal Boys"

Announcement of Dragons and Tigers winners

I'm the hairy dude that makes the dramatic announcement. For some strange reason the focus of my eyes had changed, hence my dramatic whipping off of glasses prior to reading out the director's name.

As for Bakal Boys
(which, for the record, I liked very much)--perhaps the film's one major weakness, apparent on first viewing, is the director's seeming admiration--perhaps too much so--of the camerawork of frequent collaborator Brillante Mendoza (Jover had written the script for Mendoza's Foster Child, Tirador, and (easily my favorite of Mendoza's work to date) Manoro). The Dardennes brothers' style of handheld long takes has, for better or worse, become the signature style of the Filipino independent film production.

Jover does develop his own distinct light, a burnished sunset glow where Mendoza usually opts for a harsher, more realistic palette. Paradoxically, while Jover confines himself to warmer colors, his setting is noticeably bleaker than Mendoza's--a desolate concrete landscapes dominated by gigantic rusting machinery, with makeshift shacks that cover the concrete like an encrustation. The sea is the only other major presence, an endlessly roiling, rhythmic mystery, a source of both danger and possible delight for the people living nearby; in the distant horizon are cityscapes of northern Manila, an urban world familiar to us and other Filipino audiences.

As in his scripts for Manoro and Tirador, the last thing Jover seems to want to do is judge these children. In the Q & A that followed, he notes that attempts were made to try put these children in school, and that in a matter of months they were back to what they were doing, diving in Manila Bay for scrap metal--for many of the youths, scrap metal diving was a way of putting food on the table; if they didn't dive, they didn't eat. Diving was what they knew, was in many cases all they knew. As for parents, Jover cited a case where the father was crippled; I don't know about the other children (are all the fathers similarly helpless?), but you do notice in the picture the almost complete lack of adults--these kids, like the kids in Bunuel's Los Olvidados, are left to their own resources, to fend for themselves as best they can.

And yet, and yet, and yet, and this was the most startling thing about the picture, it wasn't completely grim; it wasn't all despair. You come away with an impression of the extraordinary strength and resilience of these children, of their ability to survive the horrifying harshness of their lives (Jover notes that one or two of these boys drown or simply disappear every week) and still be children, laughing, playing, teasing, having the time of their lives. You see a world that continually neglects if not actively oppresses these boys, and they and their kin and friends respond with courtesy, kindness, even love. Amazing film.

We knew Jang Kun-Jae's Hwioribaram (Eighteen) was something special (which was why we gave it the Dragons and Tigers Award) from the very first shot: a gas station late at night, pumps lined up to the right, a white-lined rectangle just below the camera frame, dark city night beyond. It's a shot full of promise, as if anyone could drive in and take over the picture, and someone does--a motorcycle rolls in, and a station attendant buzzes around it, topping off its tank. The rider kick-starts his bike and the camera pulls back, following him through the streets. The protagonist Tae Hoon has just arrived, in effect, and it's his story we follow as the film proper begins.

I'd been quoted as saying it's an old story--boy meets girl, boy and girl have a short affair, boy breaks up with girl. Familiar--too familiar, it's true, but one advantage of familiar old stories is that we don't waste too much time and attention on the narrative, we've seen it all before; instead we concentrate on the details, on how the story is told, visually as well as dramatically. For a plain meat-and-potatoes narrative, this one is told extremely well: understated melodrama, nicely modulated acting, some smartly staged set-pieces. The look is distinctive, in a quietly old-fashioned way (few quick cuts, and only a few instances of the all-too-common handheld camera)--no small achievement on digital video.

Perhaps the first time the story really hooks its audience is the scene in the living room when the parents of Tae-Hoon's girlfriend Park Mi-Jeong confront him and his family (the two had gone off on a seaside winter break without telling anyone), and Mi-Jeong's father loses it--he's pulled a knife from an ankle holster and is stabbing the coffee table. Handheld shots (one of the few instances in the picture and one of the few times it's perfectly justified, I think) convey the chaos; jump cuts keep us startled, off-balance--suddenly he's slapping his daughter; suddenly he's smashing glass with a golf club. Suddenly--the most effective shot in the sequence, I think--Jang cuts to a television set turned up full volume, and the roar of the set suggests the panic inspired by violence better than any onscreen act (and people's reaction to the act) possibly could. It's as if everyone's mind were tuned to the same station and someone accidentally sat on the remote, sending the tuner skittering across several channels.

