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[Movie 2005] A Bittersweet Life 달콤한 인생

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Guest Wei Lin

hi midnight sun!!! thanks for the 2 posts... it brings back great memories of Bittersweet Life... oh.. i could just go on and on about it.. heehee... I can't wait for the DVD to come to Singapore.. so that i can buy it.. hehe...

some prize scenes...

BH counts "one... two... three..." and the whole room breaks out in violence...

When SMA calls him ajushi... wahaha...

where he breaks away from the gang that is holding him captive...

when he asks his boss in a pain-wracked voice.. "why? why have you done this to me?"

oh man... i could just go on forever... :P

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March 24, 2005

'A Bittersweet Life' - the Beginner's Guide
Source: englishnews@chosun.com

Director Kim Ji-woon (lef) and Lee 

It is possible to confuse the director with the movie star. Severe in a knitted hat and sunglasses, director Kim Ji-woon, 41, starts the banter by saying, "If we pose together you might get buried in the picture." Lee Byeong-hun, 35, in ripped jeans, counterattacked: "You make fun of my ideas, but you always end up incorporating them in your work.

The movie "A Bittersweet Life" created by the director of the blockbusters "The Quiet Family", "The Foul King" and "A Tale of Two Sisters" and the ambitious actor who watches movies he stars in for more than 20 times, is a story of the wretched crash of a gangster who once seemed to have everything going for him. Here we introduce you to the movie and the story that lies behind it. 

Espresso or Style 

"There really was a gangster like that in real life. He graduated from a very prominent university, only wore black suits and was the epitome of good manners. He was greeted with bows and called "big brother" everywhere he went," says Lee Byeong-hun. "The espresso Lee Byeong-Heon enjoys in the movie contains both sweetness and bitterness. That is life, and that is what our movie is about," Kim Ji-woon adds. 

What separates "A Bittersweet Life" from other genre movies is its style. While wearing a tailored black suit and insisting on drinking espresso, Lee Byeong-hun declares, "I'm not a bum." 



"It must be a scene never seen in any other Korean action movies. The intense visual impact of the blazing timber enthralled me." (Lee Byeong-hun) "As the movie progresses, so does the level of violence. It parallels Byeong-hun's emotional state in the movie. Paradoxically, through violence I wanted to evoke sympathy towards these men, with its recklessness and meaninglessness." (Kim Ji-woon) 

The characters' only method of communication is violence. In the same way he portrayed the anxiety of the girl in "A Tale of Two Sisters" through the flower patterned wallpaper of primary colors, the director reveals the inner state of the wrecked man through the intensity of the blazing lumber and the dampness of a deep pit. 

Shadow boxing or noir


"Choosing the genre is like choosing the subject. It is the genre that can best express what I wish to convey." (Kim Ji-woon) “Honestly, I wanted to watch that movie. So I willingly participated.” (Lee Byeong-hun) 

Shadow boxing in the Sky Lounge Hotel, Lee in the movie admires his reflection in the window. But his dark shadow is contrasted with the city’s lights. It is a scene that emphasizes the noir genre's focus on the dark inner self and its collapse. 

A 38-caliber revolver and a fall 

"Starting his revenge, he leaves the traditional weapon behind and chooses the gun. We start with his awkward expression when making a deal with an arms dealer until we reach his heroic but tragic fall from power." (Lee Byeong-heon) "A gun is a masculine form of power. Doesn't it symbolize both the glory and the fall?" (Kim Ji-woon) 

The noir gunfight in the latter half of the movie using an arsenal of Russian and American guns sets a stark contrast with the first half. 

La Dolce Vita or A Bittersweet Life 

Much of the movie is set in a hotel bar called La Dolce Vita. As Federico Fellini made clear in the movie of the same title (1960), bitterness too often follows a sweet choice. This is Kim Ji-woon’s aesthetic pessimism.

Random: Dir. Kim Ji Woon & Lee Byung Hun in 2005




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April 18, 2005 

Pre-orders Pour in for "A Bitter-Sweet Life" DVD in Japan

Source: KBS Global

Actor Lee Byung-heon's popularity in Japan has been boosted recently by the release of his latest movie "A Bitter-Sweet Life," where he shows off impressive acting. Japan’s popular sports daily Sankei Sports reported on its website on April 18 that "pre-orders for the DVD of 'A Bitter-Sweet Life,' starring 'hallyu' star Lee Byung-heon, have been pouring in."

The newspaper also wrote that orders for the movie's "making of the film" DVD, due out across Japan on April 23, are exploding already as well. Some 30,000 copies of the 'making of' DVD have been sold since April 20, which is quite unprecedented in Japan. “Lee sold 170,000 copies of his photo album, which was released last September, and 100,000 copies of his personal DVD, which was released last November. And this time, the 'making of' DVD of his new movie is likely to record sales of 100,000 copies as well,” added Sankei Sports. 

The 'making of' DVD of "A Bitter-Sweet Life" features Lee in impressive action scenes including a car chase on an eight-lane highway, and scenes with Shinhwa member Eric Moon.

A Bittersweet Life

Sun Woo (Lee Byung-Hun) is the proprietor of a hotel bar, La Dolce Vita but also the right-hand man to the powerful gang leader, Mr. Kang. When Kang suspects that his beautiful young mistress Hee Soo might be having affair with another man, he asks Sun Woo to resolve the matter by commanding him to follow her around. Sun Woo's order is simple. If he catches Hee Soo cheating, he must execute her. However, when Sun Woo catches Hee Soo with her lover, he makes a decision without knowing its consequences. 

A BITTERSWEET LIFE is a super stylistic, ultra-violent action film that has more life in it than all the Hollywood films that have been released so far this year. The director Kim Jee-woon (TALE OF TWO SISTERS) superbly twists and tweaks the gangster genre and brings it a fresh and different life. The film has been critically labeled as "action noir" in Korea and there are plenty of reasons why. Much of the action occurs beautifully in the dark shadows of Seoul. The danger is always waiting in the contrast between light and shadow created by the city itself. This is a world where no one can be truly trusted. 

Lee Byung-hun brings sheer excitement in his performance. He is an angel dressed in vengeance. At the beginning of the film, he is stone cold and heartless. But once his fury is unleashed he loses it, transforming into a guy who has no problem taking people out while still maintains his vulnerability. He wants to know the motivation of his torment. So does the audience. Lee Byung-hun conveys a dangerous mix of charm and intelligence. 

All the gangsters fight to the death. It is down and dirty. Kim Jee-woon’s creativity in fight scenes is a mix of realism and pur cinema. When someone gets shot, they don’t get hit in a place that kills them instantly. It takes several shots to actually hit in critical point. The guns are uncontrollable. The characters are unpredictable. The pain is visually felt. The violence is cruelly innovative. The stylistically photographed images become another characters of the film. It is fascinating that this mixture of grittiness and elegance creates such a poetic images. Everything is carefully designed with details. From Le Dolce Vita restaurant to the girl’s home, the care spent on small details of space and time, until now, could only be seen in Wong Kar Wai films. 

That all said, A BITTERSWEET LIFE is a film that manages to gives gangster film a new meaning. It is poetically stylistic, ultra violence with a cool and sometimes humorous edge. It is by far the best film of 2005. You will smile with enthusiasm at the end as Lee Byung-hun smiles for the first time in the entire film. 

Review by: Shogo! / Cinema Eye

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August 7, 2005

A Bittersweet Life DVD Review 
» Posted by X at August 7, 2005 12:37 PM @ twitchfilm.net

Dalkomhan Insaeng (lit. Sweet Life)

120 Minutes - 35mm 2.35:1 - Colour
Rating: 18 and over
Released in Korea on 4/1/2005
Total National Admissions (Approx.): 1,291,621
Produced by: Bom Films
Distributed by: CJ Entertainment

Theatrical Trailer (Downloadable, Windows Media, 700k)
Teaser Trailer (Downloadable, Windows Media)
Music Video (Downloadable, Windows Media, 500k)
Official Website

Note: The review contains spoilers

Director 김지운 (Kim Ji-Woon)
[조용한 가족 (The Quiet Family, 1998), 반칙왕 (The Foul King, 2000), 쓰리 (Three: Memories, 2001) 장화, 홍련 (A Tale of Two Sisters, 2003)]
Writer 김지운 (Kim Ji-Woon), 봉준호 (Bong Joon-Ho)
Director of Photography 김지용 (Kim Ji-Yong)
Music 달파란 (Dalparan), 장영규 (Jang Young-Gyu)
Editor 최재곤 (Choi Jae-Gon)
Action 정두홍 (Jung Doo-Hong)


이병헌 (Lee Byung-Heon), 김영철 (Kim Young-Cheol), 황정민 (Hwang Jung-Min), 신민아 (Shin Min-Ah), 오달수 (Oh Dal-Soo), 김해곤 (Kim Hae-Gon), 이기영 (Lee Ki-Young), 김뢰하 (Kim Roi-Ha), 진구 (Jin Gu)
CAMEO: 에릭 (Eric Moon)


Christopher Doyle, the great Australian cinematographer, once said: "Sex is overrated. It's communication I care about." In Kim Ji-Woon's 달콤한 인생 (A Bittersweet Life), lack of proper communication leads to tragedy, and it's real communication, the one that gives you the will to live, that the characters aspire to. Because in a world where the balancing of violence and power is more important than human relations, there's no place for real dialogue, for sharing something with another person. The characters in this film are like machines, groomed to perfectly function without letting emotions get the better of them. This is a film about machines breaking down, because a breeze of fresh new air briefly entered their life, changing them forever. For Sun-Woo (Lee Byung-Heon), that breeze is represented by Hee-Soo (Shin Min-Ah), the young mistress of his boss, the woman he's supposed to tail, because she's apparently having an affair with a younger man. For Boss Kang (Kim Young-Cheol), that breeze is the defiance of long established hierarchies, the fact the only man he thought he could trust just disobeyed him for what he thinks is a quick infatuation. And so begins Kim's "Symphony for Mr. Violence," a three act story about miscommunication.

