Friday Flicks is a one of our Periodicals, in which we decided to start up because of our love for Asian cinema.
What we do with Friday Flicks will be similar to what other websites do with film reviews, except we won’t give a grade or score. Rather, we will tell you what we like and what we don’t like about the film. Our main goal is to spread the awesomeness of Asian cinema, creating new fans and introducing new films to existing ones.
We plan on talking about films from all across Asia (including Japan, Korea, China, Thailand, The Philippines, etc), both old and new. We basically want to make Asian film fans out of you.
One last note: These reviews will have minor spoilers. We intend to not reveal any major plot twists or story lines. Yet, a movie review is nearly impossible to do without talking about about the story even at little.
That being said, let’s get the show on the road!
This week’s Friday Flick: Late Autumn
Original Title: 만추 (Manchu)
Countries:South Korea, USA,
Hong Kong, China
Main Cast:Tang Wei
- The film premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, and also screened at the 15th Busan International Film Festival, the 61st Berlin International Film Festival and the Fribourg International Film Festival.
- The film is a remake of a now-lost 1966 South Korean cinema classic of the same name, originally directed by Lee Man-hui.
- The film is a joint production between the United States, South Korea, Hong Kong and mainland China.
- The film is the highest grossing South Korean production released in mainland China to date.
Story in a nutshell
Two strangers find their paths inextricably intertwined by an unexpected encounter on a long-haul coach, winding its way through Washington state, to Seattle.
A drifter on the run and a woman on a temporary furlough from prison, their initially guarded conversation signals the first tentative steps towards possible understanding.
These two lost souls spend a handful of days aimlessly wandering in each other’s company, sharing a conversation in search of catharsis.
The fog shrouded streets and hidden by-ways of downtown Seattle in late autumn offer the perfect setting for their all-too-brief reverie, as they both find themselves seeking answers to questions left unspoken.
A woman afraid to love again and a man longing for an escape from the only life he knows, might they find that which they are looking for, in each other? Or are they destined to part – as are most – and simply become strangers, again?
A mouthful of thoughts
The latest remake of the now-lost 1966 South Korean cinema classic of the same name, the film manages to stand on its own and establish its contemporary relevance.
The director Kim Tae-yong’s choice to transplant the film’s setting to the United States and to utilize English – the native language of neither of his leads – may seem questionable at first, but it adds meaningful depth and vitality to the production.
The disconnection and subtle layers of misunderstanding forced upon the characters by the reality of their situation adds to their pertinent need to communicate – be it harsh truths that are perhaps best left unspoken, or intangible meanings that remain elusively difficult to define.
The production values are suitably high, the costumes fittingly becoming and the cinematography superlatively sublime. By actively choosing to move the setting to a foreign land, which neither of his protagonists can truly call “home”, the director infuses the film with a melancholic air of dislocation, enabling the fog-shrouded city of Seattle to develop into more than simply the backdrop for their wistful reveries, but to become a character in-and-of-itself. The film would not be as rich – or at the very least, not quite the same – without these subtle, but telling variations, for which the director should be applauded.
Being fundamentally an extended conversation between two central protagonists, the production was fortunate to secure the services of Hyun Bin and Tang Wei in the leading roles, as their layered and nuanced performances carry the film masterfully.
Hyun Bin’s suave and sophisticated Hoon exudes an undeniable charm, as he refuses to take ‘no’ for an answer and slowly chips away at the target of his affection’s wary defenses, with his winning smile and original conversation.
A man on the run from past mistakes that are slowly catching up with him, he cannot help but empathize with this closed-off and distant stranger. Offering his “services” to Anna, he ably escorts her around the city she once knew so well, and helps her to come to terms with half-remembered memories from long ago. In the process we discover that there may just be more layers to this seemingly shallow man than we initially gave him credit for.
In contrast, Tang Wei’s emotionally scarred and understandably guarded Anna, is a woman for whom life has not been kind. Being afforded her first taste of freedom from incarceration, after a crime of passion seven years earlier, we can understand her conflicting state of emotional fragility. Striving to cope under the sorrowful circumstances of her brief release and the inevitability of her return, she seeks solace and a sense of closure from her former life.
With nothing more than a subtle glance, we are made privy to the depths of her weary resignation and the fleeting embers of forgotten hope. It is as if all the sorrow in the world can well up in her eyes. Embodying a fragile grace that is tempered with an underlying sense of steely determination just below the surface, Tang Wei is nothing short of mesmerizing, and suitably won critical acclaim for her masterful portrayal.
This is not a film for everyone, as some may find its languid pace, and lack of frenetic action, difficult to endure. But if you consider yourself an observer of the human condition, concerned with the plight of two imperfect individuals simply trying to make their way in this so-called world of ours, then this might be just the story you have been looking for.
Poetically tragic and heartrendingly real, this is a study of silences and half-remembered conversations that possibly never were, with someone that may or may not have been. The closing epilogue is a simple paean to melancholic ennui. I will leave it at that. After all of the words that have been written – as inadequate as they are – this remains a film you must simply uncover and experience for yourself.
Watch this film if…
…you are still awaiting that long unexpected encounter, that might just provide the cathartic catalyst you have been searching for…