Sunday, May 07, 2006

Post 16: 070506 Movie Review

BAREFOOT KI-BONG - "Maenbal-ui Gibong-i"
April 2006 Cinema Release

Ki-bong is the name of the lead character in this touching drama based on true events. It tells the story of a man injured in youth and destined to retain a child-like mind. Shin Hyun-june takes the lead in a most remarkable performance which delicately treads the line between over the top lampoonery and an accurate portrayal of a man afflicted.

Ki-bong is tied by love to his aging mother’s apron and has ingratiated himself on a series of locals who require menial tasks performed for which he receives either a token payment of cash or food. While hoping to take a few swipes in a batting cage one day he inquires about the lady within booth and her detachable teeth. Due to his unwavering desire to help his mother in anyway, the possibility of a new set of teeth becomes a goal which ultimately leads to training for and competing in a half marathon.

Low budget Korean cinema has something that many cinema from around the world lack, the confidence to give screen time to the seemly banal. This movie has a budget but thankfully this tendency shines through from the director’s less affluent beginnings. It contains moments that sing the praises of small town Korea and a landscape that goes predominately ignored.

Couple that with an ability to swing wildly from moments of slapstick humor to gut wrenching, tissue grabbing explorations of the human capacity to love and you have the making of a most entertaining film. The locally recognizable face of Kim Su-mi, seen in commercials, Sit-coms, TV dramas and cinema, is seen here as an almost house bound, toothless old woman giving unquestionable love to her forty year old son. Despite his affliction she has come to rely on his abilities to find their next meal but in her own way, it is understood, she too would do anything for him.

The film brims with subplots from a group of well turned characters, something Korean film has waved triumphantly in the face of more name driven, movie making machines. As each story finds its conclusion we discover the climax for which we’ve hoped but at times seemed lost. On the whole, a well told and well presented story.


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