Fri, Nov 21, 2008 - Page 16 News List

Restless hearts, tortured lives

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

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Beyond the Years (Chun Nyun Hack), the 100th film by prolific South Korean director Im Kwon Taek, takes as its theme the lives of traveling performers specializing in the traditional Korean musical art form of pansori. It is an assured work by a master craftsman, and a return to the themes that Im looked at in his most critically acclaimed film, Sopyonje (1993). But its leisurely pace and the almost documentary detail with which it depicts pansori makes this film one mainly for the art-house crowd.

Im is clearly very much at home with his subject matter and feels little need, or inclination, to rush his story, which is filled with a mood of nostalgia for beauty unattained and the cruel effects of time. It tells a story of Dong-ho (Jo Jae Hyeon), the son of an itinerant pansori master Yoo Bong (Im Jin-taek), and his adoptive sister Song-hwa (Oh Jung-hae), who their father hopes will become a great pansori singer in her own right. The pressure of his father’s ambition and unhealthy infatuation with his daughter drives Dong-ho away, and in a drunken evening with an old rival for his sister’s affections, he learns of his sister’s blindness, her failure to achieve stardom and the destruction of the idyllic location of his youthful travels. The tale of brother and sister has the grand, sweeping lines of an epic, and the drunken narrative provides moments of bitter humor. Nothing is made explicit, with Im’s camera content to linger over images that seem inspired by the formal beauty of traditional ink-wash painting, and in extended takes of the formal and demanding rendition of pansori classics, many telling the stories taken from Chinese epics such as The Three Kingdoms (三國演義). These long takes, though culturally edifying, lack a dramatic interest that might integrate them more intimately into the narrative. Im seems content to use this footage simply to enrich the mood of nostalgia and to sound a despairing note as to the high price that a love of the past can exact on the present. When the story returns to the present, Dong-ho, while revisiting the once-idyllic places of his youth, sees the depredations that progress has wrought on the landscape.

FESTIVAL NOTES:

BEYOND THE YEARS (CHUN NYUN HACK)

DIRECTED BY: Im Kwon Taek

STARRING:

Jo Jae Hyeon (Dong-ho), Oh Jung-hae (Song-hwa), Im Jin-taek (Yoo Bong)

RUNNING TIME: 106 MINUTES

LANGUAGE:Korean with Chinese subtitles

TAIWAN RELEASE: TODAY


Beyond the Years is very much an old man’s film — Im is after all 72 — and while it longs for a past even as it acknowledges its cruelties, it holds out little hope for the future. Yet all this sorrow is made into something quite beautiful in Im’s assured hands.

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