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[Movie 2005] A Bittersweet Life 달콤한 인생

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Copied from LBH thread, thanks to Hyc.

Repost BH's news

credit to yc at bhjwlove.com for the chinese translation

source : http://www.innolife.net 2005/10/21(Fri) 09:14

譯文 : yc

為了參加由20日開始一連10天的夏威夷電影節, 李秉憲與金知雲導演是19日下午抵達了夏威夷。

由李秉憲主演的『甜蜜人生』被邀為這次電影節的競賽作品之一。

兩人參加這次規模較小的電影節原因, 因為『甜蜜人生』是夏威夷電影節放映, 屬於是第一次在北美地區上映, 會吸引到北美很多電影發行商注意。

這部電影在夏威夷電影節上映被視為商業契機,預計已展開了出口到北美地區的商業活動。

Lee Byung Hun in Hawaii International Film Festival participation

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Brief translation

Lee Byung Hun and “A Bitter Sweet Life” director Kim Jee-woon arrived in Hawaii on the afternoon of 19th to participate in the Hawaii International Film Festival held for about ten days starting from the 20th.

Movie 'A Bitter Sweet Life' starring Lee Byung Hun will be exhibited to compete in Feature Section in the HIFF.

Lee Byung Hun and director Kim Jee-woo participate in the smaller scale Hawaii film festival because 'A Bitter Sweet life' is screened in the North America region for the first time by the Hawaii film festival and would receive lots of interest from the distribution company in the North America region.

This movie screening at the HIFF is regarded as the commercial turning point, and the export negotiation is expected to be progressed in full scale.

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logo_festival_2005.gif

October 9 - 18th, 38 edition

The Sitges Festival presents the following awards:

Oficial Fantàstic

JURY

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

Best Original Soundtrack

Dalpalan and Jang Yeong-gyu for A BITTERSWEET LIFE

Thoughts shared by kimchibabe @ SoKorean.com

http://www.sokorean.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=9987&start=135

i watched A BITTERSWEET LIFE for the nth time last night. i wanted to find out how it won the BEST OST AWARD twice. i don't claim to be an expert on musicality but i do know the difference between cresciendo and diminuendo, forte and fortissimo, a grande and a ventaine.

so i compared the OST of four(4) other films by LEE BYUNG HUN. he makes a very interesting study, always. i played BD, ALL IN, ADDICTED and HAPPY TOGETHER one after the other. i don't know if i was pre-conditioned because i knew of BSL being award winning.

but true enough BSL had subtle and soft tones. not overpowering. hardly competing with the film itself. it was soothing. music was paced a little far and between. its scoring was well thought of and very appropriate.

the drumroll sound effects on the first scenes where LBH was awesome in his taekwondo kicks, the latin american beat with the guitars used in his encounter with the boss' girl and the chamber music, dominated by the strings and the oboe, which was used in the remaining scenes of the movie effectively showed the sensitivity and expertise of the musical director who inturn gave A Bittersweet Life a most exquisite aftertaste in the mind!

i love brilliant cinematography but unfortunately the director did away with these maybe because of the movie's violent theme. what he left out he added on in the music. the movie most certainly gained from it. my congratulations to the creators of A BITTERSWEET LIFE, most especially to the one who gave life to the main idea. a brilliant actor, indeed!

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Directed By: Jee-Woon Kim

Cast: Lee Byung-Hun, Shin Min-Ah, Kim Yeong-Chul, Kim Roi-Ha

Reviewed By: Gavin Finlay


This is extreme cinema. Extreme characters, extreme violence...extremely Korean. From the electronic and classical infused score to some beautifully choreographed yet brutally realised sequences, the audience is treated to a seriously violent and compelling piece of filmmaking from director Ji Woon-Kim.

Get this; Sun Woo (Lee Byung-Hun) is the faithful manager and 'enforcer' at a slick Seoul hotel. With his silent faithfulness not to ask 'why' and a perfect way of handling business, after 7 years of duty he has won his boss' trust, the ruthless President Kang (Yeong-Chul, Kim). Sun Woo is ordered to watch over his young lover Hee-Soo (Shin Min-Ah), paranoid that she may be unfaithful. If it turns out to be true, he "knows how to take care of it". When confronted with killing her, however, he hesitates. Why? Out of love? Out of compassion? Weakness? What follows is an irreparable war against President Kang and his mafia (koreafia) who were once his brothers but now his enemies.

"Tell me, why did you do that to me?" This is the central question of the film. Why does President Kang exact his revenge in such a ferocious and vicious way on his most trusted servant? And why does Sun Woo vacillate in carrying out his orders which ultimately leads to his violent downfall? The philosophical meditations on man's dark passion, cruelty and destruction are played out amid scenes of chaotic yet beautifully theatrical violence that Korean, and Asian cinema in general has now pioneered. The sublime choreography and supreme cinematic skill makes the violence palatable rather than shocking or offensive. Granted, there are scenes that are gruesome but the style in which they are presented justifies rather than glorifies and they're all the more powerful as a result.

The director has said, "maybe from the beginning, it was film noir", and indeed his previous films, despite being comedy and horror films, Quiet Family, A Tale of Two Sisters, Three Memories, all contained the film noir motifs of shadow, tragedy and desire for murder. A Bittersweet Life situates itself firmly in noir action and retribution territory. The performance of Byung-Hun is outstanding, his classical good looks masking his ferocious capacity for violence. He portrays a sad complexity which exposes Sun Woo's vulnerability and at the same time provides a strong character that drives the film.

VERDICT

A deeply philosophical film amidst all the violence, it challenges us to examine life's dark and bitter side. But as the title suggests it also shows us the sweet side of life too, the poetic climax of the film more emotional than you'd expect. Incidentally, the name of the hotel is La Dolce Vita (Sweet Life), a nod to Fellini's classic. The reverential nods don't stop there; shades of the 1970s French neo-noir Le Samurai, 2004's Old Boy, Scorcese's Taxi Driver and stretching the boat a bit here but, Leone’s Once Upon A Tine In The West with its use of music and celebration of genre, are all evident. In short, a marvelous film and one that deserves to be seen. 