First act, piano. Sun-Woo, slick and cool as ice, has been working under Boss Kang for 7 years. He never makes mistakes, his confidence and experience so high he can slowly taste a serving of dessert before heading downstairs to take care of business with a few " noisy" customers. He's good looking, well mannered, always clothed in designer brands and an able driver. But best of all he's a quick, dangerously effective fighter, mixing style with accuracy. Kang trusts him, he says, because he's never fallen in love, he's not weakened by primal emotions, which the old fox sees as a dangerous risk to take when dealing with life or death matters. Kang, white hair and expressionless look hardened by decades of living the tough life, has seen too much, fought too hard to let his empire crumble under young punks with no manners. But he's getting old, his subordinates resemble more a bunch of glorified 양아치 (gangster wannabes) than people who are supposed to cover his [3-letter word for donkey]. He's married but can't communicate with his wife, has a young mistress he keeps more as a trophy or flower vase, watering it once in a while with gifts to keep it fresh. He doesn't need to kill some poor soul to gain respect amongst his peers. All he needs is the status quo of power. But to maintain that, he needs someone who can be trusted, so what better chance to prove if Sun-Woo is up to the task by virtually staging a "jealousy" matter with Hee-Soo? If he can maintain his integrity and loyalty in this situation, Kang will know for sure Sun-Woo has it. That he's finally ready to settle down and let the young boy do the job for him.

Second act, allegro ma non troppo. The plan seems to be going perfectly, Sun-Woo is trying to keep a distance, but something happens, something he never expected. Those fleeting moments with Hee-Soo open an old wound that he had completely forgotten about. For a moment, Sun-Woo is alive again, he sees the kind of life he used to have, he could still have, if it wasn't for all that damn loyalty and integrity. All it took was a few smiles, spending a day looking at a graceful lady full of life eat ice cream next to him, listening to her cello practice, finally relaxing. Finally alive, sharing moments with a real person, not some cartoonish gangster whose gibberish starts and ends with a swear word. And that's when the (Korean) title of the film, an homage to Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita starts to make sense. Sun-Woo finds an oasis called emotion, in the desert that was his life. He's like Marcello Mastroianni, Hee-Soo his Anita Ekberg, her smiles and human warmth the Fontana Di Trevi where for a day he can bury all his problems, all the loneliness and hopeless future, and live life like he'd love to. But for someone who hid his emotions for so long that's too wild a concept to absorb. Emotion turns into vulnerability, which in his profession often means death. His misunderstanding begins from that moment, and so does Kang's. Why did he do that? Was it love? Sexual attraction? Did he just want to challenge his orders? Kang loses the only thing that was sure in his life, that everybody was afraid of him, and followed his word like a sutra. Now he finds himself violated, his power laughed at. Why did he disobey him?

Final act. Crescendo. Sun-Woo wants to take matters into his own. He's barely used a gun once or twice while working as a bodyguard, he can't even tell the difference between a Russian made Stechkin and a regular one. He finds a seller (Kim Hae-Gon), with his tacky leather jacket, fur on the shoulders, looking like the Korean love child of Joe Pesci and Mad Max. His lackeys? A Russian called Mikhail whose acquaintance with the Korean language starts and ends with an hilariously accented 쓰발 (Do I need to translate curse words?), proving that foreign tongues are difficult, but cursing is an international language of its own. The other guy (Oh Dal-Soo) keeps arguing with Mikhail, mixing Russian and Busan accent with alarming frequency. Sun-Woo has lost everything, that fleeting moment of beauty, but also starts to understand that the 7 years he's given to Mr. Kang, where he worked under him like a dog, meant nothing to him. He was just like every other thug, someone to be disposed of once he makes a mistake. Life has no value for him anymore, all he knows is that he needs to make people pay for what they did to him. He did nothing wrong.

When I heard Kim was making a film noir, I was wondering what would turn out. After all, while Kim has dealt with genre Cinema for almost a decade, his films aren't just dark comedies (The Quiet Family's theater-influenced comedy and reworking of the archetypal TV Drama "Family-ism" of the characters), action comedies (The Foul King's hilarious and touching rendering of the struggles of the everyday man in the dog-eats-dog world of the Korean job market) or horror films (the darkly psychological undertones to A Tale of Two Sisters, and its maniacal attention to detail in sound and art design). The result was something not entirely unpredictable (at least for those familiar with Kim's past work), but still tremendously fresh, giving new vigor to the Korean film noir. Style aside - and stylish this film definitely is, I'd hazard amongst the most stylish Korean films ever - was he going to stick to his usual themes or go in a new direction? Part Melville meets Spaghetti Western, part Jang Jin-style black comedy and part Park Chan-Wook Stylish violence, Kim's unique noir technique perfectly meshes with his past work, offering new mental meat to grind in your mind. He has made something so stylish and minimalist, yet so rich in delving into different aspects of genre-filmmaking, blending what we'd usually expect from an uniquely Korean noir, especially if you look at its predecessors in the mid 90s (Rules of The Game, Born To Kill, Beat).

Thanks to Jung Doo-Hong's constantly improving vision, the action is one of the film's strongest point. Organic, essential, beautifully staged and refreshingly realistic. What's really interesting is how Jung doesn't allow the genre to dictate his style, nor its roots to alienate the characters from their cultural backgrounds. Korea has little or no gun culture, that's why Sun-Woo misses most of his shots, why he doesn't use it with the machismo associated to weapon use in Western or (some) Hong Kong films. He shoots without passion, nervously, often without aiming, hitting parts that are not fatal. He struggles to even mount a strategy since the idea of using a gun is little more than something he saw in the movies. What Kim and Jung did really well here is juxtapose the knife's importance in Korean style violence and the machismo associated with it (go watch some Korean gangster films and you see the weapon of choice is either a sashimi knife or a baseball bat, never guns, even though criminals could get them via the black market), opposed to the bland omnipotence of the black toy. And in line with the rest of Jung's work the keyword here is essential. You don't see unnecessary movement, superhuman wirefu histrionics. The only one allowed to display some style in going mano-y-mano is Sun-Woo, to portray his experience and ability in dealing with physical confrontation. And it's essentialism the focus of the shootouts as well, maximizing the pain inflicted by bullets, showing guns are not a mere toy to use prattling around like some beefcake pseudo-heroic character from Hollywood's action wasteland. It's when the action becomes frenetic and the body count increases that that symphony of violence comes to conclusion, engulfing the hunter and its prey.

Once again, art direction becomes a character in a Kim Ji-Woon film. In The Quiet Family, the hotel sort of represented the fragmented and diverse personalities of the family, separated in mind but united by heart, all under the same roof. In The Foul King, the training gym and the ring were Im Dae-Ho's (Song Kang-Ho) gateway to overcome humiliation and the harshness of reality. In A Tale of Two Sisters, the house was a macabre "sister" to the step-mother (Yeom Jung-Ah), almost moving in accordance with that woman's desires, at least in someone's mind... it's no different here. The Sky Lounge, too perfect to be real, harmoniously staged from the light carpet next to the Bar, up to the tree (a running metaphor throughout the film, symbolizing the characters' changes of heart). Hee-Soo's house, with more warmth and colour, as appealing as her owner. Sun-Woo's apartment, as minimalist and slick as only he can be, giving an air of melancholy and loneliness. They all become characters who act in the background to solidify the main players, like those veterans who silently carry scenes complementing their younger colleagues without ever upstaging them. Kim and his Art Direction Team have become masters in dealing with this aspect of filmmaking.

The music also deserves a mention. Mad genius Jang Young-Gyu's most mature work yet, aided by Dalparan for the more electronica-heavy parts. Jang still keeps a strong tie to his past work with EoEoBu Project (the cult experimental band that featured in The Foul King, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance and many other films), but seems past that phase where you try to be creative to impress, not to improve yourself. Dalparan (real name Kang Gi-Young) is perhaps better known for his work with Jang Sun-Woo, and is a past member of the great indie trio PipiBand, the Sonic Youth of Korea. The soundtrack has a very European feeling, with touches influenced by Morricone, Spanish Flamenco, more ethnic flavour, all expertly mixed with Dalparan's thumping beats. It perfectly complements the action with its crescendos, and comes close to the beautiful main theme in A Tale of Two Sisters when it's time to convey what La Dolce Vita, the sweet life for Sun-Woo really is. I almost never buy OSTs because they rarely keep their musical strength dissociated from the film they belong to, but this is one I'd happily give a try to.

