Songhui (actress Pang Eun-jin) is a young woman who lives in unit 301 of the Apartment New Hope Bio. One day a man (apparently a police detective, although he's never specifically identified) comes inquiring about her neighbor Yunhui (Hwang Sin-hye) who lives across the hall in 302. It seems that Yunhui has disappeared, and may have last been seen by Songhui. Offered food by Songhui, the man comments that her apartment, with its extensive cooking facilities, is like a restaurant. Yunhui's, on the other hand, is filled with books. (In a scene later in the film, Songhui will tell Yunhui that her place is "like a school library.")
|Songhui (left) and Yunhui|
The film is the story, told in flashbacks, of the relationship that had developed between these women who are roughly the same age but of vastly different dispositions. Songhui loves sex, cooking and eating. In fact, she has a history of binge-eating. Yunhui, who wears glasses and writes for women's magazines, has no interest whatsoever in sex, an attitude related to her being anorexic.The two also have distinct personal histories that have compelled them to engage in these self-destructive behaviors. These formative back-stories are depicted in flashbacks within the overall flashback narrative.
|Screen-capture of a close-up of Yunhui's eyes and glasses|
|A screen-capture close-up of Songhui's mouth|
Director Park frequently employs closeups and extreme closeups of Yunhui's eyes and glasses and of Songhui's mouth. These compel the viewer to become intimately engaged with the two characters.
|Food before ...|
|... and after preparation|
Given the thematic focus of eating disorders from opposite ends of the spectrum, it's not surprising that Park also uses numerous shots of food, both before and after it has been prepared.
301/302 was very successful when released in South Korea, and it was one of the first films shown theatrically in North America. I believe this is the first film directed by Park Cheol Soo that I've seen, and I was immensely impressed. Indeed, the film brings to mind Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1966), another powerful film that focuses on the relationship of two women who are in a circumstance in which they become intimately involved with one another.
301/302 is clearly for mature audiences. There is some nudity and simulated intercourse. In addition to binge-eating and anorexia, there are other subjects depicted that are definitely for adults only.
ACF rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; very highly recommended. Tomorrow night's free screening is definitely another example of why Korean Cultural Service's Korean Movie Night is one of the best things going in NYC.