Source
http://www.frankthemonkey.com/film_full_review.php?page=383

 

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Copied from LBH thread, thanks to Hyc/Ping

Director Kim Jee-woon and actor Lee Byung-hun ® give the Hawaiian shaka or hang-loose sign during a news conference at the Hawaii International Film Festival in Honolulu, Hawaii October 22, 2005. Lee stars in 'A Bittersweet Life' which is directed by Kim. The film will premiere in the U.S. at the Hawaii Film Festival. REUTERS/Lucy Pemoni Email Photo Print Photo

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Lee Byung-hun attends a news conference at the Hawaii International Film Festival in Honolulu, Hawaii October 22, 2005. Lee stars in 'A Bittersweet Life' which is directed by Kim Jee-woon. The film will premiere in the U.S. at the Hawaii Film Festival. REUTERS/Lucy Pemoni

Source: Reuters from http://news.search.yahoo.com/news

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September 15, 2005

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 

A BITTERSWEET LIFE 
Review by Patrick Tay moviexclusive.com

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Source: naver.com

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!")

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September 1, 2005

By movie fans for movie fans

EDITED BY JASON F. JOHNSON l FiRST MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2005 - issue 035

 

A BITTERSWEET LIFE review

Our new hero, Lee Byung-hun. Lee Byung-hun justifies his thugs. And how.

 

MOVIE SPECS

Director: Kim Ji-woon
Cast:
Lee Byung-hun Sun-woo
Shin Min-a Hee-soo
Kim Young-chul Mr. Kang
Hwang Jeong-min President Baek

Running Time: 120 minutes
Distributor: InnoForm Media
Release Date: August 18
Rated: TBA


The character Lee Byung-hun play here, Sun-woo, is the man every teenage boys dream of being – and many older gentlemen would like to have been. He's a gangster, specifically an enforcer, but that’s not really important. To him it's just like any other, and one he does particularly well. At one point in the film someone asks what it's like being an enforcer, and he answers 'That's not me'. And he's right. He is a man of honour in a profession without honour. He is a man devoted to his craft (martial arts) surrounded by a bunch of dumb, lazy thugs. He is a man of good habits living in a dangerous, licentious nightworld. What he is is a cowboy. A samurai. He's too good for the world. He's doomed.

This is truly the most charismatic performance we have seen in 2005, and there have been some good ones (Mickey Rourke's Marv in Sin City and the penguins in March of the Penguins spring immediately to mind).

Sometimes an actor shares so much of his own life force with a character that it’s almost as if he creates a new human being, as if this fictional person on the cinema screen should be given honorary Earth citizenship. The camera almost never strays from Lee Byung-hun for the entire two-hour runningtime of the picture, and not once during those 120 minutes do we think: there is a movie character. What we think is: there is a man. And what a man.

When we are first introduced to Sun-woo, he is immaculately groomed, dressed in a black suit and tie, and enjoying a designer pastry in an upscale restaurant. A waiter informs him that he is needed elsewhere, but before attending to his business (what could it be?), he lingers over his desert, savoring a final spoonful. Perhaps he intuits that this will be the last moment of peace he will ever know. There follows a scene in which Sun-woo, with terrific élan, kicks the crap out of three lowlifes who unfortunately turns out to be the underlings of Baek, a powerful gang leader. Baek asks for an apology from Sun-woo for thumping his men, but none is forthcoming. Can you smell trouble? Unfortunately, Sun-woo can't. It's his middle name.

And speaking of trouble, we haven't even gotten to the girl yet. She's Hee-soo (played by the delectable Shin Min-a) and she's the girlfriend of Sun-woo's boss, Kang. When Kang goes away on business, he asks Sun-woo to look after the girl, but with a minor addendum that Sun-woo should kill her if he finds her fooling around with another guy. Sun-woo has no problem with this in principle, but then when he inevitably finds Hee-soo cheating, he doesn't have the heart to dispatch her. Not after she smiled at him so nicely when she was playing her cello. And besides, just look at her pretty hair! If you couln’t smell trouble before, you should be able to catch a whiff now. 

Sun-woo's two lapses in judgment -1) failing to apologize to Baek and 2) failing to kill Hee-soo prove to be fateful, and perhaps even fatal (we won't tell). Baek hires a sociopathic butcher in a fisherman's hat to torture an apology out of Sun-woo. Kang, no less sadistic, orders Sun-woo to be buried alive. As it happens, Sun-woo endures both ordeals over the course of one-hellish night, and let's just say he wakes up the next morning on the wrong side of the bed. This gloomy gus want revenge, the bloodier the better.

The irony that Sun-woo's principles lead to his persecution will not be lost on anyone who has ever suffered under an insane boss or an incompetent teacher or an immoral family member. It is not Sun-woo's sins or faults that lead to his downfall, but rather his virtues. Perhaps he could be seen as arrogant, but we see his arrogance as a form of innocence; he just wants to do his job well and be a relatively decent man without having to play the silly – make that stupid – games that people play. All we can say is, we feel your pain, dude, and we’re sure that there are many other like-minded souls who will as well. At least we hope so. Misery loves company.

Bittersweet Life reminds us yet again why gangsters films have always been and will always be popular: gangsters get to act as tough as we all feel on the inside, but can never let anyone see on the outside. We’d like to personally thank Lee Byung-hun for the catharsis. 

