Written by: Ron Cotton on August 30th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: South Korea, March 31st, 2001
Director: Kyung-Taek Kwak
Writer: Kyung-Taek Kwak
Cast: Oh-seong Yu, Dong-Kun Jang, Tae-hwa Seo, Un-taek Jeong
DVD Released: August 16th 2002
Approximate Running Time: 118 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: DTS Korean, Dolby Digital 5.1 Korean
Subtitles: English, Korean
DVD Release: EnterOne
Region Coding: Region 3 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
“Memories are floating in my mind like islands scattered in the sea. Now, I will row to these islands one after another…” – Kyung-Taek Kwak’s Introduction
This amazing drama is based upon the director Kyung-Taek Kwak’s true life experiences as a youth. He was the eyes and ears of Sang-taek, the one who’d do better for himself by taking the “right” path in life. Although elements of gangsters as well as bloodshed reoccur, the focus of the movie is the beginning and ending of friendships throughout life and living with the consequences of your actions. Enter 1976; four boys befriend each other after resolving a dispute. Consequence causes them to lose contact with each other during middle school. Later reuniting in high school, the youth’s traits and friendships shape and forge into what they ultimately become as adults. Sang-taek (Tae-hwa Seo) is the studious, Jeong-suk (Oh-seong Yu) is the son of a gangster and the biggest thug in school, Dong-su (Dong-Kun Jang) is Jeong-suk’s second hand man, and Jeong-ho (Un-taek Jeong) is the humorous sidekick.
Because of problems at school, Jeong-suk and Dong-Du get expelled from school, Sang-taek convinces the principal to rethink his decision. Jeong-suk from that point befriends Sang-taek, and Jeong-suk strong bond allows Sang-taek to make out with his girlfriend. After high school, their paths split apart. When Sang returns, he finds his world is turned around when he sees that Jeong-suk is a drug addict and hears rumors of Dong-su’s imprisonment. Jeong-suk and Dong-Du part ways and become rivals later because of circumstances.
Oh-seong Yu and Tae-hwa Seo’s performances are wonderful and convincing as the two reunite and strengthen each others bond. The cinematographer Ki-Seok Hwang created the root presence and captured the atmosphere of 3 different decades. He can’t be commended enough and is bar none the true reason for watching this film. Some things were missing or not as well thought out. This movie is mostly character development, and if liberties could be made with the films truthful account, it should have run another hour. As noted else where, Jin-sook was introduced, and her role within the 4 boy’s life could have added to the intrigue and strife. Yet, this argument could be forgiven if it meant a more faithful portrait of historical events.
This is the two disk set, Region 3 Korean release from EnterOne. Even though the package says Region 3, in reality, the disks are mastered as Region 0 (All). That includes a wonderful 24 page color booklet (all in Korean). Many bonus features including cast & crew, 3 audio commentaries, photo gallery, Theatrical Trailer, TV Spot, Interviews, Behind the story, Location, Dialect, Deleted Scenes, Marketing, Telecine: Comparison with Film Types, and even Easter eggs. All these bonus features are in Korean with No English Audio or Subtitles, disappointing, still that is to be expected with a Region 3 release.
Audio in Korean 5.1 Surround and Korean DTS with two Korean Subtitles and one English Track. Throughout the movie, American songs like Robert Palmer’s ‘Bad case of loving you’ and Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ find their way into scenes which complement the film. The sound effects are crisp and distinct in home theater settings.The video has little to no grain, and the color in this movie is very interesting and encapsulates the mood. In the movies and trailers are in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Wide screen while everything else is in 4:3 Full Screen. I know nothing of it’s translation to English, but the subtitles works well with the movie. The font used might be amateurish, but is soon ignored. This movie isn’t completely original, however, the presentation and treatment are. This movie is intimate being the directors’ true life story and the acting is above par. Ki-Seok Hwang’s camera work should not be missed in this film; it’s good and honest without the fake Hollywood glitter. All and all, this Korean film is worth the watch.