Yet another example--Jang cuts to a sudden shot of the girl's younger sister, face puffy for some reason; the camera pulls back and we realize that she's being strangled, the hands tight around her neck belonging to Mi-Jeong. The two sisters fight, and their kicking and spitting and shrieking--with the mother desperately trying to pull them apart--seems more authentic than any family interaction I've seen on recent mainstream movies.

While we're at it, I might as well point out that the adults here, from Mi-Jeong's parents to Tae-Hoon's patient, put-upon boss, seem more authentically sketched-in and performed than most other adults in recent teen pictures (a rare virtue for the genre, where adults are usually abusive or ineffectual cartoons rarely given their due, much less a point of view).

Towards the end, we see how the incident (their impromptu seaside vacation) and their subsequent enforced separation has shaped both Tae-Hoon and Mi-Jeong's lives. Tae Hoon can't seem to accept the death of their relationship; he goofs around, tries to follow Mi-Jeong, tries to see her outside of school, or outside her home; Mi-Jeong for her part seems to have made her decision and moved on. But our final glimpses of their respective lives seem to suggest that matters are more complicated--Tae Hoon after struggling so long has (as suggested by the serenity with which he rides away) apparently come to terms with his loss. Mi Jeong puts on an equally brave face, but as she sits on her gym bench we hear the soft sigh of surf, and we see her hair ruffled, as if by an ocean breeze. Jang seems to suggest that Mi-Jeong was every bit as affected as Tae-Hoon was by the experience, only she's done a better job of repressing it; the memory, however, may haunt her for some time, perhaps all her life. Sad, lovely little film.

Finally, after googling around for articles and pictures and videos concerning the award, I found this. Recorded during the Jeonju International Film Festival, in 2006.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Jang Kun-Jae's "Eighteen" wins the Dragons and Tiger's Award

Jang Kun-Jae's Eighteen wins the Dragons and Tigers Award

Ralston Jover's Bakal Boys (roughly translated: Scrap Metal Scavengers)
won special mention.

Happy for these two films, but I really enjoyed all eight; each had its own look, its own point of view, its own urgent message to flash out to the world, and if I could I'd give 'em all an award and prize money. But this is the real world.

Of the other films--mind you, these are strictly my opinion, and not of my fellow jurors; they had their own favorites and reasons, and it's up to them to reveal it if they wish. But I've rarely been one to keep my thoughts to myself.

Bui Thac Chuyen's Adrift
looked the most striking, with gorgeous shadowy cinematography edged by a lovely silvered light. The story, about four men and women whose lives inextricably entangle, tended to remind me of a French erotic drama, only done better (maybe the problem with French erotic dramas nowadays is that everyone's done it all, seen it all; what you need is a few virgins thrown in, male or female, the way this film does, and through their eyes appreciate the tremendous force and fear sex can inspire).

I'm afraid Kim Ji-Hyun's Cats
was the one I appreciated the least, at first; it took a second viewing to see the film's circular structure (a deejay whose voice is heard in the film's opening puts in a personal appearance in the end), and to realize that the film's occasionally awkward acting style is a small price to pay for the mostly naturalistic, mostly spontaneous look and feel of the film overall (I'm thinking of, among many others, Mario O'Hara's Babae sa Bubungang Lata (Woman on a Tin Roof, 1998)). I think Kim is less about the look of the picture and more about her characters--the lovemaking has a gentle erotic charge, nothing glossy and slick about it, the couples quarrel like real couples, and the editing among the three storylines (a gay couple; a dentist seeking a sperm donor; a young sculptor and the mother who wants to marry her off) is unfussy and unapologetic (the film cuts from one storyline to another with no-nonsense briskness, and it's up to you to keep apace).

Wu Haohao's Kun 1: Action
mixes classical music, interviews, punk rock, personal diary and political rant to create a Godardian essay on the director's society and personal life. Perhaps the most sensational moment onscreen is an onscreen fellatio ("Is that you?" I asked; "yes," he replied without a trace of embarrassment), but the truly striking element in all this is the nostalgia Wu feels for the olden days of Mao, which he expresses in song, Johnny Rotten-style, as opposed to the materialistic spiritual corruption he sees eating away at the insides of his contemporaries. The film's not professionally done--some of the editing and sound mix is gnarly--but it's up close, and boy is it personal.