AT A GLANCE

SYNOPSIS

Sun-woo is an enforcer for a mob-owned hotel. He runs into trouble with a rival gang when he ejects one of his more unruly members from the premises. He gets in even more trouble when he baby-sits his boss' girl, and lets her get away with cheating. Sun-woo's problems culminate in one hellish night, during which he is tortured and buried alive. After a miraculous and spectacular escape, he vows revenge.
 

DEMOGRAPHICS

Bittersweet Life will attract primarily young filmgoers who are hip to all things K, and should ultimately win a small cult following.

SEE ALSO

There are elements that remind us very much of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. There are also dashes of Sergio Leone and John Woo. Also slightly similar to the Korean film OldBoy.


THE VERDICT

 

Lee gives an amazingly charismatic performance in this super-stylish K-flick. Awesome.

RATING 

4½ stars out of 5

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Repost from bhjwlove.com

Credit to ping

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Bittersweet_Life

A Bittersweet Life is a 2005 film by Korean director Kim Ji-woon. Highly cultural and ruthlessly violent, it illustrates the ethical codes in Asian organized crime and how they clash with personal morality.

Beginning

The film opens with a shot of a willow tree and a voiceover from the protagonist, Kim Sun-woo (Lee Byung-hun), who is a mob enforcer. When we see Sun-woo, he is eating dessert in a restaurant called La Dolce Vita, which he ‘manages’. He calls on one of his juniors, Min-gi, to help deal with members of a rival family who have outstayed their welcome. After issuing them a warning, Sun-woo and Min-gi attack and incapacitate them.

Sun-woo has dinner with his boss, Kang (Yeong-cheol Kim). They determine the root of the problem to be a rival boss’ son, Baek Jr. (Jeong-min Hwang). Mun-suk (Roe-ha Kim), Sun-woo’s peer, arrives. He gorges on food and issues half-baked apologies for his failure to properly deal with Baek Jr. After reproaching Mun-suk and making him leave the room, Kang asks Sun-woo to watch over his mistress, Hee-soo (Min-a Shin) while he is out of town, and to kill her if she is unfaithful. In an allusion to the events that will unfold, he remarks that “you can do a hundred things right, but it takes only one mistake to destroy everything.”

Tensions arise

Baek Jr. is unhappy about Sun-woo’s assault on his men. Sun-woo takes no notice, further aggravating him. Baek Jr. vents his anger on one of his underlings by assaulting him with a telephone. Mun-suk arranges a meeting between the two to ease tensions. Sun-woo isn’t having any of it. He tells off both Baek Jr. and Mun-suk before taking his leave. Mun-suk warns him that he is not untouchable.

Meanwhile, Sun-woo develops a fondness for Hee-soo. It is not clear if he loves her but she has torn down a wall he spent years building around himself. When he catches her with a lover, he lays him out, but hesitates to take their lives. He lets them go, on the condition that they never see each other again. Hee-soo is stricken and wants nothing more to do with Sun-woo, too overcome with emotion to appreciate that he disobeyed his boss’ orders for her sake. Sun-woo takes out his frustrations on a group of punks by beating them up and flinging their car keys to another lane. He is approached in the parking lot of his home by a man in glasses and a bucket hat. The man introduces himself as Mu-sung (Gi-yeong Lee), one of Baek Jr.’s enforcers. He advises Sun-woo to say three words, “I was wrong,” and this will clear all misunderstandings between them. Sun-woo adamantly refuses, ready for a fight. Mu-sung leaves without the apology.

Upon returning, Kang pays Hee-soo a visit. She is cold toward him and it is clear she wants to break their affair off.

Back in his apartment, Sun-woo is having trouble sleeping. He flips his lights on and off to kill time, and is caught off guard when armed men appear behind him and descend on him immediately. Mu-sung emerges and kicks a badly beaten Sun-woo in the face, rendering him unconscious.

Sun-woo’s downfall

Upon awakening, Sun-woo finds himself in a warehouse, tied up and suspended from the ceiling. A lady mops his blood up. He pleads for her help, but she pays him no heed. Baek Jr. appears with Mu-sung and the rest of his henchmen. He gloats over Sun-woo’s position. When Sun-woo tells him he’ll remember this, Baek Jr. responds, “You have no idea what’s happening, do you?” He orders Mu-sung to butcher Sun-woo, but a phone call robs Sun-woo of a quick death. He is loaded in a van with a plastic bag over his head and transported to another location. The van dumps him and drives off. Outside, it is raining heavily. Sun-woo rips the plastic bag off. Two cars pull up. Kang and Mun-suk get out.

Kang asks Sun-woo why he betrayed him. Sun-woo is at a loss for words. Kang departs. Mun-suk says, “People don’t matter for i can't read. No one can ever see what’s coming next.” Sun-woo asks him what he’s going to do. Mun-suk passes the phone to Sun-woo. It’s Kang, giving him another chance to explain himself. A battered Sun-woo says he did what he thought was best. Kang is dissatisfied with his answer and asks for the “real reason.” Sun-woo doesn’t have one. Kang asks him to put Mun-suk back on. Mun-suk listens and smiles. His henchmen hold Sun-woo down. Mun-suk shatters two of his left fingers with a wrench. They proceed to bury him alive.

Sun-woo digs his way out, desperate and half-dead, only to discover that Mun-suk is waiting for him. Mun-suk congratulates him and intends to dig a deeper hole. He takes Sun-woo to a construction site and brings up a similar incident, where Sun-woo once told a man there was no turning back and to accept his fate before cutting his wrists. Mun-suk has given Sun-woo bandages for his fingers and a cellular phone to call Kang with, telling him he’d better say the right thing if he wants to get out of this. He has fifteen minutes.

Sun-woo’s former comrades are indifferent to his plight. Just like that they’ve turned against him. Sun-woo looks around for a means of escape. After some contemplation, he picks up the phone and puts it to his ear. After fifteen minutes, Mun-suk approaches Sun-woo, who is talking into the phone. Sun-woo hands it back. Mun-suk realizes the battery is missing. Sun-woo bashes Mun-suk’s eye in with the battery. A stunning set piece occurs, where he fends off over twenty men with a burning block of wood and commandeers a BMW to make his getaway.

