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GreenCine Movie Talk
From Albania to Zaire, there's a whole world out there.

Kwak: Blowing in the Wind
Topic by: JGereben
Posted: May 24, 2006 - 10:39 PM PDT
Last Reply: May 25, 2006 - 10:41 AM PDT

author topic: Kwak: Blowing in the Wind
post #1  on May 24, 2006 - 10:39 PM PDT  
"Typhoon," from Korea, is a fine, glossy Hollywood movie. Too bad. In the ever-changing film derby of recent decades, nation by nation took the trendy, fascinating lead, only to yield - sooner or later - to another. From World War II on, Italian cinema rose and shone, then the French, the Brits, Poles, Hungarians, Japanese, Chinese, and others... until the most recent development: Korea.

All these national trends had two characteristics in common: excellence and individuality. Perhaps none more so than the Koreans, in their strong, often brutal, always fascinating and original fashion. You'd never mistake Kim Ki-duk's many fabulous films, Im Kwon-taek "Sopyonje" and "Low Life," Song Hae-seong's "Failan," Park Chan-uk's "Old Boy," Bong Jun-ho's "Memory of Murder," and scores of others from the Hermit Kingdom for "La Dolce Vita" or something from Zhang Yimou. No, Korean films are distinct, different, "very Korean."

But not "Typhoon" (or "Taepung," the original title), even if (or because?) it's the most expensive Korean film ever made. Kwak Kyung-taek's contemporary international adventure film is written, produced, and performed by Koreans (mostly), but whatever it is that distinguishes "Korean film" is not prominently a part of it.

The story, also by Kwak, is deeply rooted in the North-South strife, about two young siblings from North Korea, whose escape is thwarted, only to inspire the brother (Jang Dong-kun, of "The Promise") to become a vicious pirate, eventually to gain control of some potent nuclear material. (The sister, played by Lee Mi-yeon, doesn't show up until near the end, but does a star turn then.)

From the South Korean government, a heroic naval officer (Lee Jung-jae, of "Il Mare") goes after the dastardly pirate, and the film becomes a Bond-like international chase - from Southeast Asian jungles to Siberia, all shot on authentic locations - but without Bond's brilliance, humor... and hint of sexuality.

"Typhoon" feels somewhat like "The Beautiful Country," an *American* film about Vietnamese, with something missing, something vaguely off. The hijinks of "Typhoon" on the high seas and in the bowels of the Russian mafia simply lack authenticity, the film is not rooted in something, it's a generic international adventure flick - even if a pretty good one at that. Still, half an hour later, I had to watch "3-Iron" again to get my Korean fix.

Janos Gereben
post #2  on May 25, 2006 - 10:41 AM PDT  
Hey JG,
Thanks for these excellent reviews! Hey, any chance you could repost this one in the Asian cinema thread? Maybe we could re-spark that one. Otherwise your fine reviews just disappear after a bit of time passes...

At any rate, thanks again for your contributions.


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