A Bittersweet Life: Can't have the sweet without the sour.
Try to imagine a more meditative Oldboy and you’re already halfway there with Kim Ji-woon’s wonderful A Bittersweet Life. The film follows Kim Sun-woo as he lives his incredibly controlled life as an enforcer for a crime boss. When he is asked to take his boss’ mistress for a day out on the town, he finds himself attracted to her beauty and purity. When he eventually finds out that she is cheating on his boss, he must decide between telling the boss or keeping her secret. Then things get nasty. Just as intense as Oldboy in the execution of his revenge, Ji-woon sometimes chooses to let his camera linger on the mundane and beautiful which is why the sudden shift as Kim goes about killing lots and lots of people manages to be refreshing as opposed to jarring.
Something must be said about Lee Gi-yeong’s fantastic and heartbreaking performance. It all seems pretty standard until Sun-woo loosens his grip and lets himself feel the beauty in music and Heesoo. At that point, you begin to notice the chinks in his emotional armor that begin to fall off as the end draws near.
A quick word on the clothing. Fantastically tailored suits with just enough room to jump kick people in the head without tearing are on display. Sun-woo may apply to the ‘less is more’ philosophy but, for great Korean gangster displays of excess at its best, look not further than his Boss.
L'eclisse: On the most beautiful existential crisis ever filmed
If we can try to look away from Monica Vitti and Alain Delon for just a minute, we’ll realize that L’eclisse is filled with images every bit as staggeringly beautiful as its two leads. In the conclusion to his ‘informal trilogy on modern malaise,’ Antonioni goes for the emotional jugular after L’avventura and La Notte.Try and bear with me as it’s impossible to write about Antonioni without getting pretentious, especially with a film as capital A for Art House as L’eclisse. In the film, where passing glances and touches convey more than anything its characters say, we watch as Vitti struggles to connect with, well, anyone. I tend to stick with La Notte as my favorite in the trilogy but, L’eclisse becomes something so immaculately crafted and paced that you can’t help but feel that Antonioni’s earlier films were really just practice for this. Please, run don’t walk.
As a guy, you can’t help but feel a tinge of envy watching those perfectly tailored suits Delon seems to have been born to wear. Really, if you have a suit, I defy you to try it on while looking at any still I posted and not want to run to a tailor. Vitti fairs well in her wonderfully minimal blouses and skirts. I was initially unsure if anyone but Vitti could look as effortlessly sexy in the modest blouses and skirts featured in the film but, on closer inspection, you realize just how sexy Antonioni films her. The camera sometimes hovers over her back, shoulders hands and neck in a way that makes every inch of exposed skin that much more revealing. This perverse modesty gets to the point that when a strap bursts, you may audibly gasp.
Oh. Before I forget, this film also has one of the greatest posters. Ever.