And then comes the main course, the cast. Lee, cool as ice, experienced and talented enough to know that his good looks can be a double edged sword if you can't take advantage of them, looking like a stray cat whenever dealing with real people, and a ruthless tiger when confronting foes and alleged friends, suspicious as ever. Kim Young-Cheol, fresh off his turn as Kim Doo-Han (the legendary gangster) in the second part of Yain Shidae, expressionless for 9/10 of the film, showing all his pent up frustration in the crucial moment. Shin Min-Ah, who was really well cast (Who else? Son Ye-Jin was too distant and too beautiful, Im Soo-Jung too sophisticated, Bae Doo-Na too sexy, Kang Hye-Jung too mature), offering the right mix of playful innocence and sexy maturity. Hwang Jung-Min, sly and hilarious in his jealousy and petty selfishness: Oh Dal-Soo, who's becoming a younger version of Baek Yoon-Shik, who makes banter in Russian sound like a couple of drunken people in Busan arguing at a tent bar, part hilarious and part majestic in his ability to capture the frame. Lee Gi-Young, finally back to the movies in a stable way after long years of struggling in TV Dramas as a bit player, as enigmatic and ruthless as Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects. Kim Hae-Gon, the writer cum director cum part-time actor, looking like everything but a cold and calculated killer. This is a marvelous ensemble cast, adeptly playing to Kim's vision, making scenes stand out even when probably they shouldn't, adding great flavour to a film that's only deceptively simple.

Although I think Kim has never made a bad film, and most of his work is memorable in its own unique way, this might be his calling card to International fame. Its technical and visual splendor on display a perfect complement to all the artistry behind the scenes, from the music to the sound design (deliciously sophisticated, far removed from the squib fests that plagued too many Korean noirs in the 90s). Its balancing of stylish and nihilistic violence with tremendously effective black comedy, the kind that never gets to its knees begging you to laugh but earns it with its uniqueness. Its beautiful melancholy hidden under the wah wah and the bang bang, it all comes together as a masterful whole. It might only end up quietly pleasing cult film fans, but Kim has finally given Korea a film noir to be proud of. One that shows a master filmmaker at the top of his game, putting so much into a film to make it shine, yet making it all look so simple. In an action film world of stiff trees never moving even if hit by hurricanes, his refreshing breeze will certainly move many people's hearts.


Very good presentation, especially as far as the Audio goes. Very clear, clean and crisp. Quite involved during the action scenes, and the score sounds really great. Video is not reference level like some Korean message boards hinted at, but it's nonetheless quite good. Skin tones look very natural, with no compression artifacts and no problems with the print. The transfer is also devoid of booming whites, black levels are satisfactory, and there's that pleasant amount of grain to make it "film-like" but not enough to be noticeable.

Subtitles are good, all things considered. Good timing and no syntax or spelling mistakes. The translation is good, but also betrays a lot of the comedy (which is quite hilarious in its dry tones, especially anything involving Oh Dal-Soo). I don't think that will take anything major away from the film in terms of the story, but it's an important part a lot of viewers will feel apathetic about, and might make the wrong assumption this is just a dry action noir. But then again, it's difficult to put into words why Oh Dal-Soo's Russian cum 경상도 사투리 (the dialect spoken in Busan and the rest of Gyungsang province) is so funny, or why Hwang Jung-Min's deadpan delivery so captivating. Different people might have different reactions, but I'm not trying to say these are bad subtitles. It's just that they can't crack that level of cultural uniqueness which is definitely an enjoyable part of the film.



Commentary with Director Kim Ji-Woon, Lee Byung-Heon, Kim Young-Cheol
An entertaining discussion with the three, who give their input showing good chemistry. As always for Kim's commentaries, his slow paced delivery makes it even easier to digest what he's saying. Also, the atmosphere of friendship between the three is a plus. Amongst the arguments discussed:
- The first scene with the old tale about the master and the moving of the heart. Kim decided to add it because it was the most obvious way to introduce the film, and convey its main theme, the changing of heart for its characters.
- Kim Young-Cheol talks about how, at first, he thought the first meeting between Sun-Woo and Kang could have been a little boring, because they discuss nothing particularly important up to Kang's request. But then he realized it showed their special relationship and how it set Sun-Woo apart from the others. Lee and Director Kim noted how it took two days to shoot, but looking at the editing it was worth it. A small scene, but telling us many things about the characters. Director Kim commented even Ryu Seung-Wan liked it a lot, saying Kim Young-Cheol looked like a cute 아저씨 (middle aged man) when talking about his girl.
- Director Kim commented how Lee eating the candy in Hee-Soo's house was never in the script, and how he likes the idea of introducing a character with a shot of his or her legs, or feet, admitting that might lead to people considering it a fetish of his.
- The three highlighted how the scene where Sun-Woo eating at a tent bar, right outside the restaurant where Hee-Soo and her date were eating, highlights his loneliness better than anything else could. Seeing her so happy, so carefree when dancing made him feel left out, reconsider why he was living like that. He also explains why there's an abrupt cut after the Cello practice scene, with the music disappearing all of a sudden. That was to highlight how Sun-Woo got back into the game quickly, still blinded by his code of loyalty.
- Director Kim said he added the scene with Baek (Hwang Jung-Min) and the phone, which didn't exist in the script, to kind of show what his personality was. He also highlights how Sun-Woo's apartment gives away his loneliness.
- Talking about Hee-Soo's character, Director Kim added the ice cream scene to create a sense of stimulation, provocation. Kim Young-Cheol also added (when Hee-Soo says: "This is boring") how youngsters nowadays lack consistency and don't have understandable patterns to follow when dealing with them, compared to his generation.
- The three agree the scene where Sun-Woo abruptly turns away from Hee-Soo shows best his changing relationship with her.
- One important thing is how Director Kim staged the fight inside Hee-Soo's apartment. While the action shown before in the Sky Lounge was very pragmatic and even stylish, there's a nervousness to the fight that highlights how Sun-Woo is starting to become tainted by his growing and changing feelings, and how that affects the way he fights. He wanted to give a Peckinpah feel to the way his sentiment toward the woman moves.
- Lee says how the "4 words scene" (잘.못.했.슴. in Korean, 3 in the English Subtitles) might not translate too well for foreign audiences. Agree with that, going from 그.냥.가.라 ("Just go" using the 4 words again) to "i can't read. You. i can't read." is not exactly funny nor stylish.
- The three discuss how the scene shot from behind of Kang returning to Korea at the airport reminds of Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast. Kim wanted to convey that kind of feeling here.
- Director Kim talked about the three Filipino actors in the film, who weren't professionals. He commends them, especially the student, for their hard work.
- In one of my favorite parts, Kim Young-Cheol admitted that as he gets older, he's showing less and less patience. He wonders how a young director like Kim could come up with that kind of dialogue in the film. Lee jokes that Director Kim's not that young, after all.
- The scene in the rain where Kang and Sun-Woo meet again wasn't in the script originally, but they added it to show something changed between them.
- They talked about how important the scene where Kang keeps listening on the phone even after being on the car was, showing that he still cared about Sun-Woo even after what happened. They all thought the scenes in the rain were really hard to watch, considering it was so hard for Lee to shoot them and it was very cold that day.
- Kim really liked that "family" line from Kang, showing that kind of ideology running through the gangsters' minds.
- They talk about the hilarious scenes with Oh Dal-Soo and Vadim, the Russian. He wasn't actually an actor, but a dancer. He nonetheless did a great job. They laugh at how Oh's Busan accent even permeates the Russian dialogue.
- Kim comments that the funniest scene for foreigners was the one where Kim Hae-Gon and Lee Byung-Heon can't build the gun back and waste time, and it's a shame they won't get much out of Oh's funny Russian/Busan dialogue.
- Kim comments how the final scene looks like something out of a David Lynch film, with the huge red curtain (that'd be Fire Walk With Me or the Twin Peaks series)
- One funny anecdote was how he didn't find any good location for the toilet scene, so he used again the same exact spot where Song Kang-Ho and Song Young-Chang fight in The Foul King.
- A lot of people discussed why Sun-Woo didn't die after getting hit by that bullet, but Kim said it just hit his ear. They also discuss how Eric's role was a little too 만화 (Korean manga) style, but it still fit well with the film.

Commentary with Director Kim Ji-Woon, Director of Photography Kim Ji-Yong, Art Director Ryu Sung-Hee
This was quite good. As you read more of my DVD reviews you'll learn how I'm not too fond of this type of commentaries. Why? They often end being dry debates over technicalities that the average film fan has never heard of. This is quite different. Since Art Direction is a crucial element of Kim's work, everything talked about here becomes all the more important. Most of the commentary deals with the choices (in Art Direction, Set Design, Lighting, Cinematography) Kim made vis-a-vis the conventional noir techniques. It also sheds some light on why certain colors were used. Kim refers to his taking the London Subway and the tone found there, mixing it with the color found in the Sky Lounge, that somber reddish tone that distances from the characters. Ryu also talked about the choice of green for Hee-Soo's house. After doing much research, she found out green is the color that best conveys the mysterious psychological charm of women, whereas white conveys loneliness. They highlights how strikingly different Kim Young-Cheol's style is to the almost monotone fashion "pattern" of gangsters in Korean Cinema. That grey tone fit well with the slightly darker tone of his skin. They also highlighted how Sun-Woo's apartment not only gave away his loneliness, but also that the house represent something of little importance to him (as exemplified by the boxes, showing he often moves), something to just crash in, take a shower and sleep after work.
And it goes on like this for two hours. They offer interesting anecdotes about different locales and shooting sets, use of colour and light, and generally keep up a good level of discussion for the whole thing. Entertaining and informative. Worth a listen.