Extraordinary thing happened during the screening of Sasaki Omoi's Left Out
: the director had a crisis of confidence and apologized for his film. I suppose all directors have moments they regret shooting in their films (some, Michael Bay comes to mind, have an entire career to repent), but I didn't see anything that needed urgent recanting, not right before the film's world premiere.

Like many initial outings this is a personal document--the characters are cartoonish, the yakuza figures manga versions of the real thing, but I see this as being basically Sasaki's story, the main character his fictional surrogate. All others are extensions of his persona (the yakuza are who he'd like to be; the girl is who he'd like to lay, and the boss is a freeze-frame portrait of who he will be, years from now), and he's in the process of working out just how much he'll take from the world at large before he snaps, what exactly will he do when that moment comes, and just how effective that moment will be in the general scheme of things. Bleakly honest and funny.

Mariko Tetsuya's Yellow Kid
isn't so much a manga come to life as it is a lively manga about life--about unhappy people with complicatedly circular lives (Tamura takes up boxing to relieve his hostility; Hattori asks Tamura to model for his manga remake of the cartoon classic The Yellow Kid; Tamura accepts because the original model for the manga was WBA lightweight champion Mikuni Tokio, who inspired him to box; Tokio's girlfriend is Mana who once had a relationship with Hattori). Japanese passivity collides with Japanese aggression, and beautifully splashy unmanga-like art provides visual commentary. Fascinating film with fascinating ideas, and the meaning of the last shot (found after the credits) is fun to talk about afterward.

As mentioned at the ceremony and in the above article, Chris Chong's Karaoke
was put aside during consideration, but it's really an impressive film. Almost nothing happens--a young man comes home, takes a modeling job, assures his mother he can take care of her and that everything will be fine, eventually contemplates leaving again, this time permanently. This "you can't go home again" microdrama is surrounded by the larger movement of a town transformed, said theme especially laid out in an extraordinary sequence where the main character Betik takes a walk. He wanders through a cathedral of tree trunks, basically towering palm trees that stand in silent attendance--an impressive shot, but as the sequence goes on and we see Betik's tiny figure walking slowly through the grove of giants, we realize that the trees aren't arranged randomly, but in a row. What we thought was a wild forest was actually a domesticated grove, and what looked like a ravishing example of proud, untouched nature was actually established by plantation owners. Cut to monumental piles of rotting palm fruit, haloed by flies, and the huge machines lifting the fruit on conveyor belts high up into the sky. This isn't nature but a parody of nature--agribusiness run amok, its plantations replacing local growth, its workers displacing local workers, its pesticide pollution contaminating local watershed, its very presence slowly corrupting the heart of this town.

Karaoke is basically about false fronts--Betik assuming a control over his life he doesn't really have, karaoke videos evoking emotions no one really feels, the silent palm giants representing a nature that doesn't really exist anymore. Wonderful film.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Vancouver International Film Festival

So I'm at the
Vancouver International Film Festival and seen a few films--can't quite say anything about the films we're judging yet--hopefully I can write something about them some time after the festival's ended. But I've seen films outside of the competition as well, and they're quite a memorable collection.

Hasn't been a pleasant trip; caught a bug on the flight over (I thought American airlines had the worst food--paid $7 for a cold, cardboard-y Quiznos roast beef sandwich at Air Canada which promptly dropped straight to the floor of my belly like a brick, and reacted I presume with the stomach acids there. The aforementioned organ started swelling--and swelling--and swelling--till I felt like John Hurt suffering indigestion in Alien (only it wasn't the chest my creature was threatening to burst out of). In-flight entertainment was Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, which as it turns out was a godsend: fifteen minutes of Michael Bay's muscular visual style and I passed out for the rest of the trip.

Ranks way up there as one of the worst flights I've ever had, while the meal is easily the worse I've ever had, period. Have been chained to my hotel room ever since--can't be more than twenty minutes away, or disaster will occur.

