With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

ACF 109: Lee Chang-dong Retrospective - Secret Sunshine

Jeon Do-yeon (left) and Song Kang-ho (right)

The Asia Society's Lee Chang-dong retrospective continues tomorrow night with a screening of Secret Sunshine, his fourth and most recent film, made after he served as Korean Minister of Culture and Tourism from 2002 until 2004.

Lee Shin-ae ( actress Jeon Do-yeon) and her young son move to Miryang, the rural Korean city which her deceased husband was from and which gives the film its name. There she hopes to start a new life giving piano lessons. When their car breaks down, Kim Jong-chan (Song Kang-ho), who owns a garage, brings them and their car into town.

It's immediately obvious that he's attracted to her and that she is indifferent to his interest. Perhaps because I'm so accustomed to what Hollywood would do with such a situation, the film seemed to be starting out as a romantic comedy. You know, the guy keeps after the woman until she finally realizes that he's her "Mister Right."

Then a crime takes place. My initial reaction was that perhaps this was an incident that was gong to play into the thwarted romance. But it soon turned out to be for real, and to have dire consequences for Lee Shin-ae. The remainder of the film is an incredibly powerful exploration of human suffering, as Shin-ae searches for spiritual peace in the face of one of the worst tragedies that can befall a person. Throughout it all, Jong-chan continues to be there for her.

Like all of Lee Chang-dong's films, Secret Sunshine has won numerous festival awards. Last year at Cannes, Jeon Do-yeon received the award for best actress. Her performance, like Moon So-ri's in Oasis, is one of those rare, magnificent thespian tour-de-forces that I can only term "beyond incredible."

At the inaugural Asian Film Awards earlier this year, the movie won for best film, best director, and best actress. And Song Kang-ho has not come away empty handed. He won the prize for best actor at the 2008 Palm Springs International Film Festival. Complete info about the film's wins and nominations can be found at this link to imdb.com.

Secret Sunshine further solidifies Lee Chang-dong's place in my list of great film directors. Though an emotionally demanding film to watch, it deserves to be seen by anyone who appreciates magnificent film making and story telling.

Screenings for it and the two other remaining films in this retrospective are at Asia Society, 725 Park Ave (at 70th Street), Manhattan. The schedule for the three remaining films, each of which will be shown at 7:00 pm, is:

Secret Sunshine

2007, 142 min
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
- This screening is co-sponsored by The School of Visual Arts
- Director Lee is scheduled to be present

Peppermint Candy

2000, 127 min
Thursday, May 8, 2008

Green Fish
1997, 111 min
Monday, May 12, 2008

For more information or to order tickets, click here.

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