[K-FILM REVIEWS] 태풍태양 (The Aggressives)

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enterOne - 08/09/2005
태풍태양 (颱風太陽, The Aggressives)
2005 - 1 Disc
Director: 정재은 (Jung Jae-Eun)
Starring: 천정명 (Cheon Jung-Myung), 김강우 (Kim Gang-Woo), 이천희 (Lee Cheon-Hee), 조이진 (Jo Yi-Jin) 


FILM: 7.5
The life of a director is hard. You make a film that's subtle, has a charming energy and creativity you almost never find in Hollywood films, and you're instantly labeled 'arthouse'. Which, in itself, becomes a burden, because your follow up will always be measured on whether it fits within the accepted canons of that world. But in Korea, more than ever, and perhaps more so than in any other mature film industry, directors are confusing people's ideas of genres and labels. It's no more arthouse and commercial on different ends of the spectrum, but a mix of both. Jung Jae-Eun is one of them: her first film 고향이를 부탁해 (Take Care of My Cat) explored the 'angry' suburban youth of Korea, serving a four-tiered pie with four different tastes: the ennui of the middle class, the utopia of the upper class, the complex of inferiority of the lower class, and the situations ethnic Koreans or multi-ethnic Koreans face. But when Jung took to the streets of Seoul to make another portrait of this generation's youth, a lot of people were disappointed: it's not as subtle as 'Take Care of My Cat'! It's not as creative and charmingly unique as that film! Of course... if you expected another 'Take Care of My Cat', this film was bound to disappoint, because it's playing on a different planet. Showing how different personalities react to life in the metropolis, using inline skating as a metaphor for their outlook on life, 'The Aggressives' is a totally new experience. From the talented but superficial Mogi, who loves skating but doesn't want any responsibility or burden attached to it; to Lee Cheon-Hee's character, the most responsible and realist of them all, the one who wants to fulfill his dreams and make a living off them. And, finally, to So-Yo, who still doesn't know what his future will be. Along with Byun Young-Joo, Jung is another female director who's started to rewrite the angry youth Cinema of the 00s: whereas in the 90s filmmakers were content with using machismo and empty melodrama (with a few successful exceptions, mostly by Kim Sung-Soo), these new 'angry youth' films are more in tune with this generation, less concerned with the cinematic dynamics of the genre than with trying to paint a realistic picture of our young Koreans. I find it disappointing so many people fail to see how much Jung loves these characters, and only look at the pretty faces and pretty visuals populating most of the film's first half. Sure, the film falls into many traps of the genre, like the over-reliance on the stylistic cliches of the 'new age' sports film, or tropes of the coming of age Dramas. But as a whole it works, and it transmits a certain power. Its characters might feel like stereotypes, but they're handled with such sincerity and loving care they come alive. Like the beautiful coda of the film suggests, the film falls a thousand times, but gathers all its strength and succeeds at the end. That's good enough, if you ask me.

VIDEO: 9
enterOne... if you didn't exist, we should invent you. This is one of the best transfers of the year. Incredibly beautiful colours, extremely natural skin tones, and even with tons of digital correction, DI, bleach bypass and the like, there's no sign of booming whites, and contrast looks fantastic. Fabulous job.
AUDIO: 8.5
One big reason why I liked this film is that, unlike most films about skating in the West, there's almost no indie/punk rock (save for the lame Avril Lavigne song at the end), and the soundtrack focuses mostly on trip hop and lounge pop. Artists like Casker and DJ Soulscape (responsible for the music in the film, along with Dalparan) make this one of the best soundtracks of the year (except they don't sell it in stores!). And the audio track here is no different, with super solid dialogue, and a very good use of surround channels. Top notch.
SUBTITLES: 8
It could have been lower, but it manages to follow the 'street'-like dialogue and not fall into the usual traps. It doesn't appropriate culturally-specific slang giving you the American version, but mostly remains simple. Although in a few instances things get a little more colourful than they should, I'm quite happy with these subtitles.
EXTRA FEATURES: 7
Not much, but what's there is quality. There's a really good commentary with all the cast and director Jung, who seems to be like an older sister rather than a mother figure to them, just like she did for the girls in 'Take Care of My Cat'. Also, there's a 30 Minutes documentary about the 'inline skating' culture in Korea, quite interesting and illuminating. Closing the package a superb little Teaser Trailer.
VALUE FOR MONEY: 8
It has flaws, but it also has heart, and it's smart. If it weren't for some minor problems (not all the actors perform as well as Cheon, Lee Cheon-Hee and Kim do, and the first half is a little too 'pretty' for my taste), this would be one of the my favourites of the year. But I still liked it a lot, and it's another sign that pretty much all the major female directors in Korea are changing traditions in the type of films they're making: from Lee Soo-Yeon's 'horror films', to Park Chan-Ok's 'arthouse films'; from Byung Young-Joo's 'melodramas' to Jung Jae-Eun's 'angry youth films'.
OVERALL: 7.93

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