Retaliation

Kang is livid over Sun-woo’s escape. He holds a meeting with the other families, including the Baeks, and recounts an anecdote about the importance of obeying your boss. Once, a man who wouldn’t admit he was wrong lost one of his hands. “This time, a hand is not enough.”

After recuperating, Sun-woo looks up Min-gi, who gives him the contact information of weapons suppliers. He meets with two of them, Mikhail and Myung-gu, and inadvertently causes their car to crash. They survive, albeit with injuries, and introduce Sun-woo to their boss, Tae-woong (Hae-gon Kim). Sun-woo presents his name card and claims he has a recommendation from Boss Han. Tae-woong rings Han up but Han is busy. While waiting for Han to call back, he teaches Sun-woo how to take apart, reassemble and load a Stenckin, calling it “the finest Russian-made pistol.”

Han calls back and Tae-woong brings Sun-woo up to him, only to receive shocking news. He and Sun-woo stare at each other, then at their pistols. They rush to load them. Sun-woo finishes first and shoots Tae-woong in the face. He fires at Myung-gu, who fires back with an Uzi. Sun-woo eventually blows his brains out. Mikhail flees, as Sun-woo has run out of ammo. Sun-woo wrenches a spare clip from Tae-woong’s grip. He goes after Mikhail and manages to take him out. He drags Mikhail’s body back inside and takes with him as many guns as he can carry.

Tae-woong’s younger brother (Eric Mun) returns to find everyone dead. He examines Sun-woo’s name card and starts stocking up on weapons, too.

Sun-woo hunts down Mu-sung and holds him at gunpoint, forcing him to call Baek Jr. out.

Baek Jr. waits in an ice rink and is surprised to see Sun-woo instead of Mu-sung. Sun-woo asks him why he did what he did and he mealy-mouths to buy time. He manages to get to the shiv in his coat pocket and stabs Sun-woo six times in the gut. He celebrates too early and is shot in the foot, then the back, and finally the chest.

Return to La Dolce Vita

Sun-woo takes a taxicab to La Dolce Vita. He phones Kang and gives him a message: “You messed with the wrong guy. Watch yourself.”

Mu-sung and the lady who refused to help Sun-woo have been captured and bound in the very same warehouse. Mu-sung’s henchmen find and untie them. Mu-sung yells for a phone so he can inform Baek Jr. of the danger he is in, but it is far too late.

Kang summons Min-gi to learn about Sun-woo’s whereabouts. Min-gi denies knowing anything, unconvincingly. In a fit of rage, Kang drives his face into a dinner plate.

Hee-soo is onboard a bus. She receives a call from Sun-woo but decides against picking up or calling back.

Eric Mun’s character is driving to La Dolce Vita. Inside, the staff is being cleared out due to another meeting between the families. Sun-woo arrives outside and passes Eric Mun’s character, who is in his car making preparations. They are unaware of each other’s presence.

Hee-soo receives a gift from Sun-woo. A table lamp.

In the washroom, Sun-woo looks in the mirror and the blood bleeding out the gut and wonders how he made it this far. He encounters Mun-suk, who is smoking in the alley behind La Dolce Vita. Mun-suk pulls out a switchblade but is no match for Sun-woo’s Stenckin. Sun-woo shoots off his fingers and pumps two more rounds into him. Mun-suk weeps before Sun-woo finishes him off.

Outside the building, Mu-sung and his henchmen pull up in a van with an assortment of firepower at hand. Eric Mun’s character sees this and begins sliding bullets into his revolver.

Sun-woo rides the elevator up to La Dolce Vita. The camera lowers to show he has shot and killed two of his former comrades. He exits the elevator and shoots another two when they try to stop him, one in the face and the other in the kneecap. He guns down one more right before entering the restaurant.

In La Dolce Vita, Sun-woo and Kang walk up to each other and stand face-to-face.

Kang: “Let’s not make a fuss.”

Sun-woo: “This is my last stop. I have nowhere left to go.”

Sun-woo shoots one of Kang’s henchmen as he tries to sneak away. Everyone in the room freezes. Kang asks Sun-woo if he really wants to take it this far. Sun-woo responds with a question of his own: why Kang would do this to him. Kang tells Sun-woo he insulted him by disobeying his orders. Sun-woo asks for the “real reason.” He asks Kang if he was really going to kill him. The conversation gets more intense as Sun-woo nears the brink of tears, shouting that he served Kang like a dog for seven years. He points his gun at Kang.

Sun-woo: Tell me something. Anything. Tell me!

Sun-woo calms down and lowers his gun. Kang is unapologetic. He wonders what’s gotten into Sun-woo. Was it because of her? He asks Sun-woo not to do this. Sun-woo shoots Kang in the heart. Kang touches the wound and blood pours out of it. He stumbles back and drops dead. Sun-woo laments, “We can’t turn back time, can we?”

A second later, he is shot in the head. He turns around just before collapsing to see Mu-sung gripping a smoking gun, backed by three of his henchmen. Mu-sung strides over to where Sun-woo is lying, unaware that the bullet had only grazed the side of his head and he is still alive. Sun-woo opens fire, and a lengthy gunfight ensues.

Sun-woo kills Mu-sung and two of his henchmen. The third one flees but is gunned down by Eric Mun’s character, who has just arrived at the scene. He lets a dying Sun-woo (whose injuries have taken their toll on him) phone Hee-soo, and this time she picks up, but he is too weak to respond. Hearing her voice, he reminisces about a rehearsal of hers where she played Francisco Tarrega’s Etude in E Minor. We see him smiling for the first time in the film. He manages to shed a tear before Eric Mun’s character shoots him dead

Epilogue/Ending

Sun-woo narrates the following lines:

"One late autumn night, the disciple awoke crying. So the master asked the disciple, “Did you have a nightmare?"

