And now, a good couple of months after the fact, here is the last half of my Cleveland International Film Festival viewage.
King and the Clown (2005, dir. Jun-ik Lee). According to the ever-helpful Wikipedia, this film is apparently one of the highest grossing films ever in South Korea, which leads me to the conclusion that South Korean movie audiences are awesome. I wish we had American films of this scope and quality crowning our mainstream multiplexes on a regular basis. Plot outline from IMDB reads: "Two clowns living in the Chosun Dynasty get arrested for staging a play that satirizes the king. They are dragged to the palace and threatened with execution, but are given a chance to save their lives if they can make the king laugh." Well, yes, but that's rather like describing Romeo and Juliet as a couple of kids who off themselves. This film reminded me a great deal of Shakespeare, in fact. Very rich character and story. And the historical setting of old Korea, with the detail on both the rural and royal ways of life, was fascinating to me. The King and the Clown is really the first South Korean film I've ever seen; obviously, I'm not very well-versed on Korean cinema. However, if what I saw in this film represents in what direction their contemporary film scene is moving, I'm going to be looking for many, many more.
Boxers (2005, dir. Joanna Kohler). After the screening of Boxers that I attended, they held a forum that included its director, Joanna Kohler. She spoke about her background in social work, and how she approached film as a tool for social justice. Which I respect and appreciate. However, it takes her film out of the realm of artistic criticism. At the beginning of the viewing, I was disappointed with the low production quality, and the lack of creative framing. But I soon realized that none of that is what the film wanted to accomplish. What it wanted was to tell the story of a group of female boxers, and what their story meant in the context of our society as well as to them individually. Kohler delves into all the reasons these girls decide to step into the ring, and the consequences of that decision. Towards the end of the movie, when the boxer who had progressed to the final round of the lost, the entire audience gave a collective gasp/groan. By that point, we were all definitely on board with these women. Boxers is not a groundbreakingly innovative documentary. It's simple and forthright, and it does what it sets out to do. It might even change some people's minds about things. Which I believe Kohler would consider an absolute success.
Relative Obscurity (2007, dir. Jeff Rosenberg). I jumped on this one, because it's by a local boy, set and shot at Ohio University. Supporting your local film scene is always a good call, especially on world premieres. Plus, it's set among characters almost exactly my age, so I figured it had some built-in sympathy. Which it did, although I can't say I was completely crazy about it. Overall, the film was well produced, and well-acted. It suffered only from trying to do too much at once. There are a ton of main characters and twisting storylines. More than that, I got the feeling that this movie wanted to be The Voice of Our Generation, and sought to express absolutely every detail the director had ever thought about growing up and learning to live in the world. That's a pretty tall order. And I ended up vaguely disappointed at the end, since it was almost impossible to live up to the ambition that permeated the film. But it was a sincere ambition, a true, inspiring ambition, so it led me forgive a lot of its attendant faults. Relative Obscurity is a very clearly a film made by a young, hopeful person. Which is not at all a bad thing. It simply is what it is.
No more local festivals until fall, it seems, and none on the level of Cleveland. Back to Greencine until next year.