Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Happiness: IFC Center, June 23 and 28, 2008

One of my favorite films at last year's Toronto Film Festival, Hur Jin-ho's Happiness, screens at the IFC Center on Monday, June 23 at 2 pm and Saturday, June 28 at 5:20 pm as part of this year's New York Asian Film Festival. In my Toronto wrapup for Senses of Cinema, I wrote:

"My favorite Toronto premiere was the South Korean film Happiness, a jump up in quality from the previous work of the talented Hur Jin-ho (Palwolui Christmas [Christmas in August, 1998]; Bomnaleun ganda [One Fine Spring Day, 2001]). The story, about the love between a barely recovered playboy alcoholic (Hwang Jeong-min) and a fellow clinic patient with an incurable lung disease (Lim Su-jeong), is tinged with the sentimentality favoured by Korean melodramas. After only a few minutes, however, it becomes clear that Hur has achieved a quiet virtuosity in the rhythm and alternation of scenes, playing intelligently with the balance of intimacy and solitude, hope and despair, self-preserving and self-destructive impulses. Scenes are connected with unemphatic jump cuts that often end the action before its expected point of rest. The narrative is fatalistic on the large scale, but individual moments play with our expectations of how the emotional payload will be delivered, finding not only a calm that is not native to melodrama, but also an existential anguish that exceeds the requirements of the tearjerker. Beneath the emotive surface of Happiness, its melodrama is inflected with stoical detachment, right up to the beautiful desolation of the final crane shot.

"Happiness is a particularly nice surprise after Hur’s last film Oechul [April Snow, 2005], which seemed to show him being absorbed by the mainstream."

I'm also looking forward to two as-yet-unseen films by the excellent Ryuichi Hiroki (Vibrator, It's Only Talk) at the Asian Film Festival. Love on Sunday screens on Thursday, June 26 at 1 pm and on Sunday, June 29 at 1 pm; Love on Sunday 2: Last Words screens on Sunday, June 29 at 3 pm and on Wednesday, July 2 at 12:30 pm. All screenings of the Hiroki films are at the IFC Center.

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