As I happily claimed the first spot in the Rush line for a chance to catch the world premiere of Karaoke Crazies by Korean director Sang-Chun Kim, I found myself exhilarated by my surroundings. The SXSW atmosphere was lively and infectious. I was definitely not immune to it. Having driven three hours to attend the screening with no real promise of getting in, I had no idea what to expect. The limited synopsis provided by SXSW offered very little information about the movie. In addition, this was my first time attending a SXSW Film event. However, I am no stranger to Korean cinema so I eagerly looked forward to it. I was not disappointed.
Karaoke Crazies was mind-blowing and stimulating. Many times throughout the movie I was taken off guard and laughed heartily. The art of a captivating storyline was truly displayed in this movie. Both in face value and with the underlying message, Karaoke Crazies was triumphant. Simply and quietly, Director Kim used one of Korea’s most enjoyed past-times to spotlight several addictions plaguing society today such as suicide, depression, internet addiction, and domestic violence. The leading cast were terrifically convincing in each of their plights delivering the film’s message with hilarity and heartbreaking emotion.
Moon-Sik Lee, most recently seen in the Korean drama Moorim School, plays the owner of Addiction Karaoke, which is failing financially due to a poor location and limited clientele. Facing an ever-growing stack of bills, he posts a sign looking for help hoping to revive the business. While Moon-Sik’s character doesn’t boast a riveting script or do anything remotely notable throughout most of the film, he was unquestionably perfect in this role.
Almost literally blown in by the wind, So-Eun Bae’s character, whom I will call Singing Help walked into the lobby drenched from the rain and soaked in despair. Having no other prospects on the horizon, she becomes Addiction Karaoke’s newest employee. Her downcast personality isn’t a hit with customers initially but she eventually wins us all over in her own way. So-Eun Ba awesomely conveyed herself in a frustrating and confusing shadow of uncertainty. When light finally drove the shadows away, I was shockingly wishing only to bring them back in protection of her.
A local cop shared the plot twist with loads of laughter as he warned about a serial killer that had been targeting establishments like Addiction Karaoke. Of course, he was ready to go straight Rambo if said serial killer were to ever make his way to their quaint little town. After that, I immediately began examining everyone to see if they might be the killer, including the owner himself. Even still the whole serial killer part became a bit of an afterthought for me because by now I had become engrossed in trying to figure out what was really going on in the lives of the characters.
Na-Mi Kim drops into the story like a speedboat on a quiet lake. She did an outstanding job of being obnoxiously loud and pushy, but somehow still very likeable. She also brings welcomed excitement to a somewhat silent plot. Her character shook things up by berating Singing Help for her unconventional methods and practically challenging the owner for accepting them. Yet and still this character offered a bit of warmth that they had not received from one another or any of the other limited human interaction they experienced. Na-Mi’s smile lit up the screen and her voice was melodious until the very end. She essentially was the tie that binds.
If Na-Mi was a speedboat then Jun-Ho Bang’s character was definitely the anchor. Although never uttering a single word, Bang is exceptional as the story’s oddball character. The movie would not have been the same without either one of them. Their interactions were cute, at times making me smile. Moreover the character connection transcended beyond their immediate relationship and once I saw it, I cried a little.
I was more than impressed by Karaoke crazies because it shone a light on the very real problems that each of the characters faced in a very realistic way. Not only did it make me think, but it also made me laugh and cry. As soon as a devastating revelation hit, it was followed by calming humor. Even as serious as the underlying premise was, I didn’t feel overpowered by trepidation or sadness. I felt informed actually. A problem was presented. An explanation of how the problem may have happened was offered and a solution was shared. Keeping in line with the overall easy flow of the movie, the solution also proved equally as simple making it the movie an easy watch. It really hit home in the way the story was told.
It was definitely worth the drive and having the opportunity to meet Director Kim in person was inspiring. I enjoyed it so much that when I return to SXSW for the music activities, I will watch it again along with my friends. Don’t miss this beautifully told story. It is worth being patient for.