Posted on August 07, 2005

달콤한 인생 (A Bittersweet Life) DVD Review 


Although you've seen them already on Twitch, the menu designs deserve a mention. They are stunningly beautiful, their style in line with the film.

01 LA DOLCE VITA 달콤한 인생
In the 6 years I've been buying Korean DVDs, this is perhaps one of the finest featurettes I've ever come across. Basically all the major cast members talk personally about what those great fleeting moments of happiness were for them. This not only connects the actors themselves with the film's main theme, but brings them closer to the viewers, in a way no honest interview will ever do.
- Self Interview [1'03"]
Introduction by Kim Ji-Woon.
- Lee Byung-Heon [4'03"]
Lee feels strange doing a self camera interview. His life was full of small choices and big choices, but life continued to go on regardless of that. But if he had to say which choices influenced his life forever, he'd pick two. First goes back 10 years ago, when his mother's friends advised him to give acting a shot. The other more recent, a day before 9/11 he was in Boston, and decided to leave a day earlier, canceling his flight with one of the two planes that made history. That kind of destiny, those choices changed his life forever.
- Kim Young-Cheol [3'05"]
Kim says sweet moments in life are short, but he still thinks this is a sweet period of his life. Sitting alone, 12:30 in the morning is sweet. Talking with people, sharing ideas, working together, making good memories is always a sweet time for him.
- Shin Min-Ah [1'59"]
Shin feels she learned a lot shooting this film. Learned to have confidence in herself, which will surely help her in the future. Help to think more, feel more, take one step at a time.
- Kim Roi-Ha [5'14"]
At home, in his bedroom, Kim shows photos from his past, reminisces about his beginning as a sculptor, a theater actor. He says his happiest time was working part time jobs, having fun with his friends carefree, enjoying life.
- Hwang Jung-Min [2'23"]
Hwang mentions how Waikiki Brothers changed his life as an actor. After stopping his theater work for personal reasons, he was about to move abroad to start a business, and then the audition for Im Soon-Rye's film came.
This is wonderful, very special. As honest as you can get, and even if it's short, I wish they'd extended it to crew members and Director Kim.

Commentary From Director OR Crew (On/Off)

Basically a simple Making Of featurette with two separate commentary tracks from Director Kim and Crew Members. They show the usual steps of filming, from rehearsal to costume fitting, from camera test to the first day of shooting, and so on. Some interesting info is given by Kim and the crew members, but it's mostly all material that will be talked about later, or was discussed about in the commentaries. There's a nice working atmosphere between cast & crew. I love how Lee Byung-Heon runs to the monitor before he even takes off all the mud from his face. Good stuff.

This is just great, similar in tone with the huge documentary on the President's Last Bang DVD, but more in depth and divided into sections.
-Art [12'53"]
Art Director Ryu Sung-Hee talked about how the noir style influenced their choices. The most important thing was the use of colours. Take the Sky Lounge and its red, black and green tones, its catwalk like "light carpet" which was perfect for a final confrontation. She then went on talking about the single sets. The Sky Lounge, Hee-Soo's house, the Weapon Dealer's refuge, and the place where Sun-Woo gets abducted. They all do this while showing 3D Models, photos, and clips from said locations.
Main focus on building Hee-Soo's house was that of a person far removed from the usual femme fatale in Film Noir. The use of that natural, light green, giving a feminine touch to the room, all the small and unique props showing she's a woman who traveled a lot, and someone who could adapt to new things, change easily and move on. As for that small hangar where Sun-Woo was abducted, the main thought was building something that would help action. Again in Weapon Dealer's room, the biggest attention went to create an atmosphere that you couldn't get used to, with purple sofas next to dirty furniture. For Ryu, the most difficult set to make was the Sky Lounge, for its complexity and level of detail.
-Music [7'57"]
Dalparan and Jang Young-Gyu talk about the kind of music Director Kim wanted, then go on discussing single pieces from the soundtrack, adding the reason why they made changes, and why that particular piece was used in a scene.
-Action [13'50"]
Jung Doo-Hong introduces the action in the film. He says that while the action scenes in noir film are usually wild and spectacular, since this is a relatively new genre for Korea, they followed the basics. They shot some rehearsal at the fighting school with a handheld camera, showing it to the Director later (a common practice for Jung). He made the kind of action that was most comfortable to shoot, the kind of movements he would make if he was in that situation, stressing the essential. He talks about his three favorite scenes, the best being the last one in the Sky Lounge, which felt like an orchestra playing music to him. He compliments Lee Byung-Heon for his hard work, saying he's a fast learner, with a lot of ambition and will to improve, the right body and athleticism. He also talks about his relationship with Kim Ji-Woon, this being the second time they work together after The Foul King. He says at first he felt uncomfortable, with Kim acting a sort of mother role, letting him do what he wanted, not scolding him when he made mistakes, understanding what Jung wanted to do. But he was really happy working with him in the film, it was one of the best experiences in his career.
-Sound [4'37"]
Sound Supervisor Choi Tae-Young talks about the realism of the sound design, compared to Hollywood. He talks about how they had to recreate every sound with foley effects, and then went on to discuss the advantage of Dolby Digital EX in dealing with surround sound..
-Gun Smith [8'47"]
A very fascinating summary of every gun used in the film by Camarms's Lee Seung-Ryong, the Weapons Supervisor. First weapon is the APS Stechkin, used by the Weapon dealers, using special bullets, popular with the Russian Mafia. Moving onto the Smith & Wesson N60 Revolver, very famous in America, able to fill 5 bullets, a firearm used in many gangster or police films. Then The Smith & Wesson used by Eric at the end, very similar to the N60 but longer and heavier, with capacity for a bullet more. The AK47S, perhaps the most famous firearm in Cinema. Cheap to buy, used today by Guerrilla forces in Afghanistan and Iraq (and pretty much everyone fighting the US). Lee says the AK74S was more famous back in the 80s, but now the 47 version is the most used. And finally the Styre SPP, an Austrian gun used by special forces, in spite of its looks very light.
-Special Art [4'52"]
Kwak Tae-Young talks about the realistic yet not too over the top special makeup effects and prosthetics in the film. They show the pipe used to hit Sun-Woo's arm and the prosthetics for it, along with the fingers after he gets hit. The blood on Kang's hand in the bathtub, and the phone battery scene.
-Special Effect [4'56"]
Lee Hee-Kyung talks about the special effects in the film, and Kim's interest about the matter. They used lots of blood, explosives and air pumps, the work on the bodies hit by bullets, and the way the glass tiles exploded in the Sky Lounge scene.
-CG [10'17"]
Finally Je Gal-Seung talks about the VFX work in the film, the Inferno Artist Park Shi-Hwan about the special wind effects and the texture mapping added to the "fake" bricks when the car breaks the wall. Senior Animator Eom Tae-Young talks about the 3D Animation CG, used mostly for wounds. The VFX Artists again talk about the special blood CG wounds on the hands, and the CG on the final Sky Lounge scene.

04 말해 봐요! 저한테 왜 그랬어요 (Tell Me! Why Did You Do That To Me?) [21'22"]
Perhaps the most hilarious featurette of the DVD. Basically a general "mea culpa" where someone asks another crew members (usually to the director) why did he do something. You have Lee Byung-Heon asking director Kim why he made him wear that kind of tuxedo and sunglasses in Poster, why they made a prosthetic doll of Oh Dal-Soo for one of the scenes, Production Designer/Art Director Ryu Sung-Hee even asked Kim why he sent one of her team to brings some props from a sex shop, was he embarrassed about that?
Perhaps the most important question is from Jung Doo-Hong. Why did he make that shadow boxing scene at the end? Kim says to show that essentially Sun-Woo was fighting himself more than anyone else, and to show the happiest, sweetest moments in his life. Quite fun, I don't think I've ever seen a feature like this on a DVD.

