Friday, August 15, 2014

MIFF Session 14: OUR SUNHI

Sunhi, a young film student returns to the campus of her university in Seoul only to fall victim to a flat prank by an acquaintance. She goes to see her old professor and asks him for a reference. She wants to study in America. He tried to talk her out of it using a massive projection of his own listlessness but agrees to write her a reference.

Generally annoyed, she goes into a cafe to get drunk and spies her ex on the street. She calls him up. They get drunk together and in the first of a series of profile two shot dialogues we start realising that we are going to see a lot of other people attempting to define her. She will reject all of them but provide no real evidence to the contrary. The ex leaves the table drunk and confused, filled with such wine-fuelled longing that he stirs an old mentor out of his own listlessness and has a lot more wine with him in a local cafe. Second lengthy one-take two-shot dialogue spent mostly discussing Sunhi and pingponging plattitudes about her back and forth. There is a very funny moment where the ex struggles drunkenly to form a metaphor to explain his need to fully understand Sunhi. It's about digging but he can't quite make it. Between the two of them and the cafe owner they kind of nut it out.

Sunhi gets the reference but it is so devastatingly damning with faint praise that she demands it be rewritten. The Professor agrees to meet with her to discuss this and the pair get drunk together and have another one-take two-shot tete-a-tete during which she is defined slightly differently. Swinging on his shoulder at the end of the night she goes home with him. The next day he rouses the mentor from his torpor and they have a dialogue about her without mentioning her name.

Sunhi gets the new .... You get the idea. While there is an awkwardness to the start of this that is really only a means of getting its audience used to the deadpan style. Once you are with it, assuming you get with it, this film offers some great delights. We eavesdrop rather than witness the characters and the wayward nature of conversation and its myriad micro management possibilities are laid bare with an increasingly apparent frown. But the frown is a comedian's, delivering back to us the situation of needing to get around the niceties of communication and go straight to the goal, regardless of whether it's on offer or not. The dialogue is increasingly peppered with the detritus of previous conversations which only gets funnier. The finale which is a comedy of errors of a brilliantly staged and vengeful manipulation by Sunhi manages to be both deadpan and dizzy.

I'm still smiling as I recall scenes from this heavily understated comedy which plays its hand so cleverly it can feel like a chilling con trick. If trick it is it's one we are happy to admit.

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