"No."

"Did you have a sad dream?"

"No," said the disciple. "I had a sweet dream."

"Then why are you crying so sadly?"

The disciple wiped his tears away and quietly answered, "Because the dream I had can’t come true."

The film closes with a shot of Sun-woo shadowboxing in front of a window, before the credits roll and his reflection fades out. The ending has been interpreted as the rest of the film being Sun-woo’s fantasy. A more practical interpretation places it as an extended flashback, where he was on top of the world (literally), before it all came crashing down. The dream that cannot come true is his dream of being with Hee-soo. His fading reflection represents the end of his life

Subtext

There are two prominent themes in A Bittersweet Life. The most apparent is vengeance. Most of the characters in the film hold grudges. Sun-woo lays into Hee-soo’s lover on behalf of his boss. Baek Jr. and Mun-suk capture and torment Sun-woo as payback for his disrespect towards them. Kang orders more torment inflicted: he regards this as reprisal toward Sun-woo’s disobedience. Sun-woo humiliates Mu-sung by reenacting exactly what Mu-sung did to him. He kills Baek Jr., Mun-suk and Kang as revenge. Mu-sung wants get even with Sun-woo for humiliating him and killing his boss. Finally, Eric Mun’s character has a vendetta against Sun-woo for murdering his brother and sees it through.

The film also discusses how unpredictable life can be. At one point, Sun-woo is still wondering how everything that had happened to him came about. As Mun-suk says, “No one can ever see what’s coming next.”

Trivia

>> Earlier film posters had Byung-hun Lee smoking. Sun-woo never touches a cigarette in the film. In fact, he chews gum in one scene.

>>Though a poster features Eric Mun (a member of the boy band Shinhwa), he is onscreen for barely fifteen minutes.

>>There are two different versions of the scene where Sun-woo exits the elevator and makes his way through the hallway to La Dolce Vita up until he confronts Kang. The music differs, while the scene itself is unchanged

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trailer [English version]

A Bitter Sweet Life trailer

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thanks for the trivia!

i was actually trying to figure out what the ending had to do with the shadowboxing.. but i found the "story" about the disciple and master really nice....

i really liked the movie! the effects and everything were really nicely done and it definitely deserves international recognition!

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Korean Weekly News - 10/30

The nominations for the 4th annual Korean Film Awards have been announced. As expected, the 'Dongmakgol syndrome' swept through these awards as well, but the great technical achievement pushed up 'Blood Rain' as well. The awards will be presented on December at the Sejong Cultural Center, and shown on MBC.

최우수작품상 (Best Picture)

말아톤 (Marathon)

너는 내 운명 (You Are My Sunshine)

연애의 목적 (Rules of Dating)

웰컴투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol)

감독상 (Best Director)

Kim Dae-Seung, 혈의 누 (Blood Rain)

Ryu Seung-Wan, 주먹이 운다 (Crying Fist)

Im Sang-Soo, 그때 그 사람들 (The President's Last Bang)

Park Jin-Pyo, 너는 내 운명 (You Are My Sunshine)

Park Gwang-Hyun, 웰컴투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol)

남우주연상 (Best Leading Actor)

Hwang Jung-Min, 너는 내 운명 (You Are My Sunshine)

Jo Seung-Woo, 말아톤 (Marathon)

Park Hae-Il, 연애의 목적 (Rules of Dating)

Jung Jae-Young, 웰컴투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol)

Ryu Seung-Beom, 주먹이 운다 (Crying Fist)

여우주연상 (Best Leading Actress)

Kim Mi-Sook, 말아톤 (Marathon)

Jeon Do-Yeon, 너는 내 운명 (You Are My Sunshine)

Kim Hye-Soo, 분홍신 (The Red Shoes)

Kang Hye-Jung, 연애의 목적 (Rules of Dating)

Lee Young-Ae, 친절한 금자씨 (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance)

남우조연상 (Best Supporting Actor)

Hwang Jung-Min, 달콤한 인생 (A Bittersweet Life)

Kim Young-Cheol, 달콤한 인생 (A Bittersweet Life)

Lee Gi-Young, 말아톤 (Marathon)

Im Ha-Ryong, 웰컴투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol)

Park Yong-Woo, 혈의 누 (Blood Rain)

여우조연상 (Best Supporting Actress)

Na Moon-Hee, 너는 내 운명 (You Are My Sunshine)

Kim Soo-Mi, 마파도 (Mapado)

Kang Hye-Jung, 웰컴투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol)

Na Moon-Hee, 주먹이 운다 (Crying Fist)

Choi Ji-Na, 혈의 누 (Blood Rain)

신인남우상 (Best New Actor)

Jang Sun-Woo, 귀여워 (So Cute)

Park Geon-Hyung, 댄서의 순정 (Innocent Steps)

Yoon Gye-Sang, 발레교습소 (Flying Boys)

Lee Tae-Sung, 사랑니 (Blossom Again)

Ryu Deok-Hwan, 웰컴투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol)

신인여우상 (Best New Actress)

Seo Young-Hee, 마파도 (Mapado)

Jung Yoo-Mi, 사랑니 (Blossom Again)

Kim Ji-Soo, 여자, 정혜 (This Charming Girl)

Jo Yi-Jin, 태풍 태양 (The Aggressives)

Yoon Se-Ah, 혈의 누 (Blood Rain)

신인감독상 (Best New Director)

Im Pil-Sung, 남극일기 (Antarctic Journal)

Jung Yoon-Cheol, 말아톤 (Marathon)

Lee Yoon-Gi, 여자, 정혜 (This Charming Girl)

Han Jae-Rim, 연애의 목적 (Rules of Dating)