Commentary (on/off) by Director Kim Ji-Woon, Director of Photography Kim Ji-Yong, Art Director Ryu Sung-Hee, Kim Young-Cheol, Lee Byung Heon

S#1A alternate, Kim Ji-Woon
This was in the Music Video. It's a tracking shot of a car following what looks to be Sun-Woo. Kim says he cut it because it was too cliched.
Cuts to the scene where the waiter asks Sun-Woo to come downstairs.
S#12, Kim Ji-Woon
This was the first day of shooting at the NamjiDo Golf Course in Seoul. Sun-Woo and Boss Kang are there, when the phone rings. Kim says he cut it off because the weather didn't create the right look on the background. Cuts to the waiter walking in the Korean restaurant.
S#13, Kim Young-Cheol/Lee Byung-Heon
Continuation of the scene at the restaurant. Boss Kang shows a photo of Hee-Soo (the same he looks at later in the film), and Sun-Woo looks even more inept dealing with issues like this.
S#16, Ryu Sung-Hee/Lee Byung-Heon
Inside Hee-Soo's house, after eating the candy, Sun-Woo picks up one of those Russian Dolls and messes it up trying to put everything together. Hee-Soo comes out of the shower, tries a few pairs of shoes and goes back to her bedroom.
S#20, Kim Ji-Woon/Lee Byung-Heon
This opens a few moments before the scene where Sun-Woo stares at Hee-Soo dancing. It shows two girls next to him looking strange. Kim thought the whole thing was too awkward.
S#29, Kim Ji-Woon
The scene where Baek gets one of his lackeys to pick up the phone. It continues with him singing.
S#30, Kim Ji-Woon, Lee Byung-Heon
Sun-Woo talks with the chef and takes care of other things. Then a woman walks in the Sky Lounge and he looks at her. This cuts to the scene where he walks toward Hee-Soo before turning around. Kim wanted to show to what extent his work went, and how every time he looked at a woman from behind, he thought it might have been Hee-Soo.
S#33, Kim Ji-Woon
Sun-Woo is alone at home, playing an old videogame with a gun (looked like an Atari ST or Amiga? Maybe a Commodore 64). Connects to the message on the answering machine Hee-Soo sends him. Kim wanted to show how lonely Sun-Woo was. He cut it because of its length but liked it anyway.
S#50, Kim Ji-Woon
Sun-Woo is in the garage, angry after his confrontation with Oh, he starts beating on a nearby car. Kim cut it because it had a similar feeling to a scene that was close to it.
S#52, Kim Ji-Woon
Sun-Woo is fighting with Hee-Soo inside her house. She asks if he did that because of the guy. He tells her he didn't care about him. She asks the important questions: "Then, was it about me?" Sun-Woo stares at her for seconds, says no and then walks away. This was an important scene for Kim, but decided to cut it anyway.
S#55, Kim Ji-Woon
Boss Kang coming back from the airport, and inside the car. Kim cut it because it had too much of a Matrix feeling.
S#57, Kim Ji-Woon
Right after the scene where Kang gives the gift to Hee-Soo. She throws it at the mirror.
S#60, Kim Ji-Woon
Sun-Woo wakes up after Oh and his gang of Filipinos attack him. They realize he woke up, and hit him again. Kim wanted to show the contrast between the luxurious Sky Lounge and the lugubrious place he was at now.
S#72, Kim Ji-Woon, Kim Young-Cheol, Lee Byung-Heon
Kang is in bed with his wife. He gets up to have a drink and meets Sun-Woo in the hallway. They start fighting and Kang grabs a golf club. Sun-Woo leaves.
Kim said that instead of showing the predictable charismatic image you find in Bosses from other gangster or noir films, but wanted to bring them down to a personal level. Kim mentions how the 6 Iron he takes fits him even more since that's his favorite club.
S#83, Kim Ji-Young, Kim Ji-Woon, Lee Byung-Heon
Right after the shooting at the weapon dealer's place, Sun-Woo quietly stares. A phone call comes and he quickly leaves the place. Kim wanted to show Sun-Woo was even contemplating suicide, but the call woke him up.
S#88, Kim Ji-Woon
Moon picks up the phone and heads out. Kim cut it because of timing issues.
S#102, Kim Ji-Woon
Sun-Woo touches his wounded body in the toilet. He calls Hee-Soo, telling her if he can make it she'll get another call. While he thought it was an important scene (present in the Theatrical cut), he thought it was too awkward to put something that was essentially predicting his death before it even happens. It looked too much like the last famous words you tell the woman you love, so he took it off.
S#110B alternate, Kim Ji-Woon
This would be the last call he makes to Hee-Soo. Kim says he wasn't supposed to shoot it, but took a chance anyway.

06 달콤한 인생의 대한 진실 (THE TRUTH ABOUT A BITTERSWEET LIFE) [17:17]
This is the DVDPrime discussion that was reported about a while ago. Kim basically sat down with some DVDPrime members to discuss about the film, and it was an interesting debate. Kim opens talking about the main theme of the film, his desire to make a fun story. To show that while life is short, those fleeting, precious moments that change a person's life are beautiful and sweet. He wanted to do that through the elements of film noir. Just like The Quiet Family, the title hints at the core of the film. He also talks about how the end cannot really be interpreted as a dream, but more like as a flashback of his happiest moments, his meeting with Hee-Soo and that feeling before working for Kang. Reading the script, Hwang Jung-Min commented that it would have been cool if it was all a dream, starting from the cello practice scene, where the focus is behind Lee's face. Kim and the DVDPrime members continued talking about whatever they didn't like about the film, and what they hoped to see in Kim's future films. This was obviously edited and much longer (reports said 2 hours, although I find that hard to believe), but they did get some very interesting Q&A in, so it was a worthy discussion.

An interesting clip from the Cannes Film Festival, showing the crew's arrival in France, their walking the red carpet before the film's screening, and more. Producer Lee Yoo-Jin chimes in saying she felt it was an honour to be invited to Cannes, even if Out of Competition. They worried a lot, before going to Cannes, how European audiences would react to the film, but was relieved they laughed at the funny scenes, and accepted the film with great warmth, giving it a very long applause. A few interviews follow (I guess with critics, whose face I can't recognize). The first critic talks (English with Korean subs) about the quiet introspection and James Dean like appearance of Lee Byung-Heon. The french critic (French with Korean subs) loved how Lee conveyed his cold exterior while deep inside he was consumed by rage. Back when he looked at the first images of the film on the Net, he felt a strong resemblance to Alain Delon, the same magnetism, and he thinks that's also a kind of tribute to Melville and the French noir of the 70s Kim wanted to make. He goes on saying Lee might become the next International star, and Kim's film will succeed because anyone can identify with those themes. Lee continues highlighting the good reaction the press showed, especially in terms of artistic merit, the film's visual appeal and its sound design. Kim Ji-Woon jokes at the Q&A with the press that his film is like Melville meets Kill Bill. Shin and Lee conclude talking about their experience. The segment ends with Kim thinking Cannes is a bonus for him. What he really wanted to do was make something Koreans would like, but he's proud Cannes invited him. In the future, he'll try to make even better films. A nice little clip.

08 SWEET SLEEP [3'30"]
Ending credits roll with images of the cast sleeping on one of the three screens, Hwang Jung-Min singing (quite well!) on another, the credits rolling on the third. A nice touch.

09 EPK [6'50"]
- Music Video (Directed by Lee Byung-Heon) [2'50"]
달콤한 인생 (Sweet Life) by (양파) Yangpa. It mixes scenes from the film with other unused scenes. Although I've never been a huge Yangpa fan, this song fits well with the images. Lee seems to have pretty good talent for directing Music Videos. After Yoo Ji-Tae doing short films, do we have another director in the making?
- Teaser Trailer [1'30"]
Just great. Simple, to the point, summarizing the film's main selling points without spoiling too much. The voiceover from the film is effectively used.
- Theatrical Trailer [2'00"]
Again emphasizing the 저한테 왜 그랬어요? 말해 봐요 (Why did you do that to me? Tell me) line from the film. I love the big dramatic score starting with the violent scenes.
Mixes violence and grace with great panache. Top notch. I like the line at the end after the release date :의리없는 정쟁이 시작한다 (The war without loyalty starts...)
- TV Spot [30"]
Strictly focused on the cast under the beats of Dalparan and Jang Young-Gyu's score. OK.

I don't know if it's because he's lucky or in love with the format, but Kim's films on DVD always end up amongst my favourites. Be it the shorts and interesting extra features on The Quiet Family DVD, the great extras on The Foul King (in an era where extra features in Korean DVD were a rarity) or the beauty that is the A Tale of Two Sisters DVD. This is no different. The film is amazing, the extras top quality, the presentation excellent. The brave amongst you will wait for the mammoth 11,000 Yen Japanese release, but anyone else can do with this, and never regret that decision. This is a truly great DVD, amongst the best of the year.

DVD Specs

Audio: Korean Dolby Digital DTSes, 6.1 EX
English and Korean Subtitles (1, only subtitles Russian, 2, subtitles everything)
2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, NTSC, Dual Layer, Region 3
Released By CJ Entertainment (authored by Bear Entertainment) on 7/26/2005

» Posted by X at August 7, 2005 12:37 PM 

Captures credit to Cine21





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Guest midnight sun

[Festival de Cannes 2005] Out of Competition: "A Bittersweet Life" by Kim Jee Woon

Red Carpet Arrivals: "A Bittersweet Life" Cast and Crew






Via: cine 21

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News 2004

A Bittersweet Life

Source:Joins.com / Chinese translation from BHfansytasyland.com


These shoots will taken on 24.10.04, on one of the busiest Seoul bridge. Filming was done thru out the night till dusk. The film company had gone thru alot of red tapes in order to have permission granted for LBH fighting scene with three thugs at the bridge.

LBH had given his best shots for the fighting scene so as to complete the filming within the permitted time and he also empathised for the filming crew there, who like him, had to work in the cold night to complete the filming.