And the worst of it is that Vancouver's a lovely city, all tree-lined boulevards and a distinct mix of modern skyscrapers and lovely Art Deco buildings, at the moment experiencing unseasonally sunny weather--love walking the streets with a crisp breeze blowing and the sunlight turning everything bright and clear. The food--what I see of it, passing by windows--is an eclectic mix, but with the coast so near, emphasizing fresh seafood (I'd kill for sashimi right now, only I'm afraid it'll kill me first).

Of the films I'd managed to see--Eugenio Polgovsky's The Inheritors (2008), about child laborers in Mexico, reminds me of Ditsy Carolino's Children Only Once, and it's interesting to see where one is stronger than the other. Polgovsky has a pitch-perfect tone--nonjudgmental, no commentary and very little music. We develop our own attitudes towards the children, and we see not just their suffering but their ways of coping and of being despite all the work and harsh conditions, well, children.

Not that Polgovsky whitewashes conditions. We see children struggle to put together bundles of sticks tied together by crude cords made of plant fiber; we see kids with gloves whack away at sugar cane with heavy machetes (you half expect him to miss and knock his legs off their feet). What we don't get is the kind of information Carolino gives us when she talks about children carrying cement bags breathing in the dust, which forms a kind of hardening mud in their lungs (they chug gin afterwards, in an effort to clear their air tubes), or the nightmarish fairy-tale ambiance Carolino achieves by shooting in black-and-white video. The Inheritors is an impressive film, nevertheless, worth watching for the immersive verite poetry.

Hirokazu Kore-eda's Air Doll finds him in fantasy mode--basically an inflatable sex toy come to life. The ending goes on interminably and there are touches of sodden sentiment, but I do love how Kore-eda works out the details that remind us that the heroine is basically made out of air and latex (the mold lines, the translucent shadows) and how he relies on largely on-camera effects as opposed to the more popular digital. Also love Du-na Bae's performance, which is key to our believing the whole airy, delicate film. Ron Howard did something similar with Splash way back when, but I prefer Kore-eda's subtler, far lighter touch.

Bong Joon-Ho's Mother is terrific fare, possibly his best work. Where his Gwoemul worked in stops and starts, careened all over the place in terms of emotional tone and genre, in Mother Bong seems completely in control. Hard to see the comedy here, but it is dark comedy, nevertheless--Bong pokes not-too-gentle fun at the stereotype of the smothering Korean mother as he spins out for us the tale of one mother's love for her mentally challenged child, the determination and ferocity involved when said child is accused of the murder of a young woman.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Barking Dogs Never Bite; Oldboy; Beyond the Years

Korean buffet

Flandersui gae (Barking Dogs Never Bite)
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Old Boy
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Cheonnyeonhak (Beyond the Years)
Directed by Im Kwon Taek

AMONG THE FILMS being screened at the ongoing Korean Film Festival at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall is Bong Joon-ho’s rarely seen first feature, Flandersui gae (Barking Dogs Never Bite, a.k.a. A Higher Animal, a.k.a. Dog of Flanders, 2000). Bong would go on to greater fame and fortune as the director of Gwoemul (The Host, 2006), but you can see his fondness for dark comedy this early in the game, in his take on the realities of contemporary Korea--the huge apartment complexes, the pressure to succeed in academia, the henpecked husbands and listless office girls, the Korean fondness for dog meat (comparable to our own appetite for the same [for the record it’s better stewed than barbecued, the better to hide the gaminess], especially in the northern provinces).

Bong gives the story a slow pace for a comedy, but the deadpan demeanor only adds a rather unique, oddball feel (think Jim Jarmusch, only with a more gruesome touch). He has a gift for depicting claustrophobic spaces (the apartment basement, for example, where pets stew in little pots), when ironically the city is surrounded by some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world, if anyone would bother to look up and around.

Bong will acquire a more popular touch in Gwoemul, an anything-for-a-buck sensibility that mixes high family melodrama with low slapstick with social commentary with political satire with straightforward kill-the-monster action, plus a dollop of rather startling digitally composed imagery (a monster stretching gradually down from underneath a bridge like a humongous blob of quicksilver; the same monster some minutes later, galloping alongside panicked human crowds with the loping, looping gait of a mountain lion crossed with a sea serpent). In the meantime we have this, his poignantly awkward first significant step.