Park Gwang-Hyun, 웰컴투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol)

각본상 (Best Original Screenplay)

말아톤 (Marathon) - Jung Yoon-Cheol, Yoon Jin-Ho, Song Ye-Jin

연애의 목적 (Rules of Dating) - Go Yoon-Hee, Han Jae-Rim

웰컴투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol) - Jang Jin, Park Gwang-Hyun, Kim Joong

주먹이 운다 (Crying Fist) - Ryu Seung-Wan, Jeon Cheol-Hong

혈의 누 (Blood Rain) - Lee Won-Jae

미술상 (Best Art Direction)

Ryu Sung-Hee, 달콤한 인생 (A Bittersweet Life)

Im Hyung-Tae and Jang Bak-Ha, 분홍신 (The Red Shoes)

Jo Hwa-Sung, 친절한 금자씨 (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance)

Min Eon-Wook, 혈의 누 (Blood Rain)

Lee Hyung-Joo and Jo Geun-Hyun, 형사 (Duelist)

촬영상 (Best Cinematography)

Kim Ji-Yong, 달콤한 인생 (A Bittersweet Life)

Choi Sang-Ho, 웰컴 투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol)

Jung Jung-Hoon, 친절한 금자씨 (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance)

Choi Young-Hwan, 혈의 누 (Blood Rain)

Hwang Gi-Seok, 형사 (Duelist)

조명상 (Best Lighting)

Shin Sang-Ryeol, 달콤한 인생 (A Bittersweet Life)

Lee Man-Gyu, 웰컴투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol)

Park Hyun-Won, 친절한 금자씨 (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance)

Kim Sung-Gwan, 혈의 누 (Blood Rain)

Shin Kyung-Man, 형사 (Duelist)

편집상 (Best Editing)

Moon In-Dae, 내 생애 가장 아름다운 일주일 (All For Love)

Choi Min-Young, 웰컴투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol)

Nam Na-Young, 주먹이 운다 (Crying Fist)

Kim Sang-Beom and Kim Jae-Beom, 친절한 금자씨 (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance)

Shin Min-Kyung, 태풍태양 (The Aggressives)

시각효과상 (Best Visual Effects)

EON, CG for 남극일기 (Antarctic Journal)

Jung Doo-Hong, Action for 달콤한 인생 (A Bittersweet Life)

Jo Yi-Seok, CG for 웰컴투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol)

Shin Jae-Ho, make-up for 혈의 누 (Blood Rain)

Mopack, CG for 형사 (Duelist)

음향상 (Best Sound Effects)

Choi Tae-Young and Lee Seung-Yeob, 가발 (The Wig)

Choi Tae-Young, 남극일기 (Antarctic Journal)

Kim Seok-Won and Kim Chang-Seob, 여고괴담4 (Voice)

Kim Seok Won and Kim Chang-Seob, 혈의 누 (Blood Rain)

Park Joon-Ho, 형사 (Duelist)

음악상 (Best Music)

Dalparan and Jang Young-Gyu, 달콤한 인생 (A Bittersweet Life)

Lee Byung-Woo, 연애의 목적 (Rules of Dating)

Hisaishi Jo, 웰컴투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol)

Jo Young-Wook, 친절한 금자씨 (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance)

Jo Young-Wook, 혈의 누 (Blood Rain)

FINAL COUNT

13 - Welcome To Dongmakgol

11 - Blood Rain

7 - A Bittersweet Life

6 - Marathon, Rules of Dating, Sympathy For Lady Vengeance

5 - You Are My Sunshine, Crying Fist, Duelist

3 - Antarctic Journal

2 - The Red Shoes, Mapado, Blossom Again, This Charming Girl, The Aggressives

From various source, posted by X at Twitch.

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Waving to everyone...

KOREAN ACTOR LEE enjoyed his visit..

By Jeff Chung

Even though Lee's attendance at the Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival, for the sold-out screening of "Bittersweet Life," was his second visit here, screaming fans were everywhere. I even heard that fans from Japan flew in just to see him.

Lee's first trip here, about a weeklong visit, was last year, when he arrived midsummer to do a photo shoot for the Japanese market. Although his schedule was tight, he'd found a love of and regard for our islands.

During this trip, we first met at the airport. I had a chance to talk during the drive to the hotel. I brought him up to speed on why he was so well-known here.

He told me he gets fan mail from Hawai'i and wondered how people here would know about him and how they would understand Korean-language programs. I explained that KBFD airs prime-time shows, which are translated and subtitled in English.

My impressions of this film and TV megastar? He is very polite, well-mannered and down-to-earth.

My experience with Lee's screaming fans came by chance in Waikiki. While he stood in the lobby of the Sheraton Waikiki, many Japanese tourists — men and women — saw Lee and started asking each other: Is it really him? Is it someone who looks like him?

Soon enough, a brave woman came up to him with a "Are you Lee Byung Hun?" look.

He said hello. She started to have an endorphin rush and quickly offered her hand.

When Lee shook her hand, it was as if the world fell apart for her. Her eyes dilated and she started to breathe heavily. Visual contact is one thing, but to have actually shaken his hand!

Other onlookers realized it was, indeed, the man they knew from the screen. They started to gather around. That's when his managers, who seemed to be on constant guard, realized things could get out of hand and rushed him to the car.

Then, on opening night of the film festival, at a reception at the Gordon Biersch restaurant in Aloha Tower Marketplace, Lee made his appearance.

His fans screamed and squeezed as close as possible to the stage, reaching out their hands in hopes of touching his.

There were many who brought photos to be autographed, personalized shirts with Lee's picture, and presents.

The screaming failed to die down during his time onstage, and the crowd could not get enough of him.

At the press conference the following Saturday at the Outrigger Waikiki, I couldn't believe how many fans arrived an hour early.