Hence, he tried to finish his part as best as he can that cold windy night without much retakes so that all the film crew can be home soon. Everyone was glad when the filming was completed in time.

However, Mr. Park Chan Wook's new movie wasn't as lucky. His permission to film Lee YA in the women prison was not granted.

Thanks to Aldersgate for the English translation.

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Hello kseniya! welcome back to Bittersweet Life. I'm not sure what "Sky Lounge" is as well, except that it's included in the soundtrack list... can someone enlighten us?


At the Hawaiian International Film Festival (HIFF 20-30 October, 2005), Bittersweet Life is listed in the Nominated Feature category & scheduled for screening on the 24th & 30th October 2005.

Source & more info:



Bittersweet Life


2005 | South Korea | 35mm | 2h0m | Korean w/E.S.

DIRECTOR Jee-woon Kim PRODUCER Lee Yo-jin, Oh Jeong-wan CINEMATOGRAPHER Ji Y Kim WRITER Jee-woon Kim CAST Byung-hun Lee, Young-chul Kim, Min-a Shin

Seon-woo is a cold-blooded enforcer asked by his gangster boss to keep an eye on his girlfriend. The older man is convinced she's seeing someone, and if that's true, he asks Seon-woo to “deal with the situation.” Sure enough, the girlfriend has a boyfriend of her own. But something about the situation evokes in him an unfamiliar flicker of mercy. He does not kill the adulterers: he lets them go. And from that moment on, his own life is forfeit.

Writer/director Jee-woon Kim has brought audiences black comedy (THE QUIET FAMILY), social satire (THE FOUL KING ) and horror (A TALE OF TWO SISTERS). But this new film edges into the territory defined by Kim Ki-duk. There is style to burn here, but that's merely the surface - beneath it lies a profound disgust with the body and a contempt for order, couched in a surfeit of visual style. A fascinating, if worrying departure.

Edinburgh Film Festival

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Guest dramalover

Hello everyone....Good morning...Just want to share this news from our Sunday paper...

Honolulu Advertiser...bear with me ..i am not expert...hehehe..

Posted on: Sunday, October 16, 2005

Korean megastar to attend U.S. premiere of film

By Jeff Chung



Did you like Lee Byung Hun's character in ... "Beautiful Days" and "All In?" (answer yes or no for each)

To answer, go to www.honoluluadvertiser.com and click on the link to Island Life. Polling ends at 11 a.m. Friday. See results next Sunday.

Last Week's Poll

Last week we asked our readers what their ethnic background is.

Of the 351 who voted, 138 said Japanese, 25 said Caucasian, 36 said Hawaiian, 47 said Filipino, 36 said Chinese, 42 said Korean and 27 said other.

Lee Byung Hun


Latest headlines by topic:

• Movies

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• Energy

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It has been confirmed that Lee Byung Hun will attend the 25th annual Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival. His movie "A Bittersweet Life" is making its U.S. premiere in Honolulu at 9 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Hawai'i Theatre.

It's not often that Hawai'i attracts a Korean drama and film megastar for an official visit. You know Lee from the 2003 hit drama series "All In," co-starring Song Hae Gyo, and 2001's "Beautiful Days," with Ryu Shi Won and Choi Joo Woo.

He was also in the hit movies "Everybody Has Secrets," which was shown at HIFF in 2004, and "Bungee Jumping of Their Own." He was also in "JSA," which was released in 2000 and went on to become one of the top 10 Korean films of all time.

Lee will be at the Hawai'i Theatre on Oct. 24 for a question-and-answer session after the movie.

Tickets, which sell out quickly, are at www.hiff.org or available through the HIFF box office at Dole Cannery.

"A Bittersweet Life" was released in Korea this past year. The 120-minute film was directed by Kim Jee-woon, who will be on hand to introduce the movie. "A Bittersweet Life" also has a cameo appearance from Eric Moon, who played the male lead in the KBFD Korean drama series "Super Rookie."

"A Bittersweet Life" was shown at the Cannes Film Festival this past year. Lee plays Sun-woo, an intelligent, cool-headed perfectionist who does not believe in love. Sun-woo's loyalty to his boss, Mr. Kang, coupled with ice-like management skills, helps him climb to the top position of the upscale lounge and restaurant. Mr. Kang asks Sun-woo to keep an eye on his girlfriend, Hee-soo, while away on a business trip. Hee-soo is played by Shin Min-a, who was also in "Beautiful Days" portraying Lee's younger sister. Mr. Kang suspects Hee-soo might be seeing another man and trusts Sun-woo to take care of all matters.

Lee, 35, is one of the few Korean entertainers who have had success in both TV and film. He's not only popular in Korea but also reaches deeply into the hearts of Japanese, Filipino and Chinese audiences.

He majored in French literature at Hanyang University and did his theater graduate studies at Choongang University.

Another rising star from Korea will be attending HIFF this year: Lee Ki-woo, making his first official visit to Hawai'i for the opening-night world premiere of "Sad Movie." More about Lee Ki-woo later.

Another note: A production crew from KBS, Korea's largest network, will be in Hawai'i during HIFF. The network has a weekly entertainment program, "Yeon Eh Ga Joong Gae (Entertainer's Show)," that will do a story on the film festival. KBFD airs "Entertainer's Show" at 6:50 p.m. Wednesdays.

Jeff Chung is general manager of KBFD TV, which televises all the Korean dramas with English subtitles. Questions or comments can be sent to KBFD at 521-8066.

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Thanks dramalover for sharing the news about BSL in the upcoming HIFF, really appreciate it!


Genre: Action

Director: Kim Jee-Woon

Starring: Lee Byung-Hun, Kim Young-Chil, Shin Mina, Hwang Jung-Min,

RunTime: 2 hrs

Released By: Shaw & Innoform

Rating: M-18 (Violence)

Opening Day: 15 September 2005


He just wanted to keep faith without harming the girl.

But the whole world called him enemy from that moment.

A sky lounge bar & restaurant at a hotel, floating like an island in one side of the sky above Seoul. That place is a small castle of Sun-Woo, a keen and sharp perfectionist. After spending 7 years serving his boss, President Kang and obtaining his absolute trust, Sun-Woo became the person who managed the sky lounge. With his silent faithfulness not to ask why and a perfect of handling business, he won his boss’ trust.

A cold-hearted boss, President Kang punished rule-breakers regardless of any mistakes they made. He had a secret that he cannot tell anybody: that is his young lover, Hee-Soo. President Kang orders Sun-Woo to watch her out of the doubt that she might have another lover, and if it turns out true, to kill her.

On the third day when Sun-Woo started following Hee-Soo, he made a surprise attack on the place where Hee-Soo was with her boyfriend. However, at the last moment, he let them go after much hesitation.

Sun-Woo believed that everything can return to the normal state. However, due to this decision that he made, Sun-Woo starts an irreparable war against the whole gang who were his own brothers until the day he spare Hee-Soo’s life.

Movie Review:

Film noir has been a dying art.

For those who are not familiar with this genre, it is defined as “a stylistic approach to genre films forged in depression era detective and gangster movies and hard-boiled detective stories which were a staple of pulp fiction.” (Dictionary.com) In French, film noir is known as “black film” for its dark humour, depressive ambience and dark lighting. And it’s an open secret that the protagonist in the film is often an anti-hero, a tortured being with internal conflicting interests who usually doesn’t walk away smiling at the end of the film.

Hollywood is known for producing such films in the early years, with actresses such as Barbara Stanwyck and Lauren Bacall leading the pack in this genre, such as Double Indemnity (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946) respectively. However, this genre has not been forthcoming from Hollywood in recent years. And just as movie lovers thought that all is lost, Korea has taken over the helm in producing films of such genre.

Even more surprising is the fact that Korean director Kim Jee-Woon will take a shot, considering that his previous works have been horror, such as the segment “Memories” in Three (2002) and A Tale of Two Sisters (2003). However, he pulls it off very well, especially the fact that he manages to transform a simple love story in the midst of betrayal into a masterpiece.

Lead actor Lee Byung-Hun has always been known for his masculine physique and chiselled features (Think Joint Security Area (2000) and Korean drama All In (2003)). However, it’s his breakthrough performance in Everybody has Secrets (2004) in which he seduced all three sisters that people start to take notice of his alter ego: his sexual appeal as a metrosexual.

In this film, Byung-Hun takes on the role of a manager, Sun-Woo, of a swanky hotel. While all is calm on the surface, Sun Woo is in reality more than a manager. He is a member of the Korean mafia, a seasoned and hardened fighter who has served his boss President Kang for 7 years. Doubling as a bouncer for the hotel, he also deals with “unfinished” business, such as bashing up hooligans who refuse to leave the hotel premises after operating hours. One day, he’s assigned by his boss to keep an eye on his young lover Hee-Soo (Shin Mina) and was ordered to kill her should Hee-Soo’s love for him waver. However, when Sun-woo found out about Hee-Soo’s infidelity, his humanity got the better of him and he failed to pull the trigger. And with this betrayal of trust, the mafia turned on Sun-Woo.