Park Chan-wook’s Old Boy (2003) is a radically different, altogether fiercer creature, a revenge flick to make Quentin Tarantino’s pair of Kill Bill movies look like a Girl Scout campfire meet complete with mint cookies. Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is kidnapped, confined to an apartment with only cable TV for company, and fed nothing but fried dumplings for 15 years; when he’s released, he’s left with little more than questions--who did this to him? And more to the point, why?

Park is hailed as a major new figure in world cinema, a provocateur in what one might call the 'Cinema of the Overdose'--one of Oh’s first gestures coming out of imprisonment is to demand "something alive," whereupon he’s served live octopus, whole and wriggling on a plate, which he picks up and stuffs, still wriggling, in his mouth.

It’s the kind of Grand Guignol hi-jinks that made Park a figure of international notoriety, though personally I found the moment rather crude--Koreans traditionally slice the octopod up for easier handling and better appreciation of the sweet flesh, something I’d do myself, if I had the money to actually splurge on live seafood (I suppose the crudity was Park’s point--the man’s appetites, given his situation, is understandably inhuman).

Not a big fan of the film. Thought the plot more gimmicky than surprising, thought the storytelling a little shoddy (would someone who took the trouble of imprisoning a man for years take the risk of keeping him in such an unsafe apartment--one where he can cut or bludgeon himself to death in any number of ways?), thought the "shocking" twist and conclusion more pretentious than profound.

Much prefer Park’s comic timing, the wit of his deadpan visual style. The much-celebrated claw-hammer scene, where Oh fights his way through a crowd of armed thugs with only a hammer in one hand, is a breathtaking bravura sequence, simple in concept and fiendishly difficult in execution (Park took three days to shoot it, and even then he had to digitally correct some punches and stabbings). Think of a diorama sequence brought to ferocious life, or the idea of widescreen action taken to its logical and ultimately absurd (yet somehow thrilling) conclusion.

I’ve finally warmed to Park’s darkly romantic brand of comedy (sort of like Bong’s, only on gamma-irradiated steroids) with his latest film Bakjwi (Thirst, 2009)--here the conventions of the vampire film give vitality to the conventions of the erotic thriller, the perils of vampirism have become a more evocative metaphor for the perils of romantic relationships, and the exhaustion felt near film’s end recalls the exhaustion of a life lived in despair for far too long. Old Boy works fine as low comedy delivered with an interesting aesthetic, but I didn’t feel it fully earned the poignancy it strove for; with Bakjwi Park finally scores--beside his work, movies like Catherine Hardwicke’s Mormonic vampire flick Twlight (2008) is revealed as anemic pap.

Then we are come to the grandmaster of Korean cinema, Im Kwon Taek, who has over the course of 50 years directed over a hundred films--I’d first seen his Chunhyang (2000) in Cinemanila, an epic retelling of a classic love story, done old-school style in the manner of Akira Kurosawa or David Lean. His latest, Cheonnyeonhak (Beyond the Years, 2007), an informal sequel to his 1993 hit Sopyonje, did not make money, but is nevertheless memorable.

The film tells the story of a father, son, daughter troupe that travels bars and inns, singing for their living. The son (a pansori drummer) falls in love with his beautiful singing sister (adopted, or so they say); the father plots to keep his daughter with him always. By turns moving, compelling, immeasurably sad, it meditates on the price an artist pays for the purity of her art, and where love and family and everyday happiness fits in (unspoken answer: trailing several steps behind the artist as he or she wanders about in nomadic rootlessness, seeking work).

Im may be an old-fashioned filmmaker with strong interests in traditional Korean culture but he does experiment with structure (we see the brother, a middle aged man, talking to an old acquaintance, the brother’s story fitting slowly into the present narrative piece by intriguing piece). It’s a measured experimentation--we trust Im to not go wildly experimental on us, nor lose himself or his story in the possibilities of a shot. One image (arguably my favorite) is particularly expressive--brother and sister sitting in grass, the sister singing; the camera gliding around them with the couple constantly kept on the lower right corner of the screen. It’s as if they were on some giant diorama, the landscape turning, while the couple acts as pivot to the great wheel--as if the world may change and move around them, but their love for each other is a fixed constant.

First published in Businessworld, 9.25.09