DDONGPARI (BREATHLESS) Korean DVD review
His debut movie "Ddongpari", better known in Western countries as "Breathless", has been doing the rounds at festivals worldwide with great success, picking up awards left and right. We first commented on the film back in January, when it was nominated for a Tiger Award in Rotterdam. And it won...
Time moves fast so in Korea "Breathless" has just been released on an English-friendly DVD. Time for a review!
A loudmouthed and almost insanely aggressive low-tier gangster strikes up an unlikely friendship with an equally abrasive schoolgirl.
Unknowing of each other's situation, they both have to come to grips with a past and present of unrelenting domestic violence.
The first international festival "Breathless" was shown (and subsequently walked away with the main prize...) was Rotterdam, where I had the pleasure to see the film and interview writer/director/star Yang Ik-June.
Because of this you will find more information about "Breathless" behind those links than you will find in this here article.
However, in short: it's not the easiest film to watch courtesy of its bleak and realistic depiction of domestic violence, focusing on the emotional scars that are left on all involved. Yang Ik-June based it on the inner rage he felt while remembering events from his childhood, so it's not exactly played for laughs. His film is also a bit too long, but what will keep you watching it are the incredible performances of lead actors Yang Ik-June (himself) and Kim Kkobbi. Most of the supporting acts are equally strong, which is very impressive as most of the bit-parts were played by non-professionals and technical crewmembers.
Yang Ik-Yune's first full feature may be a hard one to sit through but is still one hell of a debut. Rest assured it didn't pick up all those awards for nothing: there are several nuggets of brilliance to be found between all the violence and (token) melodrama.
About the DVD:
OK, this is going to sound really weird, but the audio and video on this disc are excellent and that pisses me off.
I own several Korean films that contain beautiful imagery but are plagued by interlacing, bad colors, excessive softness etcetera.
In contrast, "Breathless" looks and sounds pristine on DVD. And if there is one film which would be allowed to look a wee bit rough around the edges, it's this one: a low-budget affair which never (well, maybe once or twice) relies on beautiful compositions to get its message across.
Anyway: rant over. The two-disc Special Edition by EIN SM&M is region 3 NTSC, so make sure your home-cinema can handle that. The discs are housed inside a standard Amaray, which itself is inside an attractive metallic slipcover. Nothing as gaudy as the Korean special editions of a few years past but still surprisingly classy-looking for this title.
As said the audio (in 5.1 and 2.0 Korean) and video are very good, and English subtitles are provided. These are of the missing words variety though, so be prepared to play "guess the verb" once in a while. It's jarring but doesn't wreck the movie.
Disc 2 houses the extras. These are not subtitled, as is unfortunately usual with Korean DVD's. I'll list them but please note that when it comes to the Korean language I might as well be a deaf-mute. Here goes:
First, a 20-minute interview with Yang Ik-June, shockingly without moustache and therefore almost unrecognizable.
Second, a 9-minute interview with Kim Kkobbi. It's just her talking head for 9 minutes straight, but that is certainly no punishment to watch.
Next, a 13-minute holiday video about Yang Ik-June, Kim Kkobbi and "Breathless" cameraman Yun Jong-Ho visiting the International Film Festival Rotterdam. I'm going to elaborate a bit on this one. This item is shameless and very much fun to watch as the three hit the town like a bunch of barbarians. You don't need to understand any Korean to see how much fun they were having. I remember running into them on occasion in the city, and every time they were behaving like teenage tourists. There are also plenty of shots of the IFFR press area (Vincent Ulmer, if you're reading this: BUY THIS DISC, you're featured prominently!) and the international premiere. Sadly, they've cut out all footage featuring me and Peter van der Lugt. Them's the breaks... the angry audience member who called Yang Ik-June a "motherfucker, an asshole!" during the Q&A is included though (so I know what I have to do next time!).
Of course, this whole segment has the ideal ending with Yang Ik-June on stage when "Breathless" gets the Tiger Award, and seeing the Korean threesome walking off with a cheque worth 15.000 Euro. It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people...
Next item: a 9-minute minidoc on the domestic release, with a press conference with the extended cast present.
Last but not least, there are three trailers: a teaser, a trailer proper, and a slideshow covering all awards won over the past year.
Conclusion about the DVD:
The subtitles could be better, and for the extras it would have been nice if there WERE any. Other than that there are no complaints whatsoever about this package. If you're even vaguely interested in this movie and willing to pay the steep Korean price, there is no reason not to. It's a fine disc with outstanding A/V.