I now understand the potential dangers involved with large, out-of-control crowds of fans. As Lee was being escorted to the car, there was a mad rush of women pushing with all their might to get as close as possible.

I had no idea a little lady half my size could have so much strength as she pushed past me to get Lee's autograph.

After experiencing the crush of the crowd, I have some advice on getting an autograph: There has to be a very small group of people!

When he had time and the opportunity, Lee did sign and shake hands and chat. However, when the crowd gets too big, things get out of hand.

There were many chances for fans to get an autograph, if they happened to be at the right place at the right time. .

Lee, who left Tuesday, said he really enjoyed his stay here and wants to come back. The fans who managed to chat with him realized one thing: He speaks English well.

I'm certain he will say good things to other famous Korean drama actors and actresses about his great experience in Hawai'i. This will also mean we could enjoy more visits from Korean celebrities....

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Article published on 06-04-05

A gangster movie with a touch of realism

April 06, 2005 ㅡ "I wanted to make a ‘cool' film," said film director Kim Jee-woon describing his new film, "Bittersweet Life," released last Friday.

As Mr. Kim wished, the film turned out to be "cool" enough, capturing the audience with sophisticated visual effects that gave its scenes glowing luster.

Action scenes are sophisticated, and the film sets were picture perfect, looking like interiors in design magazines. Even a gray tunnel in Seoul looks eerily beautiful in the film.

However, what makes the film really cool is Lee Byung-hun, the lead actor.

Lee, 34, who has established his fame as a multi-faceted actor, plays Seon-u, a once-powerful gang member, destroyed after falling in love with his mafia boss's lover.

Lee pulls 90 percent of the film's weight, whether he is escaping from a mud hole or fighting with gangsters.

In scenes that highlight his character's internal conflict, he fully traps the audience by his convincing portrayal of a tormented outcast.

What the director kept saying while shooting the film was even, "Seon-u should look really cool."

Lee recalls that in the past, creating such a character was extremely difficult. The harder he tried for that "look" in films, the more audiences and critics would say he was trying too hard, resulting in poor ticket sales. However, as he gained more experience, audiences started to recognize his talents.

In "The Harmonium In My Memory" (1999), "Joint Security Area" (2000) and "Bungee Jumping Of Their Own" (2000), Lee was not wearing the awkward "pretty face" any more, and audiences started giving him plaudits for convincing portrayals.

The film, "Bittersweet Life," proves not only that he can really act, but also that he can look cool. Throughout the film, Lee looks comfortable and confident.

"In the past, when I read film scripts, I only read my lines. I would choose which film to shoot depending on whether I would look good in the film or not," he says.

"But one day, I started looking at the script as a whole. I started shooting the film if the scenario and the director were good, regardless of the genre. This time, I chose ‘Bittersweet Life' because I liked the director. I love his movies."

However, working with Kim wasn't so easy, Lee recalls.

"You know, the format of film noire tends to exaggerate reality. Director Kim's style was also like that. But my specialty was acting, realistically. So there were some conflicts."

No matter how much Lee insisted on acting certain way,

Kim would say, "Still, try doing it this way." And Lee would respond, "Let's see how it goes after I do it my way first." So some scenes were shot Lee's way, while others were done Kim's way.

Lee's favorite scene is not the one where he violently shoots guns, but a part when he goes to an illegal weapons dealer after one of his escapes.

"If I were in audience's shoes, I wouldn't be interested in watching ‘a shooting movie' made in Korea. I believe that the audience should be fully attached to the movie as if it is their reality, and shooting is not part of Korean culture," Lee comments.

"The reason why I like the scene is because it shows Seon-u's unfamiliarity with guns, just like other Koreans' unfamiliarity with them. I think that would give the film some sense of reality so that the audience would agree with it."

Still, it is uncertain whether the film will meet the taste of Korean audiences who are rather comfortable with other genres. But the film has already been sold to a Japanese distributor for $3.2 million on Lee's name value alone.

"I think I've been in this field for too long to worry about whether this film is going to be successful or not. I'm quite beyond that now," says Lee.

"Well, life goes on. What's meant to happen happens." Lee believes in destiny, in that sense.

"I didn't know I would be an actor for this long. When I made my first debut as an actor, I thought it would be just a short-term experience.

"But once I got into this field, I changed my mind," he says. "I realized being an actor is not about just looking good, but something I can devote my life to."

by Ahn Hai-ri <sunyoung78@joongang.co.kr>

Copied from www.leebyunghun.com, thanks to Shirley.st

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i have just watched this film... and whoah.

no wonder it's called "A bittersweet life."

Lee ByungHun's character's life sure was bittersweet. i can't get it out of my head after watching it....

*i was anticipating for Eric's performance.... and i was expecting some speaking lines, and action with Lee ByungHun... but i was failed, though not disappointed. haha... part was small but role was major.... good. ^^

liked it. ^^

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11-09-2005

More Than a Pretty Face

Good Acting Proves More Important Than Being Traditionally 'Handsome'

By Kim Tae-jong

Staff Reporter

Local actor Jung Jae-young made his cinematic debut with the 1996 comedy film ``The Adventures of Mrs. Park.’’ He had such a minor role that if you blinked, you would have missed him. With his much-too-plain appearance, many thought him unsuited to play the leading character in a movie.

Jung continued to act in many films, but was barely noticed by moviegoers. Almost 10 years later, the 35-year-old is now one of the most welcomed actors in Chungmuro, the Korean equivalent of Hollywood, after this year’s biggest hit film ``Welcome to Dongmakgol.’’

``When I made my debut, people said I had too plain a face (to be a successful actor),’’ Jung said in a recent interview with local newspaper Chosun Ilbo. ``But now they say that I can play various roles because of my normal appearance.’’

