Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sad Movies

I've seen some sad movies of late - here are three that I watched within the past week...

Sad Movie (2005) - You'd think the title would prepare you, but it doesn't. This one was chosen by me because of the relative success of the previous multiple storyline Korean dramas we had rented. I can be a sucker for an earnest-as-hell Korean weepy - at least they are engaging. This one though is out of control. Four stories: 1) A fireman is close to proposing to his girlfriend, but she's reluctant to marry as she fears losing him in a fire. 2) A perennial loser can't get his girlfriend back until lightning strikes and he develops his own paid service: delivering personal break-up notices for people too shy or emotional to break-up themselves. 3) A deaf girl with burn scars on her face plays a costumed mascot at Everland amusement park and falls for a sketch artist in the park, while he falls for the mystery of what the girl behind the mask looks like. 4) A withdrawn young boy discovers his mom's true love for him when he finds and reads her diary.

Charming as much of this is - especially the Everland stuff (surprise, surprise), it all goes up in flames - if you think I'm spoiling endings here, I'm not. Just imagine the worst case scenario for each story and you'll be correct: 1) The fireman dies in a warehouse inferno but not before leaving a weepy goodbye video that was somehow miraculously recovered from the smoldering wreckage. 2) The man is a sudden success at his new break-up business, until he one day gets a message from his old girlfriend asking him to essentially break-up with himself for her because she's found a new love. 3) The woman with the burn finally takes off her mask for the artist to draw the "real her" as opposed to the imagined beautiful and flawless girls he had been drawing, only to discover that he can't bring himself to even look properly at the girl, let alone accept that she has facial scars - he can't even draw them. 4) The kid's mom dies of cancer and he wails for his loss.

This is so ridiculously over the top. It's called Sad Movie for a reason.

Late Blossom (2010) - This one came out in late 2010, just in time for Christmas. Apparently, the source material is a serial cartoon, followed by a live theatre version, followed by this film version that did quite well in the theatres. This is the story of 4 elderly people living in a hillside neighbourhood. One couple, whose children have all married and moved away is struggling to make ends-meet: he, as a parking lot attendant on the hill, and his wife slowly decaying from Alzheimer's Disease back at the house where she is locked-in daily for fear of her escaping and hurting herself. The other couple is formed by the world's most surly scooter delivery man/grandfather who berates a poor scrap paper collecting woman one winter's night in the street. Watching this foursome play off of each other is in turns heart-warming, silly, and ultimately depressing as hell. You thought Sad Movie was sad? Late Blossom makes sharp turns from a tale of love in the twilight years to one of absolutely zero hope of happiness for the elderly whose families have abandoned them or failed to understand their wants and needs. Even when two characters find happiness and admit it, they won't allow themselves to enjoy what they've found. I'm giving this a light recommendation for curiosity sake, but if you're a Korean who is considering moving away from your parents, don't watch this with them, or your days will be riddled with guilt from here to eternity.

The Illusionist (2010) - this one is a French animated tale from the director of The Triplets of Belleville - the one that should have won the Oscar in 2003. In brief, this is a largely wordless story (though there is some French, English, and Gaelic included) of a past his prime French Stage Magician in 1959, whose only constants in his life appear to be his feisty white rabbit and a couple of worn suitcases. He moves from job to job, ending-up in Edinburgh, accompanied by a young girl from a Scottish Isle who is looking for some real magic in her life. This is sad, to be sure, but it's the kind of hand-drawn animation that is so full of life - every frame just stuffed with something deeper than we're used to seeing from such films. There are happenings here though which will break your heart - never has a "Dear Jane" letter elicited such undeniable pathos. This film takes its time establishing its wistful reality, and you'll feel richer for having paid attention.

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