This film rates high on action and will definitely go down well with hardcore fans of stylistic violence portrayed on celluloid. Especially so is the emphasis on the calm before the storm, whereby violence and backlash erupts in a fragment of a second without any form of warning. A pivotal scene in this film depicts a fuming Sun-woo kicking the asses of two punks who taunts him on the road (Road bullies beware!). The sequences for this scene is perfectly-executed, with the underlying rage of Sun-Woo clearly exhibited.

A Bittersweet Life will most probably be compared with Old Boy, another acclaimed Korean film noir helmed by Park Chan-Wook. However, these two films excel on their own merits and should not be contrasted. While Old Boy’s thematic use of incest, betrayal and vengeance strengthens the plot, A Bittersweet Life transcends conventional, formulaic narrative structures through the use of unique cinematography.

Credits should be given to director Kim Jee-Woon for his artistic directions in this film. Through the use of philosophical analogies and metaphors, he has successful imbued his artistic vision into the film. Especially noteworthy is the message in the opening credits, that it’s always the human heart and mind that move, never an external object. This message encompasses what this film is all about, that things are not always what they seem on the surface. A storm may be brewing and what is seen as serene and tranquil is actually the calm before the storm.

It will be an injustice to end this review without giving credit to the scene at the start of the film, where Sun-Woo makes his way to the basement upon receiving a phone call. The trip from a luxurious lounge to the mundane kitchen to the dirty basement serves as an apt metaphor to depict his journey through life.

It’s about one man’s downward spiral towards decadence and a life of unfulfilled dreams.

Movie Rating:

(“Lee Byung-Hun shines in this film noir that reeks of turbulence beneath a state of normality. One of Korea’s finest films this Year! ”)

Review by Patrick Tay

Source & credits: http://www.moviexclusive.com/review/bitter...ersweetlife.htm

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Guest The Moose


What is "Sky Lounge" in the movie?

Think simple guys.


"Shadow boxing in the Sky Lounge Hotel, Lee in the movie admires his reflection in the window. But his dark shadow is contrasted with the city’s lights. It is a scene that emphasizes the noir genre's focus on the dark inner self and its collapse."


Sky Lounge is the name of the bar/hotel Lee Byung-Hun was managing.

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Credits to cyplaza.cyworld.com

A Bittersweet Life
Also known as Dalkomhan insaeng

Following in the wake of the global popularity that Kim Ji-woon's last picture attracted, A Tale of Two Sisters, the director is back with quite a point to prove. Can he possibly replicate the success of that movie? Was it a one-off? These questions he is seeking to answer with A Bittersweet Life, and boy, does he do so.

The film follows enforcer Seon-woo (Lee Byung-hun), right-hand man to the powerful boss Kang (Kim Yeong-cheol). The boss asks Seon-woo to keep an eye on his girlfriend Hee-soo (Shin Min-A), whom he thinks is playing around with another man behind his back. Kang trusts he can safely leave this job in Seon-woo's hands, as Seon-woo is considered a cold, visceral, almost robotic servant. However, an event occurs on Seon-woo's mission which causes him to make a conscious judgement call, and he soon finds himself on the wrong side of the boss he'd been so loyal to.

The story has so many layers, it's really very hard to focus on particular aspect. However, the most obvious is the effect Hee-soo has on Seon-woo in the short time they spend together. The girl represents an awaking of Seon-woo's senses. A man once relied upon for his professional, business-is-business approach to work is discarded as useless by his boss after he develops a conscience having spent time with Hee-soo. The final moments of the movie so beautifully sum up Seon-woo's metamorphisis that even those with a heart of stone cannot help but feel a little touched by it all.

Lee Byung-hun carries this movie along so very, very well. Whoever made the casting call of putting him in the role of Seon-woo deserves a medal, for they made a perfect choice. He drifts between emotions effortlessly, and as the film progresses you can just see the layers of his character build and build; right up until the very final second of the picture.


His supporting players, of course, deserve some credit too. Kim Yeong-cheol's Methodical mob boss Kang displays a solemn menace you'd know not to cross for any reason, and Shin Min-A fit into the character of Hee-soo like hand to glove; not really the most demanding role in the film, but never the less a subtle, convincing performance.

What was the icing to an already tasty cake was the direction by Kim Ji-woon, even calling it "excellent" may well be selling him a little short. He meticulously constructed each scene and shot the nth degree, and the dull, grimy, neo-noir theme that ran throughout gave the movie an even sharper atmosphere.

This is a film that I couldn't recommend enough. People in future won't look upon the director's movies and say to themselves, "oh, it's by that guy who directed A Tale of Two Sisters" instead there sentiments will be more along the lines of "oh, it's a Kim Ji-woon film". For the director has surely now cemented his place in the elite of Korean film-making (an elite that doesn't seem to stop growing).

Funny side-note: keep an eye out for the line,
"Stop digging... We're so f**ked!" Even if you've only an ounce of humour in your body, you'll surely smile at the situation that quote is in response to.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Reviewed by Louis Lantos hanzos.com

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Guest The Moose


Thanks for the tip, The Moose... sometimes we think too much and overlooked the obvious. :lol:

But wasn't the bar called La Dolce Vita as well? :unsure:

The bar was called La Dolce Vita...

Hotel itself was called Hotel Crown...

We all need to watch this movie again... ;)

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October 9 - 18th, 38 edition

The Sitges Festival presents the following awards:

Oficial Fantàstic


Blanca Li, Bill Plympton, Nieve de Medina, Elvis Mitchell and Àngel Quintana

Best Short Film

RESPIRE, by Wi Ding Ho (Taiwan)

Best Art Direction

Dave McKean for MIRRORMASK

Best Make Up FX

Jamie Niman for MIRRORMASK

Best Special Effects


Best Original Soundtrack

Dalpalan and Jang Yeong-gyu for A BITTERSWEET LIFE

Best Cinematography

Keung Kwok Man for SEVEN SWORDS

Best Script

Brian Nelson for HARD CANDY

Best Actress


Best Actor


Best Director

Johnnie To for ELECTION

Special Jury Award

EL SABOR DE LA SANDIA (THE WAYWARD CLOUD), by Tsai Ming-liang (Taiwan)

For it’s bold aesthetic and moral discourse against sexual alienation

Best Motion Picture

HARD CANDY, by David Slade (EEUU).

Orient Express - Casa Àsia


Antonio Santamarina, Carles Torres and Ezgi Yalynalp

ANTARCTIC JOURNAL, by Yim Phil-sung (South Corea).

Full list here

thanks to atom at koreanfilm.org

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'The Moose and Rubie: Thank you! I'm glad to be with you too.

'The Moose: Did I get it right that "He talks about his three favorite scenes, the best being the last one in the Sky Lounge, which felt like an orchestra playing music to him" ( http://www.twitchfilm.net/archives/003044.html ) deals with the last battle where Sun-Woo kills the Boss and parishes himself?


BTW, after that movie I must admit that Chung Doo-hong and Lee Byung Hun are alike :)

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Excerpt on A Bittersweet Life only

San Diego Asian Film Festival
October 13th, 2006 by Beth Accomando

The 6th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival kicked off last night (October 12) at the UltraStar Mission Valley Theaters (in Hazard Center) with a sell out screening of Ham Tran’s tale of displacement, Journey from the Fall. The event, which continues through October 19, showcases shorts, features, documentaries, animation, and music videos from Asian and Asian American filmmakers. 

Let me just begin by saying that two of the year’s best films can be found at this year’s San Diego Asian Film Festival (SDAFF). Sometimes you need superlatives like that to wake people up and make them take notice of films that might just slip through the cracks. Just when I thought I would have to do some scraping to come up with 10 films for a year end best list, along come Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Three Times (screening October 16) and Kim Ji Woon’s A Bittersweet Life (screening October 14 and 17) to grab top spots. 


A film of a very different nature but equally worth checking out is Kim Ji Woon’s A Bittersweet Life from South Korea. The story revolves around Sun-woo (Lee Byung-hun), a sleek and elegant mobster whose cat-like grace recalls Alain Delon in Le Samourai. Sun-woo’s mob boss Kang (Kim Young-cheol) assigns him a simple task: watch over the mobster’s girlfriend and make sure she’s not two-timing him. If Sun-woo does find her with another man, he’s to kill them both. Simple, right? Wrong. The problem is that the ice-cold killer develops a weakness for the woman, Hee-soo (Shin Mina). When he finds her with a lover he experiences a split second of compassion and lets them live, and then pays for that decision the rest of the film. Kang tries to have Sun-woo killed but fails, and this leads to a violent rampage of revenge.

Kim has impressed filmgoers with The Foul King and more recently with the creepy psychological horror film A Tale of Two Sisters. A Bittersweet Life has a more epic sweep that either of those films. With A Bittersweet Life Kim delivers an action film with a dark soul and aching vulnerability buried at its heart. Sun-woo at one point explains a sweet dream he had and how he cried when he awoke because he knew it could never come true. And that’s essentially what the film is about. Sun-woo is a ruthless killer and his one moment of compassion gives him a glimpse of something he could never have—a happy life with a woman he loves.