After the success of ``Welcome to Dongmakgol,’’ where he plays a tough yet warm-hearted North Korean soldier, he is now waiting for the release of his 19th film ``Wedding Campaign,’’ in which he will take on another completely different character _ a shy 38-year-old farmer who has never had a girlfriend.

The turning point of Jung’s career came after he starred in last year’s blockbuster ``Silmido,’’ in which he plays one of the prisoners who were secretly trained for a deadly mission to assassinate North Korea's leader in the late 1960s.

It was a supporting role but he put on an impressive performance, which helped him capture the leading role in the romantic comedy ``Someone Special.’’

Jung began his career as a stage actor after graduating from a college. Now, it seems that the long wait has finally paid off, but he didn’t just wait for the opportunity to come to him.

Behind the perfect portrayals of all the different characters, he takes a long time to prepare to show what is hidden behind his plain appearance.

In the ``dark period,’’ as he recalls, when he was eager to act but no one seemed to need him, he set up a video camera in front of him and played various roles, which helped him develop a diversity of emotions for different characters.

However, Jung is not the only actor proving that good acting is more important than good looks.

Jung Jae-young >

ensor200511092019311More2.jpg

ensor200511092019310More1.jpg < Hwang Jung-min

Behind the success of latest two romantic movies ``You’re My Sunshine’’ and ``All for Love’’ stands Hwang Jung-min, who also went through the period of playing minor characters in films.

Debuting in the 2001 comedy film ``Waikiki Brothers,’’ Hwang has starred in a total of 10 movies playing various roles, including a kind and thoughtful man in ``YMCA Baseball Team,’’ a homeless person in ``Road Movie,’’ a mean lawyer in ``A Good Lawyer’s Wife’’ and a gangster in ``A Bittersweet Life.’’

Given that five of his 10 films were screened this year, it is no doubt that he’s enjoying the best time of his acting career.

Hwang may be far from the conventional handsome actor admired by teenage girls, but what helps him bring the variety of characters alive is the years of acting experience gained as a stage actor _ all boosted by a passion for acting.

As ``You’re My Sunshine’’ is based on a true story of a man who fell in love with a woman who later found out she had AIDS, he gained 15 kilograms then lost 7 kilograms in 10 days in order to realistically portray a person overwhelmed by grief and sorrow.

``It’s not a big deal to gain and lose weight. What I care is whether my acting was good,’’ Hwang told reporters in a news conference after the screening of ``You’re My Sunshine.’’

e3dward@koreatimes.co.kr

11-09-2005 20:11

Source: The Korea Times

http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/culture/20...20091911690.htm

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Posted on August 07, 2005

달콤한 인생 (A Bittersweet Life) DVD Review

달콤한 인생

(A Bittersweet Life, KOREA 2005)

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: 영화사 봄 (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

dolceinsaeng.jpg

STAFF

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)

CAST

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)

FILM REVIEW

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 richard simmons. 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.

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES

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.

EXTRA FEATURES

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.

DISC 2

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.

02 MAKING OF A BITTERSWEET LIFE [25'36"]

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.

03 STYLE OF A BITTERSWEET LIFE

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.

05 DELETED AND ALTERNATE SCENES [23'27"]

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS!

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]

WARNING: SPOILERS

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.

07 A BITTERSWEET LIFE IN CANNES [7'40"]

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.

OVERALL

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

Related Links:

Korean Director's Cut DVD

Japanese Theatrical+Director's Cut Limited Edition

OST

CREDITS

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

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http://www.twitchfilm.net/archives/003044.html

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Festival De Cannes

May 15, 2005

Out of Competition: "A Bittersweet Life" by Kim Jee Woon

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A Bittersweet Life, presented out of competition, brings Kim Jee Woon to the Festival de Cannes for the first time. The Korean director was first noticed in 2003 with his horror film Two Sisters. This latest offering takes us into the mysterious world of gangsters, hoods and other Korean mafia men. Sunwoo is the right-hand man of Kang, the underworld boss. When Sunwoo refuses to execute a "délicate” order, all hell breaks loose. He's forced into battle with his own gang.

Kim Jee Woon spoke about his style: "It's not just through the narrative but through images, texture, facial expressions, nuances that it's possible to express the theme. In my films, it is not because there is a clear, steel-hard narrative that, no matter how I make it, you can understand. My style is to match a variety of things within a delicate structure, to convey the narrative.”

Press Conference: "A Bittersweet Life"

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The press conference for A Bittersweet Life featured director Kim Jee Woon and actors Shin Mina and Lee Byung Han. The excerpts follow:

Kim Jee Woon on his influences: "For A Bittersweet Life, I drew a lot of inspiration from the films of Jean-Pierre Melville, especially Un Flic, and more generally from the French film noir esthetic of the 1970s. The thing I liked about them was their ability to show feelings of nihilism mingled with irony... And if I'd known about Le Samouraï before I completed the shooting, my film would have been much better." (laughter)

Kim Jee Woon on coming to Cannes: "I didn't dare ask the Official Selection committee why they chose my film. Deep inside, I'd been telling myself, "Even though the quality of Korean cinema is amazing right now, I can't degrade the Festival's image by showing A Bittersweet Life." Of course, I was delighted to receive an invitation to Cannes."

Lee Byung Hun on the emergence of Korean cinema: "It's true that, right now, there's a lot of interest in Korean cinema, both at home and in Europe. As a Korean and an actor, I find that quite important. On the other hand, I don't know if it'll be an ongoing wave of interest or just a flash in the pan."

Shin Mina on the Cannes Festival: "I'm very happy to have been able to participate in a project like this one, with such a great director. I'm just at the beginning of my career, and I'm having thrilling experiences at a very early age. Coming to Cannes is one of them. It's fantastic to be here. I hope Korean cinema will often be invited to the Festival."

Via: http://www.festival-cannes.fr

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Via: http://blog.naver.com/dalcom2005.do

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