Kim’s film uses violence—extreme violence and implied violence—in a manner that may send some fleeing for the exits but also in a way that reflects the unique cultural flavor of his country. As with many Korean films, the violence reflects a divided soul. Violence often tears at the participants because it is between brothers or friends or causes a rupture in loyalties. There’s a reluctance to commit the violence or at the very least an emotional price to pay for inflicting the harm, which reflects a country that has been split in half and with families sometimes stuck on opposite sides of the border. A Bittersweet Life reflects this in the way Sun-woo and Kang are depicted as almost family, and the rift that occurs between them pains both—although it prevents neither from going after the other without mercy. But in the end, each one seems driven by a desire to know why each has been betrayed by the other. Understanding that betrayal seems almost more important than achieving revenge or even surviving.


The San Diego Asian Film Festival runs October 12 through 19 at the UltraStar Mission Valley Theaters at Hazard Center and the Brickhouse Salon at the Doubletree. For a complete schedule of films and ticket information, please visit their website at www/sdaff.org.

Source & full review, credit to kpbs.org

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Posted on: Sunday, October 16, 2005 (thanks to dramalover for highlighting & sharing the update)

Korean megastar to attend U.S. premiere of film

By Jeff Chung

It has been confirmed that Lee Byung Hun will attend the 25th annual Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival. His movie "A Bittersweet Life" is making its U.S. premiere in Honolulu at 9 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Hawai'i Theatre.

It's not often that Hawai'i attracts a Korean drama and film megastar for an official visit. You know Lee from the 2003 hit drama series "All In," co-starring Song Hae Gyo, and 2001's "Beautiful Days," with Ryu Shi Won and Choi Joo Woo.

He was also in the hit movies "Everybody Has Secrets," which was shown at HIFF in 2004, and "Bungee Jumping of Their Own." He was also in "JSA," which was released in 2000 and went on to become one of the top 10 Korean films of all time.

Lee will be at the Hawai'i Theatre on Oct. 24 for a question-and-answer session after the movie.

Tickets, which sell out quickly, are at www.hiff.org or available through the HIFF box office at Dole Cannery.

"A Bittersweet Life" was released in Korea this past year. The 120-minute film was directed by Kim Jee-woon, who will be on hand to introduce the movie. "A Bittersweet Life" also has a cameo appearance from Eric Moon, who played the male lead in the KBFD Korean drama series "Super Rookie."

"A Bittersweet Life" was shown at the Cannes Film Festival this past year. Lee plays Sun-woo, an intelligent, cool-headed perfectionist who does not believe in love. Sun-woo's loyalty to his boss, Mr. Kang, coupled with ice-like management skills, helps him climb to the top position of the upscale lounge and restaurant. Mr. Kang asks Sun-woo to keep an eye on his girlfriend, Hee-soo, while away on a business trip. Hee-soo is played by Shin Min-a, who was also in "Beautiful Days" portraying Lee's younger sister. Mr. Kang suspects Hee-soo might be seeing another man and trusts Sun-woo to take care of all matters.

Lee, 35, is one of the few Korean entertainers who have had success in both TV and film. He's not only popular in Korea but also reaches deeply into the hearts of Japanese, Filipino and Chinese audiences.

He majored in French literature at Hanyang University and did his theater graduate studies at Choongang University.

Another rising star from Korea will be attending HIFF this year: Lee Ki-woo, making his first official visit to Hawai'i for the opening-night world premiere of "Sad Movie." More about Lee Ki-woo later.

Another note: A production crew from KBS, Korea's largest network, will be in Hawai'i during HIFF. The network has a weekly entertainment program, "Yeon Eh Ga Joong Gae (Entertainer's Show)," that will do a story on the film festival. KBFD airs "Entertainer's Show" at 6:50 p.m. Wednesdays.

Jeff Chung is general manager of KBFD TV, which televises all the Korean dramas with English subtitles. Questions or comments can be sent to KBFD at 521-8066.

Source: HonoluluAdvertiser.com



Wednesday, October 19, 2005

S. Korea's 'Antarctic Journal' wins best Asian film award in Spain

SEOUL, Oct. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korean movie 'Antarctic Journal' won the best Asian film award at this year's Sitges International Film Festival of Catalonia in Spain, film producers in Seoul said Wednesday.

The movie, which was written and directed by Yim Pil-sung, captures the tale of the mysterious deaths of six South Korean explorers during an expedition to reach one of the remotest points in the South Pole.

In the annual 10-day event dedicated to horror and fantasy films, South Korean film 'A Bittersweet Life,' starring popular star Lee Byung-hun, won the award for best original soundtrack, they said.

The event, which ended on Tuesday (Spanish time), is reportedly one of three such European film competitions along with the Fantasporto festival in Portugal and the Brussels Fantastic Film Festival.

Earlier, South Korean movie star Lee Young-ae won the best actress award for her leading role in the recent release 'Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.'

Directed by Park Chan-wook, the 112-minute thriller depicts a young woman's vengeance after her release from 13 years in prison after being framed for kidnapping and infanticide.

Park won the best film award in the festival last year with his violent thriller "Old Boy."



Source: Yonhap News



Update : Oct 19, 2005 KST 12:59

'Antarctic Journal' Wins Top Prize at Sitges Fest

Wednesday, October 19, 2005 11:36:01


The Korean movie, “Antarctic Journal”, won the best film award in the Orient Express-Casa Asia section of the 38th Sitges International Film Festival of Catalonia, held near Barcelona, Spain.

Along with the Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Films and the FantasPorto-Oporto International Film Festival of Portugal, Sitges is recognized as one of the top international fantasy film fests in the world. It gave its top prize last year to South Korean director Park Chan-wook for his ultra-violent “Old Boy.”

Lee Young-ae, who starred in "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance”, the third film in Park's so-called 'revenge' trilogy, won the festival's best actress award, while Kim Ji-woon’s “A Bittersweet Life” won for best musical score.

Reported by KBS World Radio

Contact the KBS News: englishweb@kbs.co.kr

Source: KBS Global


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Oct 24, 9:00 PM. A BITTERSWEET LIFE, starring hearthrob Lee Byung-hun (JSA), is this year's hottest Korean title: "a tour de force of noir-ish style and Korean ultra-violence."

Lee Byung-hun will attend the screening!


This year's hottest Korean title: 'a tour de force of noir-ish style and Korean ultra-violence' - Variety.

Source: http://www.hiff.org/newsletters/2005_10_11/


Films in Hawaii

The Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival is about to kick off its 25th annual Autumn event, starting on October 20th.

The selection of 260 films from 40 countries reflects the festival’s aim of promoting cultural understanding through the medium of film - especially films that incite and inspire the community and encourage awareness, discussion, and innovative thought - and includes no less than 9 world premieres.

For their opening night, they HIFF is presenting the world premiere of Sad Movie, which hasd been described as “one of the most anticipated Korean films of the year.” Sad Movie chronicles the lives of four very different couples as they deal with love, loss and life in romantic, loosely interconnected stories - A 30-year-old firefighter looking for just the right ring for his fiancée; A long-term relationship between a guy who cannot find a job and a wonderful and long suffering woman who is beginning to tire of their relationship; An 8-year-old boy who desperately misses his career-minded mother; A deaf girl with a terrible burn on her face falls in love with a painter, dreaming of a perfect love.



OCT 24 9:00 pm Hawaii Theatre Center

OCT 30 12:15 pm Dole Cannery Stadium 18

DIRECTOR Kim Jee-woon

On the other hand, A BITTERSWEET LIFE (South Korea), directed by KIM Jee-woon, is an ultra-stylish crime caper with Korean star LEE Byung-hun as our anti-hero, channeling a young De Niro, in this stylish crime caper that was invited to Cannes earlier this year.


OCT 21 6:15 pm Dole Cannery Stadium 18

OCT 27 4:00 pm Dole Cannery Stadium 18

DIRECTOR Ian Gamazon & Neill Dela Llana

CAVITE (Philippines, USA), directed by Ian Gamazon and Neill Dela Llana, is a taut thriller that brings our worst fears about terrorism to the forefront, involving family taken hostage and the Islamic terror threat that is far more apparent in the Philippines.


OCT 23 7:30 pm Dole Cannery Stadium 18

OCT 26 9:45 pm Dole Cannery Stadium 18

OCT 27 3:15 pm Dole Cannery Stadium 18


Go Shibata’s LATE BLOOMER (Japan) is a unique take on the handicapped hero genre. Instead of martyring the main character, Shibata has painted an individual with the same vices and passions as anyone else.


OCT 23 4:00 pm Dole Cannery Stadium 18

OCT 27 7:45 pm Dole Cannery Stadium 18


Sponsored by Center for Korean Studies at the University of Hawaii Manoa

SA-KWA, the debut film from KANGYi-kwan (South Korea), examines the gentle touch of time on the changing feelings of a recent break-up. Starring Korea’s most versatile actress MOON So-ri (OASIS, THE GOOD LAWYER’S WIFE).


OCT 22 4:00 pm Dole Cannery Stadium 18

OCT 24 3:45 pm Dole Cannery Stadium 18


Finally, we have Ning Cai’s SEASON OF THE

HORSE, a touching film about a displaced Mongolian family adamantly latching onto their traditional nomadic lifestyle, but the creeping encroachment of modernity begins to destroy their culture that they hold dearly.

For complete list & details, please refer to Film at Eleven


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